The Way-Back Machine

Unknown-1It’s always interesting to turn the dial on the way-back machine, take a trip down memory lane and muse fondly about the good old days in real estate. Whether they’re in the real estate business or not, almost everyone has a favorite story that they like to tell. One that illustrates how different things were “back then” or how, “if they only knew then, what they know now” they’d be luxuriating in their own dream home on an upcoming episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

Even though there are thousands of different stories floating around out there in the ether, most rely on the same few snippets of history that have been elevated to the status of urban myth through their frequent use. Things like: “I bought my first house in 1972 for $22,500!” or “ Interest rates were 18% back in 1981!” or “The whole offer was written on one page!” or “We were only paying $150 a month for rent!”.

Yep, real estate was different back in the day. None of those things would come close to computing in today’s real estate market. Not in Santa Cruz where the median price is currently $750,000 and interest rates are hovering around 3.75% and no one escapes an offer presentation with less than 40 pages of fine print and you’d be lucky to find a bedroom to rent on the West Side for under a thousand a month.

We like to believe our stories from the 70s and 80s are representative of a kinder and gentler era in real estate. When things were wistfully uncomplicated and deals were sealed with honest handshakes. When offers were written on napkins over three martini lunches at the Bayview Hotel and there wasn’t an avalanche of mind-numbing paperwork to worry about. When everyone had lots more face time with real, real estate people, rather than with their sales-avatars masquerading on social media.

There were no electronic signatures back then. No virtual tours. No search engines. No mobile apps. No $100,000 overbids. Just snail mail and couriers. Landlines and an occasional overnight package. Realtors controlled the MLS information and the new listing books only came out every two weeks.

I’m not convinced that real estate was really any kinder or gentler back then. There were ups and downs in the market just like there are now. There was greed and fear. Buyers remorse was a frequent visitor. There were ethical and unethical players. Some people made great investments. Others made bad decisions.

But here’s what I do know for sure: While real estate may not have been any kinder or gentler, it was without question, a whole lot slower. Like so many other things in our lives, the real estate process now moves at warp-speed. It’s the pace of it that has changed far more than the underlying emotional experience of buying and selling a home.

Next week we’ll talk more about the need for speed in real estate. What caused it. How to keep up. And maybe even how to get ahead of it.

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