Real Estate Then and Now

The real estate techno revolution has significantly increased individual agent productivity and competence reducing potential agent liability.  The buyers and sellers has more resources to understand and educate them on all aspect of their housing needs..

The way the real estate brokerage business operates today is vastly different from when I became a real estate agent in 1972.

There was no Internet, no such things as personal computers, or Smart Phones. no such things as fax machines, not to mention the non-existence of email, which wouldn't show up until the early 1990's and would take almost a decade more to become of practical use. The telegraph office was our friend with the Morse Code tapping machines sending messages to city to city. An Apple was something we ate raw or cooked into an Apple Pie!

They say an Apple a Day keeps the Dr. away, - I am having indigestion!

Photographs were never taken by agents; this was the domain of the professional photographer (who only took photos for the MLS) who used a black & white film camera that required some serious training to operate, since there were no such things as auto-focus cameras, and the most basic digital camera wouldn't hit the market until the lat 1980's.  It was a God send when the Instant Polaroid camera was introduce.  I can still remember that my Broker didn't want to buy one because of the cost so I bought one and I knew that it was a tool that would make me a step ahead of the other realtors.  It was fantastic, amazing snap and the photo was instant!  Just like all new technology that was introduce, Video? It wasn't even a thought at the time .

Advertising was totally limited to newspapers (since there was no other means of communicating with prospective buyers), it was expensive and the ads were mostly in-column ads that were 3-5 lines in size.

There were no real estate franchises (e.g. Century 21, Coldwell Banker, Re/Max or the like). Thus, the typical real estate agency was a small (3-10 agents) operation that had to fight for every nickle they could generate in commissions. No such thing as cutting our commissions, it was 5% on exclusive and 6% on MLS.  Things changed as the government stepped in and introduced the Non Competition Act. which prevent price fixing not just in Real Estate but allows flexibility to services to be flexible.

The typical multiple listing system serviced it's immediate area and they distributed information to their members once or twice a week through the local board office.. In fact, many real estate agencies at the time didn't even belong to an MLS. 

Contracts were 1 page documents pre-printed on both sides with plenty of blank space for additional clauses.

All real estate agents worked for the seller with cooperating agents being sub-agents of the seller's agent. Contracts were seldom typewritten, thus, they were almost always written by hand   I remember writing offers on the hood of my car. 

The typical listing presentation was exclusively verbal since the cost of pre-printed materials was far too expensive to buy and took forever to get from a job shop printer it was expensive.

In fact, the real estate industry, in general, didn't even require agents to have continuing education to renew their real estate license. It was a 2 day real estate course by an assigned community broker at our local college and you are in business.

Needless to say, as a result of the agent population and an equally uneducated general public, all of whom were relying almost solely on verbal communication and the use of very limited documentation, it's easy to envision the number and significance of the legal problems that arose from this mix.

Dress code, we were considered professionals because we write up legal documents and sell people the biggest investment of their lives, and as such normally a dark suit , white shirt and a tie.  Unlike today, you can't tell who is in real estate and who is a local labourer.  I like the good old days, you can tell they were dress to sell not dress for leisure.

As the real estate techno revolution began in earnest in the early 1980's with the introduction and the widening use of the personal computer.  Myself and a computer partner Carlos designed and written a real estate software program ( ROMs Realty Office Management systems) to store listings, write offers etc.  It was not well received as 90% of the agents were almost senior citizens and didn't understand computers they said the computer will never last.  After years and years of trying to get the board to computerize we finally did it and managed the world of real estate.  The world was getting computerized so North Bay have to start to follow.  In hind sight I should have continued in the computer software business, I could have been the Bill Gates of the Real Estate business. The board used my software for 5 years until the giants sees the opportunities and develop took over.

Fax machines, combined with significantly increased competition from the growing popularity of the real estate franchise companies who "professionalism" (not to mention the influence from some major lawsuit decisions), both agents and the government agencies that regulated them, began to evolve to where we are today.

For those of us who have been around long enough to have observed the total transformation from our former "cave-dweller" status to our present level of technological sophistication it's nothing short of breathtaking and exciting use.

As a result of the real estate techno revolution and the ubiquitous presence of mobile electronic devices such as Smart Phones, tablets, laptops, and the like, we can now create and communicate virtually any form of information, be it audio, video, photos, or documents, instantaneously with almost everyone no matter where they are on the planet.

Having lived through the real estate techno revolution from before it's beginnings, it's my observation, that as a result of the combination of higher professional education requirement combined with the technological advances we've experienced, the typical real estate agent practicing today is of a far higher level of professional competence than those I started with way back in 1972.

I love the Real Estate Business then and now it has been good to me and my family.

Gee, I wonder what things will be like in our industry the next 40 some years from now!?