Of Fishes and Bicycles

A Buyer without a Realtor is like a Fish without a Bicycle.
–   Anonymous

I confess.  There are times  when I feel like the proverbial  5th Wheel on the Virtual Tour Bus.   Along for the ride.   Baggage in a BMW.   An extra appendage no longer utilized as originally intended.

Existential questions abound. Am I a glorified chauffer?  A lowly crash-test dummy in an expanded GPS system? One that’s just supposed to sit behind the wheel. Keep his eyes on the road. His mouth shut? Perhaps still absorb the impact when something goes wrong?

Are we nearing the ignominious end of the evolutionary line for my particular species of Realtor?  Isn’t the character John Cusak plays in 2012 – a chauffer?  Careening around large potholes opening up in the planet while the world as we know it comes to the end of the Mayan Calendar?

I used to like driving people around to look at real estate.  Introducing them to neighborhoods.  Learning life stories. Listening to hopes and dreams.  Sharing my decades of actually living in Santa Cruz.  Experiencing its culture, history, geography and yes, its beautiful weirdness.

But these days, a growing number of clients…er…passengers…er… end-users,  seem more tuned into their I Phones than they are to anything I have to show them.   A new breed of buyers already loaded for bear before they get into the car.  As in – loaded with  Redfin or Zillow Apps. Or any one of a host of other Real Estate App-spawn available for instant download.

And that’s it!  Buyers don’t look at houses anymore as much as download them. A window of opportunity these days isn’t a dual pane, wood framed, divided light, high quality Pella,  it’s a place in the ether with a signal strong enough for buyers to plug into the Borg Collective…and receive all the data that’s fit to digitize.

As a Realtor, there’s nothing quite as disconcerting,  as driving through one of those eclectic little eco-systems of Santa Cruz, yammering away about the micro-lifestyles prices,  traffic,  only to suddenly realize that my yammers have fallen on deaf ears and into a yawning chasm that’s opened between me and the living breathing human being two feet away.

I’m tooling around the streets pointing out various amenities. And they are tooling around the tools on their phones.  And of course, I feel like a tool – in a bad way, not a good way.

When I mention a nearby restaurant,  they already know it’s exactly  .2 miles away. They tell me what tonight’s specials are.  What the recent Health Inspection rating was.

Schools?  They’ve got all the latest test scores on tap.  Exactly where the middle school rates statewide.

Neighborhood safety? They’ve already logged onto the police statistics.  They know how many crimes were committed in the last 30 days. A map shows them where every registered offender lives within a six block radius.

Will there come a day, when I’m actually sitting in the driveway of a home for sale with a client who is content to simply take the virtual tour on his phone without getting out of the car?

Ever go to football games and notice people on the 50 yard line watching the life-size contest in front of them on their tiny screens. Head phones plugged into the play-by-play unfolding in real time.

As though real life weren’t actually out there.  But rewired into a digital format.  An altered estate of mind becoming more real than real estate itself.

Honey have we shrunk the kids? And our houses too?  And our entire lives? Encoded them into a set of remote viewing signals?

Gotta stop here. I/O, I/O off to work I go. On my way to show some property.  Once more into the breach dear friends…

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