Monday, December 25, 2006

A Christmas Story. Well, Sort of.

The holidays are a time to gather together. And if your family is anything like mine, you can be sure that plenty of stories from the old timers get passed along (even if you’ve heard them a dozen times before). We may roll our eyes at Grandpa’s thirtieth rendition of his 1932 sandlot grand slam, but truth being truth, there’s something to be learned from those old yarns.

I saw a funny cartoon the other day. The premise was Santa Claus before and after the technological revolution. The ‘before’ shots show Old Saint Nick sweating and swearing to get gifts to all the good little girls and boys the world over. The ‘after’ shots show Santa 2006 relying on GPS systems, jet propulsion, and ‘smart’ bomb technology to deliver the presents in a fraction of the time with minimal effort. It was a good parody of our modern life.

I laughed. And then I thought a second about this blog and the shift we have witnessed in the real estate industry in the past five to ten years, mainly due to this information revolution. So I went back to the old timers in my ‘professional family’; the Old Saint Nicks, if you will, that got the job done by sweat and hard work, before you could boot up a computer and have a house on the market in seconds.

They related to me a Christmas tale of sorts, that even I, who lived through the ‘dark ages’ of real estate listings, could hardly remember. We talked about the times when listings didn’t refresh every thirty minutes on a webpage. When you had to find clients through referral networks, snail-mail flyers, and (gasp) Open Houses. In those days, the agents were the only ones with access to the MLS listing books – actual ink and paper tomes that had to be updated and distributed constantly between offices, MLS listing agencies, and agents via hard copy and fax. And yes, there were some agents that – whether intentionally or unintentionally – would pocket their precious leads to throw others off the scent. But dubious practices aside, the shear effort of data collection made listing collection slow as a sloth. Many of us dread remembering the act of physically going down to the City Planning and Zoning Office, sorting through microfiche and tax records, waiting in line, and spending hours in damp, dark government basements. No wonder the whole process took so long. Can you even imagine keeping in contact with hundreds of clients, agents, and prospects without email? The dark ages for sure. Like Old Saint Nick, those real estate wise men were the workhorses of the real estate industry. Now nearly all information is available to the public, as well as to agents.

So does this mean that the role of the agent is worthless today? HARDLY. The new challenge has become what to do with all the gigabytes of information that is available. Buyers and sellers need someone who can filter, comprehend, and pass on the vital information hidden in the avalanche of B.S., broken promises, and esoteric data. Smart real estate agents have the tools and know-how to make you more money than ever before. They are the real estate versions of Santa Claus 2006, the ones that know how to use the right buttons and gizmos to bring your gift-laden sleigh gliding in for a smooth landing.

Happy Holidays to you and yours – and always listen to those good ol’ boys and their wealth of stories. You never know what presents lie within. Merry Christmas!



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