At the recent RISMedia Leadership and Social Media Summit,
several of us discussed where we were from a technology standpoint in real
estate and discussed what the “next” big thing in real estate will be and how
it will affect our business. This got me thinking how much has changed since I
got into real estate in 1988.
Let’s take a step back in time and see how much has changed
and how amazing it is to remember how we ever functioned without the tools we
have today. The list is in no particular
order and none is more important than the other, but when taken on the whole,
it is amazing. The following list has
made us more productive, efficient and in some cases even better business
people if used properly. If you have
others, please let me know.
We used to operate with no cell phones, but technology
stepped up and we used pagers to help keep us connected. The pagers first buzzed then offered us
numbers to call back which we were able to do with car phones that were
attached to our consoles that took a day to install. Luckily, technology allowed us to become
mobile with cell phones and now, we finally have smart phones. What is next?
When we negotiated contracts it was face to face with the
sellers. Next, we had the opportunity to
use data grams – a service that came over our thermal fax paper machines which
gave us permission to counter contracts on behalf of our clients. Next, we were able to use fax machines, then
we progressed to scan to email, and now we use docusign and other e-signature
services. In essence, we don’t have to
see our clients and can even be global with our business practice!
In order for clients to see properties, we used MLS cards –
postcards with a picture on the front and a very brief description on the
back. Next, we moved up to MLS books
that allowed us to be somewhat more mobile, but the information was dated as it
took time to print and deliver. After
this came, thermal paper and MLS printouts, dot matrix printers, online access
to MLS service with logins and now to mobile search capabilities from our smart
phones…what is around the corner?
In addition to these changes, the business itself has
changed substantially. Some argue for
the better, some not – you decide. At
first, it was a broker based business.
The broker controlled the commission splits, the information made
public, advertising, etc. We then moved
into the agent centered business where commission splits skyrocketed, the
advertising and promotion was about the agent and what they could do for the
client. Now, we have entered the consumer
based business where everything is about the client and how we can serve the
client and provide them with as much information as quickly and efficiently as
Let’s look at access to properties. First, it was all appointment only or agents
had to pick up the key from the listing office.
Next we saw combo lockboxes enter the marketplace. Then, in order to protect the sellers more,
we were issued circle keys. When these
became easy to replicate, we move to the combo bar system, and now we utilize electronic
lockboxes of many varieties.
The controlling of Information started with the broker
controlling data to clients then agents were allowed to pass information to
clients and now information is controlled by the internet. The internet offers virtually endless
information through blogs, websites, idx feeds, vow’s, public records and even
more sources. It is critical for agents
to be on top of their game at all times when speaking with clients.
Wow, think about how much lead generation has changed. It used to be we used the newspaper, cold
calling, door knocking and open houses to generate leads. Then agents took on geographical farming to
gain recognition which lead to agents working their sphere in various ways to
obtain leads. The onset of the internet
lead to pay per click and other pay for lead sources and this area continues to
blossom through lead generating websites.
The whole technology realm is amazing in itself. We mentioned pager and progression to smart phones
but how about in the office and on the road?
We have gone from office computers to personal computers to laptop,
tablets, netbooks, ipad, and mobile apps – the possibilities seem endless at
Marketing used to be almost strictly all newspaper
advertising. Then we utilized direct
mail, billboard advertising, bench marketing, bus and car wraps and other forms
of mass advertising. Agents have become
more practical in their spending habits by utilizing marketing to their sphere,
developing email campaigns, embracing social media outlets.
There used to be no websites then we had company websites
which paved the way for agent websites, and now we have multimedia social
interaction with our clients.
Our offices used to be brick and mortar offices often with
multiple locations. Next came the mega
office concept where brokers consolidated into on large location. As the market and technology changed , offices downsized. As more agents began to work from home,
wireless access points and wireless cards have become available, café offices
Initially, the way we worked was as Individual agents. As our businesses grew, assistants became
more prevalent and more of a necessity.
When lifestyle options and life balance became more important, buyer
agents and listing specialists lead to forming mega teams. As technology emerge virtual assistants also
offered alternatives for agents to be more efficient.
Our education avenues
have also changed. We were first taught
to use the Haines directory, work expired listings and FSBO’s. Then we took our education on the road and
obtained designations. Next we worked on
database development, social media development.
Our travel then gave way to on line training through RSN and other
correspondence classes. These have lead
the way to webinars, techinars, and streaming video trainings. Also agents have developed mastermind groups
to grow their businesses.
The agent’s compensation plans have also changed
drastically. Initially, commission structures
started at 50/50. Then we saw graduated
commission levels based upon production and then the 100% comp plans with a
monthly fee. We have also seen transaction
fees become part of our compensation plans.
There are also plans where agents are on a split until the company
reaches a level acceptable to them known as a CAP schedule and we also see
hybrid forms of these plans.
The world of financing also needs to touched upon. It used to be 20% down loans, cash, VA loans,
and FHA low down payment loans. In addition
to these, we had buy downs, high seller consessions and then guidelines
changed. We had 100% loans, 80/10/10,
80/20, 80/15/5, NINA, 106%, There were COFI loans, Balloon payment loans,
interest only loans and now we have the tightest loan guidelines we have ever
The marketing of houses has also had a metamorphosis. Initially we had simple brochures with the
exterior photo taped to the page then we had 800 call capture numbers to find
more buyers for our listings. Next we
were able to take digital photos and create more elaborate brochures and
virtual tours. We now market properties
through videos, dedicated listing websites, text for information technologies,
voicepad, and once again, social media outlets.
Advertising venues have also been through changes. We used to utilize magazines, newspapers, published
articles, hosted TV and radio shows and now we have youtube channels.
Our communication with clients and other agents has also
progressed from the phone only to writing notes, then came email and IM
followed by text and coupled with Facebook messages, tweets, and even more…we
are more available today than ever before
As you notice, our business is always evolving which means
we too need to embrace change, be forward thinking and continuously move
forward if we want our business to only not survive but thrive going into the
future. Get it? Got it? Good!