The 2024 survey, entitled, “How buyers feel about working with agents” gleaned its results from 340 homeowners who purchased within the last three years. It asked a range of questions of its subjects, one being how much time they believe their representative spent on their purchase. 

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Homebuyers remain unsure of what value an agent brings to a transaction and have “very little awareness” of how the homebuying process is carried out, according to a survey conducted by industry consulting company, WAV Group.

The 2024 survey, entitled, “How buyers feel about working with agents” gleaned its results from 340 homeowners who purchased within the last three years. It asked a range of questions of its subjects, one being how much time they believe their representative spent on their purchase.

A slim majority, 21 percent, said their agent spent between 11 to 15 hours getting them to closing while 20 percent believe it was closer to 16 to 20 hours. On the extreme ends, 12 percent of respondents said their agent worked more than 30 hours on their deal and 9 percent reported 1 to 5 hours.

The notable uncertainty of how much time it takes to get a deal done certainly helps justify the conclusion that a lot of consumers don’t grasp how homes are bought and sold and what role the agent plays in those logistics.

However, WAV did find that the majority of buyers, 87 percent, think their agent was fairly compensated for whatever amount of time they ended up working. Only 12 percent think they overpaid for services.

The survey went deep into specific functions conducted by a typical agent, requesting respondents to rank what they most valued, which is “negotiating with the seller,” according to 66 percent, while 59 percent put the most value on “writing an offer.” Scheduling the inspection, conducting a final walkthrough and providing a list of homes to see resonated with 57 percent, 54 percent and 53 percent of buyers, respectively.

At the bottom of the list of what buyers value from their agent are tasks like finding an appraiser, mortgage lender, recommending neighborhoods and “providing advocacy at closing.”

The survey included the opportunity for participants to write in additional areas of concern and satisfaction with their agent, and many described being appreciative of knowing what homes they should tour, according to WAV Group.

“One of the most frequently cited areas of support was the ease of finding a house, despite consumers’ access to listing portals and home listing information online,” the report said. “They appreciated agents helping them with quick property searches in competitive markets and finding homes that best matched their preferences.”

Another topic written about was the help offered in organizing financial paperwork and in addressing repairs and “generally getting them what they felt was a fair deal in a difficult market.”

Still, others mentioned dissatisfaction with a lack of action taken in negotiating.

“Several buyers mentioned they wished their agent had helped them more around dealing with sellers, including discussing a fair price for the house,” WAV said.

Another conclusion WAV derived from its survey suggests that the industry has an opportunity to improve its relationship with consumers by offering more clarity around the legalities of buying a home, specifically as it relates to the many different disclosures, clauses and timelines involved.

A number of recent lawsuits regarding commissions have cast a searing light on how agents are compensated, leading some to believe NAR’s solvency is in question and that buyer agents may have to negotiate compensation directly with clients, among other changes. The first major lawsuit to rule in favor of the buyer, Sitzer | Burnett, made no ruling on the prevailing commission structure or what percentage agents should be paid for their work.

National Association of Realtors membership declined by more than 26,000 in 2023, which amounts to a 1.7 percent decline from last year’s ranks. By the end of December, the organization’s total membership had settled at 1.55 million. This is the first time since 2012 that NAR has experienced a full-year membership decline.

WAV’s intent for conducting the survey is rooted in wanting to get ahead of what may be a turning point in consumer sentiment, as the number of lawsuits going after how agents are paid is piling up quickly. Market conditions, while in no way related to the activity of agents, do contribute to people’s overall view of the industry.

Marilyn Wilson, head of research at WAV, said in an email to Inman that the survey was about helping the industry stay abreast of consumer needs.

“We were curious to see if we can help inform agents on what consumers value, appreciate and even have knowledge of,” Wilson said.

Email Craig Rowe

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