My husband and I are boaters. When we first started cruising, some thirty years ago, we were equipped with a compass, a watch, a chart and binoculars. We went buoy to buoy and managed to find our destinations. With each successive year, we added equipment, occasionally also changing boats. Eventually, we had radar, autopilot and GPS, the latter two, interactive. We could key in the buoys, make it out to our starting mark and let the equipment take over for the next few hours, until we reached our desired port. The temptation to forget the basics, was definitely there. But, early on, as we added new technology to our boat, a friend of ours, who was not only a fellow boater, but also an airline pilot, drilled an important lesson, home. He said, what if an hour out, when all you could see, in any direction, is water, your equipment fails. If you haven't charted your course, if you don't know what your compass headings should be, if you've simply relied on technology, how will you know where you are?
Don't get me wrong. I'm not knocking technology. I love my computer(s) - I'm addicted to the Internet - my digital camera is terrific - my cell phone is permanently attached to me. It's great, how every day seems to provide a new advancement to make our jobs easier. But, as my boating buddy taught me years ago, while we embrace technological advances, we have to guard against taking the easy way out, while forgetting the basics.
It's great that I can sit in my pajamas, late at night, in front of my computer and scour the MLS, looking for listings that meet my buyers' needs. But, does looking at a dozen pictures take the place of previewing the appropriate properties? I can go online and between listing information, photos and virtual tours, produce a CMA, without ever leaving the house. Is that the same as driving past the comps and noting the influence of the surrounding houses or condition of the location? A couple of clicks and I'm in town hall records. Does that take the place of pulling a field card or checking the recorded deed?
In addition, with much of the technology also available to the public, there are agents who opt to let their clients peruse the listings, and then they deign to unlock the doors of those listings, the buyers want to see. If they successfully negotiate the sale, at least, I still believe, most agents show up for inspections. After that, in Fairfield County, CT., attorneys take over. They prepare the contract and the closing statement and conduct the closing, to which many agents don't find it necessary to attend. Is it any wonder that some question whether REALTORS® are worth their commissions?
The bottom line is, keep the technological advances coming. Embrace them. Use them. Let them enhance what we do, not replace it. If we want to be recognized for the value we bring to the real estate transaction, we can't just phone it in, because technology makes that possible. We still have to earn it.
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