Real Estate Then & Now...

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It’s April 1992 and I remember driving to my office on East Avenue, pouring myself a cup of coffee and turning on the innovation which had so completely transformed the real estate industry in the preceding five years. The DOS-based IBM computer hummed to life and I began searching for any new listings which would help to fulfill the dreams of the six or seven buyers that I was working with at the time. Several new homes seemed as if they might be of interest to Adam Goldfeder but the one on Mulberry Street was, in my opinion, going to really excite him. The state-of-the-art dot matrix printer clicked and chattered and within a few minutes, I was back in my Nissan Sentra driving over to The Allendale Columbia School where Adam worked as a kindergarten teacher. I dropped off the envelope full of that day’s possibilities and headed home, hoping for a reply. Sure enough, I flipped open my newly purchased Nokia cellular and found Adam on the other end anxious to schedule an appointment. “My god”, I thought, “how did my predecessors conduct any business when everything they transacted took so long to complete?” After all, it was only five years before I started selling that my colleagues were relying on the delivery of the Property Book- a weekly compendium, complete with blurry black and white photos, of all of the houses listed for sale in the area. Fifteen years before that? Agents were relying on index cards!

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Things have obviously changed since George H.W. Bush was president. My client, Adam, now lives in a beautiful house in Brighton, I’ve replaced my flip phone with the latest iPhone and the technology that drives real estate sales has evolved. I no longer have to drive to a client’s workplace to deliver the day’s latest offerings. Instead, buyers have gorgeous photos and 3D tours of new listings quietly delivered to their inbox the moment that a home is available for sale. Sales history, annual tax assessments, liens, aerial views, lot lines- even the proximity of sex offenders- are all instantaneously available for anyone interested.

In his book “Blink”, Malcolm Gladwell spends quite a bit of time discussing the benefits accrued to those individuals who happen to be lucky enough to be born at a certain time or in a particular year. For instance, men born in the year 1950 were less likely to enjoy successful careers than their friends or relatives who were born ten years later. Why? If you happen to be born in 1950, you were turning 18 years of age during the height of the Vietnam War and there was a strong possibility that you would be conscripted and sent off to Southeast Asia. Of those who were fortunate enough to come back, many were scarred for life.

I happen to have been born in 1965 and came of age just as the first computers were replacing Rolodexes and rotary phones on most modern office desks. I was fortunate. I was never recruited into war and, despite the two years during which we battled the Great Recession, I’ve mostly lived during times or prosperity. I’ve also benefited from the rise of technology, enjoyed the benefits of the efficiencies associated with cell phones and the cloud and I’ve harnessed and utilized powerful software to my benefit and that of my clients.

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Prior to 1995, I didn’t know of a single real estate agent who sold more than $12,000,000 or, perhaps, $15,000,000 annually. The speed with which business was conducted was just too slow. Today, it’s increasingly common to see agents or teams of agents selling in excess of that amount every year. Greater efficiencies are the cause. However, these efficiencies have become so readily available to the average consumer that they are currently challenging the industry. There are a lot of homeowners currently wondering why it is that they should engage the services of an agent when they, themselves, have ready access to troves of information. The quick answer, one which we will explore in my next column, has a lot to do with how it is that all of that information is interpreted. A seasoned and experienced agent can and should be able to help their clients interpret data in a manner that will increase, by thousands of additional dollars, the seller’s bottom line. If an agent isn’t capable of performing this level of fiduciary responsibility, then, like the dot matrix printer of yore they, too, will find themselves replaced.