Op-Ed | AAR Member Sound Off: iPad vs. Yellow Pad

Posted on April 1, 2013 by AAR

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I’ve been in real estate management and sales for over 30 years now and have made the following observation: Agents in this new century (now past 13 years and counting) fall basically into two categories. Either they are “old dog” agents or new “tech-generation” agents.  The older agents still want to use their yellow (paper) pad; the younger agents prefer the latest-and-greatest in technology (their iPad2, iPad Mini, iPad with retina display, or did a new one just come out today? Not to mention all the multiple phone applications that seems to appear overnight!)

How do we bridge the gap? The veteran real estate agents that refuse to change are getting fewer and fewer in the industry. When I was first starting out, it was a different time and things were busy — not that I ever mind being busy. I do, however, mind the extreme acceleration of technology that goes beyond my ability to stay up with today’s rapid pace of advancing innovation.

The social networking in “those days” was mostly at the REALTOR® gatherings that included (believe it or not) REALTOR® board dinners (boards are now called associations), where we would have a sit down dinner and induct new members monthly, update each other on whatever was going on in the industry (sometimes with a guest speaker, but not usually). It was a social gathering and we socialized with each other.

Another social networking tool “in the day” was the MLS meetings. During these meetings, a moderator would sit on an elevated platform and call out the changes in the MLS book.  Everyone would sit with their MLS books on their laps and mark the changes as they were given.  It was informative and politely done, especially with Paul Tubb — and later Daryl Agnew — doing the moderating in the East Valley at the then Mesa-Chandler-Tempe (M-C-T) Board of REALTORS®.

Before the meeting began there was a line-up ritual that took place. All the various listing agents would line up along the wall with flyers in their hands, along with the title representatives and lenders (the home inspectors would come along later). REALTORS® would pass by as they came into the meeting with their two hands held out and gather in all the flyers (50-100 per meeting was not uncommon). We laughed and talked to each other while walking along the line of agents and representatives, gathering our information sheets. It was purely social and informative. The other part of our “networking” was the listing agent actually took the offer to the home of the seller(s) and presented it directly to the seller(s).  And, of course, the sub-agent went with us most of the time and sat there for the presentation…and often participated in the negotiations (no buyer agency yet, you understand).

Next, along came the beloved 300 Baud printer. Located at the real estate office, this printer allowed us to dial up a telephone and place the receiver into a cradle after we heard the “scratchy-noise” on the phone. We could then make a connection to receive a print-out on the heat sensitive paper (called thermal chromic paper or thermal paper). This happened very slowly (and I mean s-l-o-w-l-y) printing out the MLS info. (Note: The heat sensitive paper would turn black in about two hours if left in the car.) I have wonderful/awful memories about this stuff!

Next, another big change: the fax machine. Imagine, instead of having to make copies and deliver them to clients, we could actually send images over the phone lines via this new device. Oh, yes, it was magical. And on (get ready for this) thermal fax paper – just like the “heat sensitive paper” we had experienced with the computer just a few months before. “Technology is changing our business,” we exclaimed! We were still happy with our yellow pad, thank you!

Well, I don’t have to tell you that real estate has continued to change. We had arguments of a “big nature” when it was decided to remove the one photo we had from the MLS book. Imagine a big book full of data on each property (12 houses to a page, instead of the regular eight with one photo for each).
Now, speed forward. After the fax came the computer and unbelievable upgrades, and the next computer (and more upgrades), and e-fax and email and then text messaging (OMG) and even more upgrades. Then came social media and the rise of the internet: Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, YouTube, Chat, Java, MySpace, Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Webinars, RSS, etc.

So, what is next? Where do we go from here? Here’s what I do know. I never hesitated to change when I knew that change was coming. I took GRI classes my first two years in the industry and I was one of the first to attend the NAR class on Agency in 1984; I’ve been learning and teaching ever since. I take as many ARMLS “Twilight Classes” as I can to make sure that I’m still relevant. I use Dropbox on my iPad, write a “Quote of The Day” every day on my Facebook account, endorse colleagues on Linkedin, participate in webinars and am in the process of enhancing my personal website and beginning a new blog site. The agents that refuse to give up the yellow pad will be the dinosaurs of this new century. It’s no longer an option not to change. Newer agents are mostly younger; they are technologically advanced. They’ll change the industry.

I will conclude this article by suggesting that the days of the old, yellow pad are gone. The end of an era has occurred, and the future is here. The future is now. Real estate is truly a “dynamic” industry. Just try to keep up, I challenge you!


About the author:
C. Dale Hillard, CRB, CRS, GRI, SFR. C. Dale Hillard is a designated broker for West USA Realty. He graduated from Lincoln Christian College in Lincoln, IL with his Bachelor of Arts Degree and received his Master’s Degree in Communication from Arizona State University. He is an approved instructor for the Arizona Department of Real Estate.

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6 Responses to “Op-Ed | AAR Member Sound Off: iPad vs. Yellow Pad”

  1. Phil Sexton says:

    Good article Dale. Change is hard! …as I look at my pile of used yellow pads. Jotting handwritten notes is my comfort zone. It’s my go to when I’m in a hurry or driving. The trick for me is finding the time to transfer them to a digital device before they get lost, torn, or worn.

  2. Kathy Howe says:

    Ah! Grasshopper! You speak wisely!
    In my world, I watch the Yellow-padders either trying to take on new learning concepts or leave the industry. You’ll appreciate this, Dale, I have an 80+ year old with my company who joined me knowing that I required everything in digital form. The first month I suggested, then, recommended, then required him to come to the 6 hour Contract Writing class I teach (required for sales license applicants). Of course he was not thrilled. He began the class with his arms crossed… Then a beautiful thing happened, he began to interact with the others in the class (3 prelicense and 4 licensed agents). We do the second part of the class on computers by accessing MLS, using Zipforms, and eSignatures. He’s been back to the class a second time. And he is turning in all his work by eSign or scan and email, and he thanked me for the opportunity to practice the digital world in a “safe area”… As for me? I have a Monday afternoon class open for those who want to understand the difference between Syndication and IDX… “Do you know what your happens to your listing after you put it into MLS?” We’re having extremely interesting discussions on FB about the nuances of Syndication and IDX. Homework: Put one of your listing addresses into Google and “search”…

  3. Don O'Toole says:

    Thank You Dale, Should I say it? “Those were the days.” You forgot the MLS new listing tour where, as I recall, I first met you and your wife at a home in Chandler’s College Park.

    I understand the benefits of technology. Bought my first Computer in 1986. Didn’t have a clue of what I was getting into. The problem, that I see, is the lack of face to face contact with your fellow Realtor or Client. That is where I grab the yellow pad and go face to face. I have never sold anything on the phone or email and I do miss that Realtor to Realtor relationship that we have lost to Buyer Broker.

    We Elders will survive in spite of ourselves.

  4. Carol Feuerstein says:

    I’m new in the industry, but not very tech savvy. (probably because I have trouble learning all of it) It’s hard when you are used to paper. I’m trying though. My daughter is my partner & she is very good with technology. I’m very interested in taking a contract class that teaches the technology, like zip forms, e-sign and anything else that we need to learn to do our job. Does anyone know who we can go to for this? I would love some help.

  5. Jim Nuth, PLC says:

    Great article Dale… The trip down memory lane (even though a relatively short trip) certainly shows how rapidly technology has changed the world, and most definitely the Real Estate industry. I think most of us would agree, technology for the most part has made massive improvements in how we can service our clients more efficiently. Although I do believe the typical face to face Realtor interaction has dramatically changed, but just like all the other areas of our industry, you adapt, attend more IRL (In Real Life) renewal classes, Social Network, and Learn to do the ReBar Camp type gatherings. As with everything else… Adopt the changes or get left behind.

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