One of the biggest changes in the real estate business in Whistler has been the evolution of the use of technology. Although all businesses have had to embrace new tools and procedures as a result of the digital and information age, the real estate industry has evolved significantly in terms of the roles and services provided and expected role of a real estate salesperson.
In Whistler’s early years realtors sold building lots and cabins. Today we sell condos, townhouses, rental properties, investment properties, businesses, fractional interests and every type of home from A-frame to $10,0000,00 luxury estates.
The Days of Limited Data
Originally the real estate business was a business of door-knocking, print media, personal networking, and limited access to data. Communication was by way of a hard lined phone located at a desk (our first office was actually a trailer located at what is now Bayshores), offers were hand written on multi-sheet templates separated by carbon paper (press hard when you sign!), and negotiation usually involved significant travel to and from Vancouver to make sure paperwork was executed correctly and processed in a timely manner.
For customers, market knowledge was based on print media ads or was communicated by your realtor, and there was very limited access to objective data sources. The control of the transaction largely laid with the agent.
Although it is hard for those born after 1993 to believe, there was no Internet and computers were used primarily for bookkeeping, complicated database management using techy programming language, and games (which is one thing that hasn’t changed).
The Start of the Digital Age
Cell phones didn’t arrive into popular usage until the mid 80’s, were often unwieldy to handle, (the Motorola “shoe” phone was a popular phone which more than anything resembled an army walkie-talkie), and service areas, battery power, and phone range were very unreliable.
As the digital age evolved, however, we went from teletype, to fax, to scanners. Couriers and mail became faxes, then email and now texting and video conferencing and drop box/docusign. Phones have become portable computers, cameras, data base managers, and multi-channel communication devices.
Certainly today, the least interesting feature of your phone is that you can carry it around when you are talking on it, but when first introduced it was revolutionary. Agents have gone from sitting behind their desk daily to fully mobile and fully accessible 24/7.
Easy Access to Data
The development of the internet and social media has pushed print media and direct marketing aside, and today’s real estate marketing plans require a multifaceted approach incorporating print, pictures, video, social and personal networking, web sites, and co-ordinated placement strategies targeted to specific buyer segments.
The evolution of content on the Internet now means that information that was once monopolized by agents and the MLS is now easily available for anyone who wants to find it. It isn’t just information on what is for sale, but also information on how to buy and sell, ratings on agents, and opinion pieces on everything you might want to know about a particular property, neighbourhood, or community (and some things you probably didn’t). One result of this is that the control of the transaction has transferred from the agent to the buyer, and the agent’s job has changed accordingly.
As a brokerage whose customers are largely located out of the community, we have always been first adopters of most new technology as we strive to provide better service and information to our customers. These new and evolving technologies have helped us improve communication, sped up the process of negotiating deals, expanded the global reach of our marketing, and dramatically improved the quality and quantity of information that we can provide.
Agents are no longer tied to a desk and have a much wider range of choices to market properties. Recipe cards of client information has been replaced with sophisticated client relationship software that pulls together all parameters of the relationship, from phone numbers to e-mails and complete records of all interactions.
Yet all this technology has not made the marketing and sales process easier, less risky or more understandable to the average customer. A realtor must learn and maintain a full range of personal, marketing, community knowledge and technical skills, combined with a thorough knowledge of legal requirements associated with finance and real estate. They must invest consistently in technological resources to be better able to assist and meet the expectations of customers.
The speed of business is such that agents have to constantly upgrade their skills. The role of an agent to market the property and facilitate the process in an effective, professional manner is more relevant today than ever. Putting up a sign or writing a contract constitutes about 5% of our activities in today’s world.
This isn’t to say that the old days were better, but certainly the day to day real estate business in Whistler is more complicated and complex, more international, moves much faster and is riskier than before. The customer now has a lot of control over the process and is regularly involved in each facet of buying and selling process.
The role of salesperson has changed to being a personal advisor and risk manager providing insight, management, and assistance from the start to the finish of the real estate transaction and sorting through the myriad of information and data to find that which is truly relevant to the customers needs and goals. The days of simply providing information and then writing a contract are long behind us.