I got my real estate license in March 2006, so in a few months it will be eight years that I have been in this racket. And over the past few months as I approach my eighth year, I have thought about how the business has changed, and more specifically how technology has changed it.
For me the biggest change that has made it easier is GPS. When I first started, finding the homes I was showing was the biggest challenge. There is nothing that ruins your credibility more than getting lost while you have a client in your car or following you. It was the sort of thing that would get me in a panic.
And no amount of research with the available tools back then guaranteed you would find the listing. Many of the houses here in Sullivan County do not have a visible address. Or even worse the addresses have changed, and the old one is on the house. MapQuest (2006 version), the listings agents cryptic directions and a prayer was all the tools I had.
Now all the tax maps are online, and they are layered with Bing maps, so I can type in an address, see the property lines, and zoom down on the house. Then I type it into my GPS and I know EXACTLY where I am going. All the uncertainty is gone. Setting up a five home tour takes fifteen minutes, where it used to take a few hours.
Another change is being able to produce and email documents and sign them without ever having to print them out. Now of course there was fax machines when I started, but they were cumbersome, and many times a signed faxed document was not considered legal. Now I can type up a listing agreement in thirty seconds, send it to a client, who can digitally sign it, and send it back. Gone are the days of signing the listing papers at the kitchen table. In fact two of my sales in 2013, I never met the sellers until the closing.
And that is not necessarily a good thing. It's convenient to the sellers, but it is in that convenience that we lose something, and what brings me to the downside of the technology age.
Like I said I had two sales this year where I did not meet the sellers until the day we closed. And for one of them, I think I had three phone conversations with them–start to finish. Now you might be thinking, what is the problem? Well we had a tremendous amount of correspondence, it was not an easy deal, and it almost fell apart three or four times. Everything was done by text. That is the way the seller wanted it. She is a busy executive in the city, and that is how she felt comfortable communicating. I would call her with an update, and she would return the call with a text.
And now more and more it seems everything is done by text. Now I don't mind a text from an agent saying, "Go ahead show the house, the lockbox is XXXXX," or, "I'll be there in ten minutes," or even, "Any showings scheduled on my house this weekend?" All these examples make sense to me, and the technology works. But working through a negotiation entirely by text makes it much more difficult for me. There is a certain feel you get from having a conversation, and it sort of tells you which tact to take. A text tells you nothing. I liken it to playing online poker, or sitting across the table. It is a blindfold that hampers my ability.
Also a text can be sent when a phone call might be inappropriate, like late at night. Also a text conversation can drag out over a few hours. A phone call has a beginning and an end, a text conversation never really ends. It just sort of hangs out there.
I don't mind being accessible. I just am not quite comfortable with the texting nuances. Slowly my smart phone has become an appendage. I left home the other day and thought I had forgotten it. The anxious feeling I got as I frantically patted myself down was rather eye opening. It wasn't that long ago that I never left the house with a phone. Now suddenly I feel I can't live without it?
And this new communication is not going away. I am just going to have to learn to adapt. I certainly don't want to be the proverbial buggy whip maker. So please, feel free to text me as you wish.