Commercial Real Estate Still an Old Man's Business

When I started in commercial Real Estate, I was only 20.  I wore collared shirts and cardigan sweaters all the time; I styled my hair conservatively, and aligned my fashion with the goal of looking older. According to a recent study, the average age of commercial real estate agents is 56.  I am now almost 31.

I have nothing against older people.  In fact, many of my clients are older and I think that they are far superior to me in many ways.  The problem with “older agents" in the commercial real estate industry is the inability -- or more so, unwillingness -- to adapt to today’s technology and ways of doing business. In the internet age, where the web, search engines, cameras, computer software, etc, all change every month, my clients are expecting that I'm on top of this stuff. I’ve seen resistence to these changes among older commercial realtors across Alberta, and all across Canada.

Signs You are Dealing with an Old-Style Realtor

  • They still think “good ol' boy clubs” are cool; they are sadly mistaken. You know the ones where they get together and conspire to keep all the information under lock and key.  They are reluctant to put this information on the web
  • They believe real estate should be bankers' hours: Monday-Friday and 9-5. How does this help the consumer who drives into town on a short notice and is thinking about relocating and only has the weekend to look for properties?
  • From my dealings, the average phone call is returned withing 4-6 days and that’s being generous
  • They still send faxes and courier large documents

When I was in university, I worked for one of these large commercial real estate firms. The guys who really did well have my complete and utter respect. I think that they are true businessmen, and they deserve the high commissions they command.

But when I was just out of university, eager to conquer the world, I would ask why commercial real estate isn't organized like residential real estate is, they would scoff and say, "Why should it be…? We aren't selling dollhouses, we're selling custom solutions."  They would say "MLS is a tool for taxi drivers and housewives," apparently using a derogatory slang to refer to residential agents. My response was essentially that our clients want the convenience of browsing the same database that we do.  

The reason I think it has taken the commercial real estate sector so long to put their properties on the web is that it wasn't a convenience for them… it was only a convenience for their competitors and their clients. Now that customers are starting to look online, and buy commercial real estate from the MLS agents, the big commercial real estate houses are starting to take notice. And I think they might be a bit worried; they don’t know how to use resources to market property.

In 2010, 98% of our customers researched property on the Internet before they called us. If I was a building owner and my broker didn't have my property well displayed on the web, this would be worrisome. Many commercial properties are not listed in MLS resources for other agents to find, therefore the property goes unnoticed.

Of course these are just my observations from every day dealings up until now. What has been your experience regarding the commercial real estate sector?

1 Comment

  1. Lorna Fulton 10/26/2010 at 9:51 AM

    You make excellent points. I am one of the shall we say "seasoned" REALTORS(R) who has always tried to keep up with all the techonolgy. I was one of the first in my area to buy a cell phone, to hire an assistant, to buy a computer, to get a BlackBerry etc. I am now doing more blogging and working on my social network. Regardless of age we all need to get with the times or be left in the dust.

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