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The Changing Role Of A Real Estate Agent: A Historical Perspective

The Old Days

The Old Days

Realtors as Gatekeepers

Prior to entering real estate as a career back in the mid 90’s, I spent nearly ten years working in the computer industry, using the most advanced PCs at the time.  When I first saw the tools available to real estate agents, I felt like I was stepping back in time.  If you were a buyer looking for a home, you couldn’t just log on to the internet and search.  Real estate agents were the gatekeepers of the data, and that made them an integral part of the process.  Back then, all of the homes for sale were listed in paperback books that came out every couple of weeks.  The photo to the left shows what the books looked like.  Depending on what area you worked in, you could have 3 or 4 of these books in your possession at any one time.

The Holy Grail Of Information

MLS Book - InsideThese books held thousands of property listings, categorized by price.  If you knew the address, or the name of the listing agent, it did you no good.  You had to know the price in order to find the property in this book.  I tried going back and searching for any homes I may have had listed back then to no avail.  It would have taken months to scour the book in search of one of my listings.  Here is what the inside of the book looked like:

There were several drawbacks to this method of information dispersal.  In no particular order they were:

  • Poor image quality
  • Limit of only one photo per property
  • Two week delay of property information being distributed (printer timeframes)
  • Limited search capabilities
  • Enormous waste of paper resources

Embracing The Internet

It was in 1995, during my short stint at Microsoft when Nathan Myhrvold wrote a white paper on the Internet. From that point on, the mantra at the company was that everything needed to have some sort of internet component integrated into the software.

Fast forward to the late 1990’s when that message finally made its way to the real estate world, and we were graced with a software program named Compass.  While much of the world was by then using Windows, we were still using a DOS based software program, but at least we could search for properties using key fields.  It wasn’t until the new millennium when we finally had a browser based program and the creation of IDX (Internet Data Exchange) which finally allowed the sharing of property data among individual websites.

It was only then did our role of information gatekeepers morph to that of a more consultant role.  In reality, the role we played didn’t change, but rather the public’s perception changed.  For years, real estate agents were looked upon to search for homes, when the actual REAL benefit to our clients was our ability to consult, negotiate and advise.

Anyone Can Find A Home

Home SearchAs noted above, buyers can now search for their own homes using the IDX capabilities of many national and local websites.  In fact, you can even search for homes on my website (located at the top of the page on my site under HOME SEARCH).  However, I believe that it still takes an experienced real estate agent to help you negotiate the many hurdles along the way.

What do you think? Have you searched for a home using the internet?  Drop me a note sharing your experience.

When REALiTY BiTES, Bite back!

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