When I started in real estate, we showed homes on the back of a dinosaur. Just kidding! I’m not that old. But in over three decades of selling homes, I can tell you a lot has changed. And a lot has stayed the same. Selling a house, or any other type of property, is all about finding that buyer who wants what you are selling and is willing to pay the best price for it. And helping a client buy a house is accomplished by helping them find that best home for their wants and needs, including the location they want, and within their range of comfortable affordability. In either case, that objective isn’t achieved as easily as it sounds.
“Technology continues to change the real estate industry
more than any other factor besides the economy.”
Back in the day, you know—when phones were attached to walls and research required libraries—marketing a home was much more limited by available media, and to a much more localized market. The average agent in those days would do what we called “The 3 Ps” to sell a house. Put a sign in the yard. Put an ad in the paper. And Pray! The MLS (Multiple Listing Service) was still relatively young and functioned from big-city phone book-sized MLS books that only realtors had, and in 2 x 3-inch black and white listings (including photo) that contained all the houses that were on the market, so agents could show and sell each other’s listings. So, while a buyer might see a for sale sign and call that listing broker, or see the ad in the newspaper or a local home magazine, for the most part, they relied upon their agent, who would tell them about the homes that were available in the location and price range they wanted.
A lot has changed since then! In about 1994, just after Al Gore invented the internet and it was really catching on, I saw and heard real estate agents getting very, very nervous about listings going online for fear that they would no longer hold the MLS proprietary. I had just become the president-elect of the Jefferson County Board of Realtors, and I was actually pretty excited about the online MLS, because I saw the opportunity to be of greater service to my clients by having a way that they could create their own searches and see multiple photos of homes, so they might have a hand in picking the homes they wanted to see. And as the seller’s agent, we had greater opportunities than ever to reach a broader audience and produce better presentations of the home for prospective buyers to see. The industry was changing quickly. Like most people, I don’t love change, but I am a pragmatist and therefore, I’m firmly resolved to embrace inevitable change, and make the very best of it.
So, this is about technology, which was intimidating to many of my generation. And those who resisted change the most were, understandably, left behind pretty quickly. That was over 20 years ago. Technology continues to change the real estate industry more than any other factor besides the economy. But can there be too much technology for the optimal outcome? In the late 1990s, when I was running for the position of director of the board of the Colorado Association of Realtors, I ran on the platform of “High-tech and Hightouch” for the same reason that today, I am resistant to some of the trends toward taking the homebuying and selling process entirely to the internet and related technologies. Touch is important. I’m very happy that my listings, when they go in the MLS, can be found by prospective buyers worldwide to the degree that I make sure they get syndicated online. And social media allows their reach to go further than ever before. That has actually made marketing a lot more effective, and fun! But… every marketing tactic should be respected as a means to an end, not an end unto itself. Too often, I see agents razzle-dazzle prospective home sellers into listing with them for their cool-tech tactics alone. Yes, a full arsenal of tech tools is important, and will cause prospective buyers to notice a property. What happens next is what’s most important, though. Reach. Touch. Serve.
As we expose our listings farther and wider than ever before, one might think that those internet exposures alone will sell the house. They won’t. They might actually unsell it! Probably the most poignant example of this is the virtual tour. They’ve gotten so sophisticated that you can now, online, tour yourself, room by room through the house and even out onto the patio or deck, look up at the ceiling and down at the floor and out the windows, and then think you’ve seen the house. You have, but it’s what you haven’t seen that causes the problem. Too often, in touring this way, a good prospect will actually eliminate a great home from further consideration based on something they saw, though lacking its full context and texture, aka, the approach, the neighborhood, the environment outside and inside the home, the quietness or lack thereof, the actual flow and feeling of how you and your family will live in these contiguous spaces, the steps up and down, and yes, even the smell of the home and its surroundings. I’ve often said that good photos make a bad house look good and bad photos make a good house look bad. A home is not an idea or a visualization, but a complete experience, and it would be an awful shame, as a buyer, if you missed out on that house because you think you saw it, when you really did not. And it is for that reason that, IMHO, house hunters do better to take the bait of enticement and go see for themselves if that home, whose flow seems off-kilter in the virtual tour (it is off-kilter because it’s just virtual), might actually be the one! Happy Homes!
K.C. Butler, ABR, CRS, MRE, ePro, CDPE
K.C. has been a broker for over 30 years, and with RE/MAX from the start. He’s earned the RE/MAX Hall of Fame Award, the RE/MAX Lifetime Achievement Award and the “Above The Crowd” Distinguished Service Award for industry and community contributions. K.C. has been in the top 5 percent for sales production of all Realtors nationwide for most of his career. He is past president of the Jefferson County Association of Realtors, and past vice president of the Colorado Association of Realtors. Past Jefferson County Realtor of the Year is but one more testament of his commitment. K.C. and his family have resided in Evergreen since 1998.