Now that Future Shop is closing all of its stores, we are one step further into the Internet Age, the Information Revolution or whatever we are going to call this period of time when we look back in 200 years.
The joke used to be that Future Shop was Amazon’s show room. In the old days, shoppers would visit Future Shop (or Best Buy) and get the information on the product they were thinking of buying. They would touch it, read the box and maybe talk to a salesperson. Then they would go home and buy it cheaper from Amazon and have it shipped overnight.
Online reviews have taken the place of traditional shopping. Why even visit the electronic stores when you can read dozen of online product reviews and company websites, industry expert reviews and watch youtube unboxing. Future Shop suddenly ceased to be relevant, even as a showroom.
Life moves pretty fast. It you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
Brokerage office are like showrooms for the real estate business
When is the last time you visited a local real estate brokerage? It was probably the last time you bought or sold a house, right? Remember all of the houses for sale ads in the front window? Remember the “closing rooms” – the little offices with little desks and no personality? Remember the In/Out board with all the agents names and little sliders on it. Some brokerages have all the agents business cards and all of them have free real estate magazines and newspaper inserts by the door. When you think about it, it all seems so quaint, so 1999.
I sometimes (but not often) miss the wasted time, I spent as a new agent, hanging around the brokerage. We used to do “floor duty”, which meant you had to be on hand to take care of anybody who wandered into the brokerage office or telephoned off of a yard sign looking for information. It was a complete waste of time, even a decade ago as far as I’m concerned. I did floor duty because I actually thought by hanging around the office I could learn about the real estate business by seasoned, experienced and successful agents. But no, those guys are never in the office. The most productive agents are only in the office to submit paperwork, meet with clients or attend meetings. And then, like a hot new listing in the East Ward, they vanish.
So, in the internet age, do you need a local office? No. An agent doesn’t need an office and a new agent certainly doesn’t need the desk fees. A consumer doesn’t need to visit your office either. As showrooms, most real estate brokerages choose pretty lousy real estate. They are in second-rate strip malls mostly.
Is real estate still local?
With so much information available on the internet, you would think that you wouldn’t need realtors at all. But you still do, now more than ever. One of my favourite 365 Rules about Real Estate is:
You can’t buy a house on the internet.
You need a local agent, not just any agent but a local agent to both give you an overview of how the neighbourhood is trending (development and economic issues) and current short term issues (recent home sales, expired listings), feet on the street, knowledge-knower kind of stuff that hasn’t made it to the internet yet.
Put another way, as a local KW realtor, even with the tools I have at my fingertips, I would not be comfortable buying a house in Woodstock, Ottawa or Costa Rica. I just don’t have enough knowledge of the local markets there.