Chris Ossont remembers the days before the technological revolution hit the real estate world.
An associate Realtor with Prudential J.R. Carucci Real Estate, she’s been in the business for 38 years.
“When I started in 1974, we had 4-by-6 index cards,” said Ossont, who spent five years as a teacher before becoming an award-winning realtor. “Every week you’d get a pile of cards with new listings. We’d file them by price with all the other cards we had. You had to keep on top of that to see what had sold, what was available.”
That system was succeeded by regularly published Multiple Listing Service books, and, later, the same information was computerized.
All that is horse-and-buggy stuff now.
Websites, cellphones, smartphones, and emailing, texting, Twitter and Facebook have changed the business dramatically. Information is exchanged in rapid fire, and clients and agents can be connected almost instantly. Websites offer tours of properties. Bids can be made online.
Most in the industry say the new technology is a good thing, offering buyers and sellers great convenience and almost limitless information. But it is not the be-all and end-all.
“I’ve never seen a computer unlock a door or shake a hand,” said Tony Abone, owner of RE/MAX All-Pro Realty in Rome, although he does take advantage of certain elements of the new wave. “We do that. It’s still a people business.”
Jean Hunt, owner of Hunt for Homes in New Hartford, said her small business doesn’t justify maintaining a website, but she makes use of several, including the one run by the Utica-Rome realtors (http://uticaromerealtor.com), and she does take advantage of texting and other conveniences.
“People will text you for a listing,” she said. “Buyers and sellers want to deal with texts. If you call them, they won’t answer. Customers can make bids online. It’s a convenience, especially if it’s an agent from someplace outside the area.”
J.R. Carucci owner Ed Jekel said websites have taken off locally in recent years, since the advent of high-speed Internet access.
“Before, the only way to get information out was (the O-D’s) Home Showcase,” he said. “I still like the Showcase, but people can go on the Web, see 24 photos for each house. We don’t have to spend a lot of money on paper. At home on your computer, you’re looking at an 8-by-8 photo. It has given us a much better way of marketing a house. Photos, disclosure statements, plot plans, tax diagrams. You can give them a lot of information.”
Jekel said websites make for a better informed public, but Realtors remain essential because buyers need someone to guide them through that information glut as they make what likely will be the largest investment of their lives.
One of the most startling developments is the QR (Quick Response) code, the increasingly familiar “matrix” bar codes for which Capraro Technologies in Utica has developed several applications. Such codes can be read by smartphones, and Jekel already has seen their effectiveness.
“I had somebody use a QR code (posted on a commercial property) and it linked to me,” he said. “He pointed the phone at the code, my name came up on the listing. All he had to do was touch my name. I talked to him about that property, which wasn’t right for him, but we’re able to work with him (on something else).”
Realtors say the new technology is a plus, even if it sometimes amounts to keeping up with the Joneses.
“What has worked really is just plain being online,” Ossont said. “I had a property listed in Dolgeville, a Queen Anne house, 13 acres. I got a call from Tucson. This girl had a wellness business. She wanted a location where she could provide a retreat center. She found this place in Dolgeville. They took a look, and bought it. Without the technology, it wouldn’t have happened.”
Technology has allowed buyers, sellers, lenders and others to communicate more easily and exchange more information, and that, Ossont said, echoing Abone, allows for better relationships.
“It’s easier to communicate, but the most important thing is the personable relationships you develop,” she said.