In the past, if you were considering buying a co-op or condo apartment, you would have relied mostly upon the classified ads in the local newspapers and journals to find your broker and your new home - or perhaps you would have passed several real estate offices on your way to work or on your Sunday stroll and stopped to read the listings posted in the windows. Buyers, sellers and brokers now have another powerful tool at their fingertips"¦ their computers. As easy as it is to order pizza, groceries, or a new pair of pants, anyone anywhere in the city or around the world can visit brokerage firms online and see what listings they have to offer; all from home or office.
According to Brad Inman of Inman News, an independent news source for the real estate industry, "This a different market in a world where everything's becoming transparent, everything's opening up; the consumer has all the information. The Internet by definition is openness, sharing information, where the consumer is now in charge. So that has changed everything," he says.
Indeed. It's safe to say the Internet has changed the way people around the world interact with each other and do business profoundly and permanently - and the real estate industry has certainly changed as well. But how, exactly?
"Years ago, the real estate business was about networking," according to William Hunt III, president of Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy, a large Manhattan-based real estate firm. "Sellers would provide their listings to two or three brokerage firms that came highly recommended to them by friends or family, and brokers spent a lot of time building relationships with sellers in order to get these listings. Most of the business that came in was through word of mouth. People talked to other people who had a positive experience with a real estate firm or particular broker. Today, that only gets your foot in the door in order to do a presentation. There could be two, three or more firms competing for the business."
"Sellers would also find brokers through the classified advertisements," adds Sandy Mattingly, an associate broker at Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy. "They would see which firms were advertising which properties and made decisions based on these criteria. Many firms used what we call "˜window dressing,' which were posters with photos and listings placed in the firm's office windows to attract buyers and sellers as well."