Real estate is a people business. Brokers, appraisers and agents enjoy assisting people who are buying and selling property. This interaction is one of the keys to a successful career in real estate; therefore, it seems funny to talk about how technology impacts real estate and how that technology can free up time so a real estate licensee can work more with clients and customers. Let’s look at some of the tools REALTORS® use.

Multiple Listing Service or MLS

The MLS has been around since the nineteenth 19th-century when most real estate associations were called real estate exchanges. On certain set days, the members of an association gathered and exchanged information about their listings. Shortly after the end of the nineteenth 19th-century, the term multiple listing came into use and was mentioned as an activity of boards of REALTORS® as early as 1907. The use of MLS spread throughout the country with the result that today hundreds of local associations of REALTORS® provide an MLS to their members.

Locally, both the Jefferson-Lewis Board of REALTORS® (JLBOR) and the St. Lawrence County Board of REALTORS® (SLCBOR) had computer-based MLSs in the 1970s and 1980s. REALTORS® would dial into a mainframe computer and enter listings, changes, and run reports. In 1998, the JLBOR switched to an internet-based MLS and in 2000, the SLCBOR followed suit. These had a public page to search for properties and allowed REALTORS® to work remotely without an expensive set up.

As technology has advanced, the features available to REALTORS®, their clients, and the general public have increased. The public pages for the MLSs (www.nnymls.com and www.slcmls.com) have undergone improvements that allow for visual tours, adjusted based on the device used, and have many consumer-friendly features.

Likewise, the REALTOR® portion has more features and tools for REALTORS® including the ability to run robust reports, add information, and use search tools that help REALTORS® keep track of the market for their clients. The MLSs also have third-party applications integrated in that make it easier for members to access public tax data, real estate forms, and manage their business.

Each of these aspects make the MLS a very valuable tool for REALTORS® and the public.

Virtual Tours/Showings

With the rise of digital recorders, smartphones and drones, virtual tours have gained popularity in recent years. This was especially true in the past 12 months when property showings needed to be remote. A virtual tour allows buyers to tour a property that is for sale without actually setting foot in the property. It is done in advance and uploaded to a listing by the listing agent. With the permission of the seller and the listing agent, a buyer’s agent can create a virtual tour for a client. Generally, a buyer’s agent cannot upload a virtual tour to a website without permission of the seller and listing agent. A live version of a virtual tour, called a virtual showing, allows for interaction between agent and buyers.

Electronic Lockboxes

Lockboxes were invented in the 1950s by Delbert Williams who was tired of chasing down keys so he could show his clients properties. The lockbox had a Yale bicycle lock attached to an aluminum key container. Although very convenient, because it used a combination that was hard to change, it was not always the most secure nor did it tell who had accessed the listing.

In 1990, the first electronic lockbox was introduced to the market. To access it, an agent needed a device and a pin number that was unique to the user and the device. The device had to be charged and updated via a modem.

The next generation used an infrared signal and a separate device. When attached to the charger, the device would also upload the addresses of the listings that had been shown.

With the advent of Bluetooth technology, agents can download an app to their smartphone and access the lockbox with a pin code. Each time a keybox is accessed, the listing agent receives a message that the showing is in progress and receives another when the showing is over.

Through of all these changes and updates, one thing has remained the same. The REALTOR® is the best source and resource for buying, selling, or appraising a property. There are many houses that have the same number of bedrooms and bathrooms, but each is unique in the eyes of the buyer and seller. A REALTOR® can help find that property.

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