It is pouring down rain at my house as I write this. (I presume it is raining all over San Diego, but the way things have been going lately, it could indeed be isolated to my house.) In Southern California, we don’t do well with “wet.” Our winter clothes consist of three-quarter sleeves and warmer flip-flops. As my daughter left for school in the deluge wearing a peacoat, I tried to explain the implications of water falling from the sky, but the whole “wet wool is bad” concept was lost on her. I fear her jacket will return this afternoon two sizes smaller.
Things are slowing down on the real estate front, and we all know it is to be expected this time of year. I’m sure you are clamoring for market statistics this morning, but there is just not a lot of breaking news. New listings are few and sales are down. If you have your home listed for sale and you aren’t seeing the traffic you were a couple of weeks or months ago, you needn’t assume the crash position. It is still raining, literally and figuratively, and the extended forecast is for more of the same, but… buyers are out there. We have showings scheduled with several clients this week. These are hearty folk, and if you see us slogging up your driveway shivering and followed by a gaggle of water fowl when we all should really be home attending to the rites of the season, you know we mean business.
Ah, the rites of the season. Everything seems to come to a head in December. This is the month that personal and business obligations meet in the center ring to duke it out, and it’s a battle to the finish. And if I didn’t have enough to worry about this week, I picked this time to retool some of my basic business practices. First, I have been retiring a computer, which sets off a chain reaction of software reinstallations, data back-ups and restores, and hours spent with technical support begging for reactivation of various “product keys.” My home office is now known as the profanity zone and if we owned caution tape, Steve would be cordoning it off to protect innocent passers-by.
Then there is the BlackBerry, which we will file under the “be careful what you wish for” category. It was an early gift, but apparently not early enough. Once activated, I was thrust into another series of tasks. Learning curve aside, I quickly discovered I was unable to sync to Outlook, which in turn forced me to join the 21st century and migrate my address book (successful) and calendar (fail) to GMail. Twenty-four hours later, I am more or less operational, and my new productivity device has entirely taken over my life. As one who enjoys approximately 4 gazillion factorial emails a day, I am now hearing incoming notification bells in my sleep. I feel like that Verizon guy on the commercials being followed by his network, only my “network” is incessantly screaming at me to order meds online or take advantage of free shipping in time for Christmas. “Incessantly” equals 971 times in the past 24 hours, to be precise.
Finally, December is never a time to kick back for us. Blame it on our chosen career path. Rather, it marks the time for us to mobilize for all that January brings — new listings, rejuvenated buyers ready to get a little more serious, year-end taxes, and, for me, the Inman Real Estate Connect conference in New York. Before I have had time to prioritize the breaking of my resolutions, I will be knee-deep in cold weather and overstimulated with new technology applications to deploy. The big conversation this year is what Inman is calling the Roadmap to Recovery, a hard look at where the market and the industry are heading.
The U.S. housing market and the real estate industry are in critical condition and they need a roadmap to recovery. But first we must figure out where we should and must go. To help the industry understand that future, Inman News is embarking on a major editorial project to examine how the real estate industry should and will look in coming years.
This requires that we all pack our big thinking hats, and I have been doing so much big thinking lately, my own hat is feeling a size too small. I had the pleasure of participating on a webcast Town Hall Meeting panel yesterday where we scratched the surface of the issues we face, and the prevailing wisdom is that market recovery will take a few more years and the current brokerage model will requiring retooling to succeed in the future. We talked about the new consumer, one born of an Internet age, and the importance of reestablishing trust as agents. Our roles are changing rapidly in this world where information is abundant and the customer demands transparency. And, I think my daughter unknowingly hit on the new role of the real estate agent in a comment on a post here a couple of days ago. We were talking about the influence and role of the media, but I believe it applies beautifully to the role of the agent.
Consumers of the news have reached the point where their Google feed readers, and their minds, are simply too full of information because it is now so readily available. The task that must now be taken up by the reputable news sources is to provide context for readers, rather than just reports of the news. In this way, objective guidance will be provided to those readers who are sinking beneath the weight of information overload.
Information overload, so many resources at our fingertips, and oh-so time consuming to pull it all together for one useful, productive purpose. Ironically, this also relates to my ongoing crusade to seamlessly integrate all of my technology devices and applications into one tidy, efficient package. Like a water balloon, I squeeze and conquer on one front just as something new expands on another.
Our real estate market is having it’s December. As a society, in fact, we are having our December. It’s raining, alright. For the consumer hungry for real estate information or any other information, it’s a veritable deluge. That is where I see our redefined value emerging from the storm, in making sense of it all for our clients when they decide it’s time to come in from the rain.
*Author’s note: If some crackpot out there is even thinking about telling me that I could in fact have synced my Outlook to my BlackBerry, keep it to yourself. I am dumb and happy for the moment.