In the past, prior to the rise of these popular real estate websites, real estate agents had a crucial role in the home buying and selling process. Information was not readily available for your average homeowner and even if so, it was difficult to know information about the areas in which you were looking to buy or sell. This is where a real estate agent came in hand. They often had very in-depth knowledge about certain neighborhoods and areas, and had a great pulse on the market that your average person would not.
Because of their in depth market knowledge and access to information, they were a valuable resource. They could guide people through the murky waters of buying and selling real estate and they brought information to the table that your average person just would not have.
Now that we have these awesome websites and information available, your average person can easily find all of the important information that they need in order to make informed decisions about buying a house. Shoot–half the time most buyers will even do all the research and pick the houses that they want to see and ask their agent to show them the home. The agents of today are mostly getting paid just to unlock the door! No longer is their market knowledge needed as much. But they still command the same 3% commission rates! This is crazy. Their job got a whole lot easier and their pay stayed the same.
Sites like redfin have rose up to deal with this issue. They offer discounted commissions and often have rebates for qualifying homes. Hopefully this becomes the trend and there is a major shift in how real estate agents make their money that catches up with the times.