Veteran realtors with 26-36 years of experience shared their perceptions of the changes in the real estate business over the years at a recent Silicon Valley Association of Realtors district tour meeting in Los Altos.
Panelists included realtors Tim Anderson and Jim Nappo with Alain Pinel, Ethel Green with Intero Real Estate and Phyllis Carmichael and Gary Herbert with Coldwell Banker.
The panelists agreed that technology has been the greatest business changer, especially in the past 10 years. They acknowledged that technology brought major advantages by contributing to the ease of doing business and shortening response times. Tools available that improve service include email, websites, virtual tours and smartphones to transmit real-time data to clients.
At the same time, technology has resulted in new demands on realtors. Buyers are now more educated than they used to be, and the majority do their own research on the Internet before contacting an agent. As a result, agents show buyers fewer homes, but they are still expected to be very well versed on the market.
The business has also become more complicated, with pages of documents to wade through. Carmichael remembers when a sale merely required a one-page document, an agreement among the agents, buyer and seller, with no lawyers involved.
“We hand-delivered everything and spent much time on the road, driving from Blossom Valley all the way to San Carlos, just to deliver the one-page document,” she said.
Today, documents can be emailed quickly, signed and then emailed back to all parties involved in a matter of hours or even minutes.
The agents noted that technology has somehow diminished real estate’s position as a relationship business. During the time when there was no fax, cellphone or email, agents were forced to talk with each other and their clients.
“A lot has been lost because people don’t talk to each other anymore,” Nappo said. “They get emails, and this can be a positive as well as a negative.”
Despite the changes, important constants remain in the business. Realtors said they continue to take education courses, network with one another and value open houses and keeping in touch with their clients.
“Be prepared to stay in touch with customers, whether from 30 years ago or recent buyers. It’s such an easy thing to do,” Nappo said.
While cellphones and computers have become valuable tools, Herbert and the other panelists insisted that the best way to help clients understand the market is to “pick up the phone and call them, talk to them face-to-face.”
How different is the local market today?
“It’s fascinating. Everywhere, it’s (in) a tailspin, but demand continues to be overwhelming here – and for good reasons: the schools and jobs,” Anderson said.
Green was just as upbeat.
“We are fortunate, because there is no more land here,” she said. “If you are here for a long time, you will get equity in your house, because there is just no more land in this area.”