The biggest changes (what was "lost") the internet has brought to my business—both in the way I do business and the way my clients do business with me in my opinion are shared below.
In the beginning my first computer was a Radio Shack TRS-80, but I first got online in 1988/89 with an Apple II and finally I went PC, mostly HP Pavilions and Toshiba laptops mixed with a couple custom builds from Belmont Computers.
The first thing lost to the internet was the MLS book, by the time I was licensed in 1999. it was computerized. That also scared a lot of agents.
The next thing that slowly got lost was paper; in late 1999 I became a licensed Winforms instructor and taught agents how to go paperless with their transactions. WinForms eventually became Zip Forms and by 2010 was synced with Docusign and 11 years from the day I became a Winforms trainer, I was a paperless agent - rarely printing contracts.
Some of our industry's integrity and value was lost to the internet when Zillow and discount brokers came on the scene. Like a Trojan Horse, Z lied to REALTORS and we ushered them with open wallets and then realized them to be our biggest headache. NOT our biggest competition, just a migraine headache that would become what our clients relied on just enough to drown in info and starve for wisdom. Zillow also made agents lazy and slaves to the Z platform, much like they did through Expedia to most hotel chains. Instead of putting in the work to call, mail and pop-by their own clients and leads, they bought used leads from Z and hoped drip marketing and texting would somehow stand out and lure new clients in. They also became beholden to Z - that now owned the agents' pipelines.
Two things lost to the internet I was happy to see go were client meeting limitations and buyer tour of homes delays; because Skype (early 2000's), then Facetime (mid-2000's) and finally (in 2016) ZOOM became part of my business model and opened up a world of virtual meetings that still allowed face to face and virtual touring of homes for sale for my out of state buyers - we now didn't have to wait to meet in person or to see homes until they drove/flew into town. 70% of my business is military and they are out of town more than in town and 50% of my business is out of towners - this was golden-opportunity-tech for my business strategy and services offered.
My value as a REALTOR* feels devalued occasionally, but not taken by the internet - I was commoditized even more in the public eye - due to clients with Google and Zillow "click-knowledge" vs. the years of "in the trenches" experience I offer them. I say occasionally because it's not all clients, just an occasional few that behave like we're all the same. Although it forces me to rise to the challenge and consequently grow from it, so did I really lose?
Professional-Social Interaction is at risk of being lost to the internet. I think a whole generation is losing if not already lost the ability to talk on the phone and develop the art of conversation, debate & negotiation. They think they will build a book a business strictly through "hand off" texting, social media and drip campaigns. Luckily, (ironically) the pandemic reminded us that isolation is the cruelest form of punishment and human contact and interaction, although risky, is rewarding and necessary to live a full life.
It got harder!!! Because the absolute biggest change the internet has brought to my business—both in the way I do business and the way my clients do business with me is people's patience eroded. They got urgent (impatient) about everything and expected us to be 24/7 which many of my colleagues perpetuated this myth by catering to it. But, it also got harder to do poor work! Why? Online reviews!!! Now, if you suck or you rock, the public can find out about it. So, in my opinion, it's harder to be a bad agent. That's good!
Well, it feels that way anyhow, the truth is it just made client selection more important, I still find most of my clients are patient and trust my experience over the internet, but I certainly had to step up my knowledge and awareness of what they are reading online to be ready for it in conversation and context.
It got easier! Lost to the internet were many of the complications of paperwork delivery & signatures, marketing services got cheaper and more available to us, as mentioned above, video streaming has allowed touring homes from far away to be possible, 3D Virtual Tours and Google Earth let you walk a neighborhood and experience a home digitally from the comfort of your home, blogging and podcasts became additional revenue streams of lead generation and most amazingly, our office literally can fit in our pockets and go anywhere with us. (Which may be a comment on our boundaries and time off were lost to the internet).
While we can mourn some of the good times or "easier times" we lost to the internet in our industry, I believe over all, this business got more convenient to work in, if not easier to operate within. Basically there are no excuses not to succeed because while the internet taketh away, it also giveth a plethora of information, training and opportunities.
photo 1 by istock from Pexels
photo 2 TJN