As with our entire society, the real estate community is rapidly changing due to the expanding availability of computer technology and the Internet. I have found myself musing on this subject because of a telephone call I got yesterday. A gentleman wanted information about a house that I have listed for sale. As I always do when I speak to someone about real estate, I asked him if he was already working with a Realtor. Not that it will make any difference in my answering of his questions, I just want to make sure that he has adequate help and I also don’t want to step onto the toes of any other Realtors. His response to me was that he had 3 different agents helping him, but that he didn’t think any of them were really working for him. This was because all 3 had set up e-mail programs that sent him listing information, but that none of them made the effort to speak to him in person. Hmmmm……
I can see, as a professional, how easy it would be to fall into this pattern. The Internet is absolutely amazing. Our local RMLS was the first multiple listing service in the United States to go fully functional as a website. It is constantly upgrading with more and more services. One feature it has is a client profile program. This allows Realtors to set up a client profile that automatically searches listings to hunt for homes that fit any particular clients criteria. It then sends an e-mail to that agent whenever a match is found. At this point, it will even send that match via e-mail to the client as well, if that function is added by the Realtor when the profile is set up. It is a simple process to set up and convenient to both the Realtor and the client. And this is where I think things get gray. Where is the human contact?
I am as guilty as the rest. I love technology. I am on facebook, I tweet, as you can see, I blog. But I have also been in this business since back in the days when every two weeks we got a printed book the size of your typical phone book. It had all of the local listings, about 16 to a page, each with a little box with facts and one black and white photo. We would thumb through the book to find houses that our buyers might like. Then we’d load our buyers in our cars and drive all over town to see houses. Looking back, I think it must have been a huge pain in the you know what for buyers. All that time to see houses that someone else thought you might like. It worked because it was the only method available. Today, my clients can look at 16 color photos of each house, with a map link to preview location, and perhaps even a virtual tour, before they ever get into my car to go see the interior. Today my clients tell me what they want to see and not the other way around. It saves time, gas, and frustration. It is soooooo much better.
I think the weakness in our current system is that we may loose touch with the human element. Ultimately a client needs someone who understands their concerns and who listens to their needs. You are trying to buy a house, but your are also needing someone who manages your concerns as you negotiate the sale, deal with the home inspection, and, especially today, help you arrange financing. You need to build a relationship with your Realtor as you look for a home so that you know that your Realtor really is working on your behalf. The human element is perhaps more important today than ever.
There is a balance that needs to be found. Just as a Realtor who doesn’t have technological savvy will fall behind in the industry, I think a Realtor who relies too heavily on the techno factor and looses touch with the human needs of their clients will also fall behind. And, call me old fashioned, there is still nothing quite as nice in business as a hand-written thank you that comes in the mail.
Linda and I are both commited to working within that balance. We pride ourselves on being “up” on technology, and we both are commited to listening to your needs and helping to make your real estate dealings a successful experience for you as an individual. I think that we can both honestly say that we start out in our dealings working with clients, but those clients end up becoming friends. It is my favorite part of my job.