I was cleaning out my garage and stumbled into an ancient Supra Lock Box (see version 1984 above). Some licensees may remember those boxes and the giant, crotch stabbing, skeleton-like keys we we’re required to carry around to make them work. This got me thinking about other advances in technology that have changed my job description in fundamental ways.
We carried a book: Until the late 1990's, it was rare to see any real estate advertising that included the address of the property and potential buyers were obliged to call the listing broker for the basic information we consider "public" today. Meanwhile, Realtors were relatively well informed because we all had the Multiple Listing Service “MLS” Book…
Yep, this is what it looked like and it came out every two weeks. One black and white photo (mostly) and if agents wanted to see the hot new listings loaded between publications, they drove down to the Association of Realtors and checked the bulletin board.
Brokerages only advertised their property listings: Prior to the internet brokers would advertise their company’s listing inventory exclusively, typically in print. We moved our MLS on to the web for public viewing around the year 2000 and remarkably, some brokers still refused to display other, competing brokerage listings on their company websites. Over time the industry developed the philosophy of Broker Reciprocity which we’re all so familiar with today. Consumers can now search the regional MLS via virtually every participating brokerage website as well as many 3rd party subscribers.
The pictures got better: High speed internet gave us the ability to publish multiple high-def photos, virtual tours and video which all turned out to be more significant than we thought it would be at the time. Prior to, buyers and licensees had to physically tour the active inventory to get or remain informed. Although there is no replacement seeing the homes in person, good photography saves time by narrowing the field.
Communication: I can clearly remember the first time I received an offer via fax, I was offended. You just didn’t do that! The crappy thermal paper was very thin and tended to roll-up on itself plus the pages would turn black if you forgot them in the car. In those days cooperating agents would often meet face-to-face to introduce their client’s situation and explain the rationale of their proposal. With the emergence of email, cellular phones and digital signatures, it’s quite common to complete an entire transaction without ever meeting the cooperating agent or their clients. Technology has allowed us all to be incredibly connected yet at the same time, detached from our real estate transactions.
Still, with these big changes there are many factors in the real estate business that have remained very consistent, here are a few:
It’s a relationship-based business: The client must share at least some level of trust and confidence in their agent. Without that it’s likely that the relationship will evolve into a difficult transaction.
It’s a complicated business: And getting more complex every day. As a society, we all seem to be getting farther away from the “handshake” agreement. A skilled agent will be prepared to act as your air traffic controller.
Local knowledge & experience add value: Technology has allowed all of us feel confident in our knowledge. However, I’ve learned that watching golf videos will not necessarily make you a better golfer. Hiring a skilled agent will save you a lot of practice time at the very least.
A good negotiator will almost always make and/or save you money: As the adage goes, a lawyer that represents himself has a fool for a client and this is often quite applicable to Real Estate. Select your agent based upon the abilities he or she brings to the table rather than hiring the lowest bidder or going it alone.
For decades, brokerages acted as the gatekeepers of real estate information. We're no less relevant today although most of us have assumed the role of stewards of that same information. Perhaps that stewardship is even more important in this era in which honesty and credibility seem to be in such short supply.