Longevity and the Pompous Gloating of the Immediate Moment

Reblogger D B
Real Estate Agent

Original content by Paul Slaybaugh

There was an old microfiche machine at my office when I started in this business.  It would be awhile before plat maps went online.  The Mr. Coffee next to the old Xerox copier had yet to be replaced by the single-shot vacuum pack machination that would allow agents to select from a variety of roasts.  The office itself teemed with Real Estate synergy as the exodus to the home office wouldn't begin in earnest for another five years or so. 

Against the backdrop of what is now considered the Neolithic Era of the Real Estate Industry, those pioneers who embraced the radical technological advancements of email and personal websites scoffed at the hopelessly crude tools of the trade still wielded by the Paleolithic holdovers from days gone by.  Quick to shovel dirt on the shallow graves these dinosaurs had themselves seemingly dug by ignoring the advancing world around them, the younger set was highly amused by one agent in particular who still used the rickety old typewriter in the work room for personal correspondence. 

While derision for the curmudgeon's refusal to keep up with the times was less hostile than affectionate, that lone typewriter signaled, for many, the functional obsolescence of more than merely the machine itself.  The sooner we could put that beast of burden out to pasture, the sooner our brokerage would live up to its reputation as industry leader within the Phoenix market.  It's a competitive world out there, and you can't rest on yesterday's laurels if you wish to stay relevent, after all.  To stay on that cutting edge, you must do some cutting.  Though it was never verbalized, the insinuation that both man and machine should succumb gracefully to the scrap heap to make way for the new breed was palpable.

That was just over ten years ago.  The typewriter is gone, but the agent remains.  Was there a sudden epiphany about the direction of the business and a need to be at the forefront of the technological revolution?  Certainly not.  We simply dragged the typewriter outside one day after an office vote and beat the thing back into the Stone Age.  Left with little alternative, the old guy grudgingly learned how to email and even used the fax machine on occasion.  But websites?  Search engine optimization?  Let the hotshots figure that nonsense out.  He would rather sell Real Estate than hop on every new trend.

And he did.  One of the most successful agents in our brokerage, he pretty much sticks to managing his own investments at this point.  Investments cultivated during the bust years.  Remember when everyone was ditching their land holdings in the ‘80s as values tanked and interest rates spiked simultaneously?  He held on.  Remember the stagflation of the ‘70s?  He amassed quite a portfolio amidst those treacherous market forces. 

The man simply knows Real Estate. 

Dinosaurs get to be dinosaurs in this business for a reason.  In an industry that has more attrition than the lineup for Guns ‘N Roses, only those who have the market cornered on business acumen and opportunistic savvy linger long enough to be subjected to the ignominious rebukes and condescension of the next generation.  Those of us who would spread our peacock feathers to boast of our rising profiles in comparison to the sagging numbers of our predecessors would be better served to squeeze every last drop of knowledge and advice from their battle-tested minds. 

So we are the big dogs today.  Big deal.  This porch has been occupied by far better agents in years past.  Agents that made presentations face to face instead of via email and fax.  Agents who actually employed salesmanship and personal skills to seal transactions versus simply heaping reams of readily available data upon their subjects.  Agents who can recognize the oncoming booms and busts because they have experienced these cycles many times over.  Agents who have thrived in the face of all manner of advancing technologies (for those who would assert otherwise, technology didn't just suddenly appear post 2000).  Agents who know what works for their business and what does not.  Agents who do not confuse the tools of selling Real Estate with the actual business of selling Real Estate. 

Like those ancient machines that once inhabited our offices paved the way for the next generation of technology, so have those who plied their abilities in days of yore been pre-requiste for the current crop of agents.  We have gotten to where we are now on the backs of our predecessors.  Ironically, some would deign to call the older generation of agents blind to new technology while not recognizing their own limited sight.  Such hasty and dismissive judgment renders one blind to the positive attributes that have crafted long, successful careers.  Any comet can streak brightly across the sky for a short period of time.  The trick is in maintaining a lifespan past the initial fluorescent brilliance.

The more I think about it, the more I find the term "dinosaur" to be quite appropriate.  As opposed to those who throw it about with such arrogance and disdain, however, I liken it more to the way many productive old timers will eventually leave the industry.  Forget the magic bullet of SEO, blogging or any other marketing flavor of the month; it's going to take nothing short of a meteor strike to kill those careers.  Instead of chastising these agents for what they are not, I seek to absorb what they are in vain attempt to distill the core secret to their longevity down to its very essence.  I would recommend some of the more vocal online detractors of our industry elders do the same.  We should all be so lucky to stick around long enough to earn such scorn.

Funny thing, but about 75% of the agents who mocked that agent ten years ago are nowhere to be found today; knocked off their lofty perches by a brutal market they didn't see coming.  Meanwhile, he keeps on keeping on, trying to figure out how to change the ribbon on the office PC.  Try not to feel too sorry for him as he outlasts the next wave of revolutionaries with quaint designs on yet another industry coup d'etat.


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Charlie Ragonesi
AllMountainRealty.com - Big Canoe, GA
Homes - Big Canoe, Jasper, North Georgia Pros

i know I am getting long in the tooth when I talk to folks about how we used to do it. As my wife used to tell our son growing up, when he didnot want to go to school, Hey I had to walk to school every day and home agian uphill both ways

Sep 05, 2009 09:20 AM #1
June Lewis
Northwood Realty Services - New Castle, PA
Realtor Northwood Realty - New Castle,Pa Lawrence Co 7247304571

Hi Don  What a nice  well deserved tribute to the agents who have gone before us.  I just talked with an  retired agent the other day, her comment to me was " I could never do real estate today..it has gotten far beyond me "  We had talked for a couple of hours and as our conversation ended I thought to myself.  This lady has retired but the industry could use today her ethics,

dedication, experience and knowledge.  She was one of the best and we can not take that from them..technologically challenged or not...because they have everything else that made a people to people business work well...very, very well

Sep 05, 2009 09:42 AM #2
Tom Braatz Waukesha County Real Estate 262-377-1459
Coldwell Banker - Oconomowoc, WI
Waukesha County Realtor Real Estate agent. SOLD!


Great read; I remember walking in my first real estate office and seeing the boris MLS system and this dot matrix printer. I thought the future had arrived.

Sep 05, 2009 10:15 AM #3
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