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It's Still A 'People Business!'

Originally Posted: October 26, 2011

John A. Viteritti

Over 90 percent of people interested in buying a home, start their search on the internet. (Courtesy Photo: www,chubbyrays.com)

Phillip O'Connell with Corcoran Real Estate. (Courtesy Photo: Corcoran)

Southampton - There was a time in the not-too-distant past when the most effective method of advertizing a property for sale was for the broker to post a "For Sale" sign on the front lawn. Print advertising, contrary to popular belief, was among the least effective. What is not likely to surprise anyone, today, the most effective method is the internet.

According to statistics compiled by the National Association of Realtors, over 90 percent of people interested in buying a home, start their search on the internet. Their statistics also indicate that over 80 percent of those eventually contact a real estate agent, and real estate agents are involved in over 70 percent of actual purchases. So it appears that while the internet is here to stay, so is the real estate agent. What the internet has done is revolutionized how the buying public and the members of the real estate industry relate to each other.

In order to learn how real estate agents on the East End of Long Island are adapting to the burgeoning use of technology, I interviewed three professionals with broad experience and responsibility: Philip O'Connell, a real estate attorney and Senior Managing Director of Corcoran's Southampton office; Judi Desiderio, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Town & Country Real Estate with six offices on the South Fork and two on the North Fork consisting of 125 agents; and Alice Bell, Senior Vice President of Sotheby's International who manages their Southampton office and oversees all of Sotheby's activities in the Hamptons performed by over 100 agents.

Judi Desiderio with Town & Country Real Estate. (Courtesy Photo: T&C)

Tell me Phillip, how has Corcoran responded to the use of technology in the real estate market?

"Corcoran embraced the technology. Matthew Shadeolt, Director of Interactive Production Marketing was instrumental in our use of social media marketing. Our connections to Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, and Foursquare have quadrupled our audience in less than five years. We advertize our listings on 21 websites."

How has the new technology affected your agents, Phillip?

"We offer them desk-side training in how to use the technology most effectively, but buyers and sellers need a knowledgeable real estate professional who can carry them through the process of buying and selling a home. Technology is not a substitute for that."

Judi, you have been a major player in the real estate industry on the East End for enough time to be an authoritative source on the new ways of conducting business compared to the old. What observations would you care to share with us?

"I guess 30 years in the business qualifies me as an authority. When I started in the business we were using loose-leaf binders and index cards for our listings. Today, we are able to disseminate information to the public through the new technology. It gives us a greater opportunity to inform buyers and sellers and that works to everybody's benefit. People who visit websites are interested in particular areas, and our website provides information about the East End real estate market. We think it is easy to use and continuously updated."

Alice Bell, Senior Vice President of Sotheby's International. (Courtesy Photo: Sothebys Homes)

What does the use of technology portend for the real estate professional, Judi?

"I separate real estate agents into two categories; "last generation power brokers" and "next generation power brokers." The technology is here and we have to change with the times. It's not a matter of age. It's attitude. It's also prior experience. Former teachers do very well in real estate. They are organized and like working with people; also waiters and waitresses. They are used to serving five tables at once. Give me a former school teacher who has waited tables and I'll give you a good real estate agent. By the way, I was both."

Alice, how have you seen the real estate business evolve as a result of technology?

"Let me quote you some statistics provided by our research staff. Over the last three months the Hamptons landing page averaged 271,000 visits per month. Actual viewings of sales listings over the last three months averaged 57,000 per month and actual viewings of rental listings over the last three months averaged 8,000 per month - 25 percent of our buyers started their search on the internet. According to an April, 2010 Morgan Stanley Report, by 2012, 20 percent of all on-line searches will be on mobile devices, and by 2015 mobile internet usage will surpass desk-top usage. At Sotheby's we train our agents in the use of technology and have established a core group of agents who stay on top of the developments in technology and inform our agents."

The consensus among those I interviewed was, it is still and will continue to be a person to person business. The technology is only another tool.

Editor's Note: John will be teaching a 22.5 hours Real Estate Continuing Education classes at Long Island University in Riverhead on November 14, November 16 and November 18. For information and registration contact Rosemary Malone at 631-287-8334 or by email at rosemary.malone@liu.edu.


John is a St. John's University graduate, licensed Real Estate broker, lecturer, teaches real estate license classes at LIU, NYU, and Cook Maran Real Estate School, and is a well-respected consultant to the real estate industry. www.johnaviteritti.com




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