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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

NYT Profile of "Curbed" Founder

Meet the "Realtor - Social Worker" *

The Sunday New York Times has a lengthy profile of Lockhart Steele (yes, that's his real name), the founder of real estate blog "Curbed."

If you didn't know -- and I was only vaguely aware -- Curbed (and other blogs like it) apparently are now integral to how New Yorkers (at least the ones not in the Bronx) buy and sell real estate. Oh, and the properties they're buying are exclusively over $500k -- frequently, a lot over.

Here's what Steele says blogs -- and technology in general -- are doing to the real estate business:

The broker’s job is no longer to tell people what a house is worth, or what nearby properties have sold for — everybody knows that now. Instead, a broker is more useful calming down a buyer agitated by a proliferation of Web gossip. The broker is less salesman, more therapist, or oracle. And by professional obligation, a daily reader of real estate blogs.

--Mark Oppenheimer, "The Optimist's Blogger"; The New York Times (3/15/2010)

So, is Steele right?


He's definitely right that prospective Buyers engage with Realtors much "later" in the process.

It's not uncommon now for my clients, at a first meeting (!), to hand me a lengthy list of properties they want to check out (or have already seen!).

Thanks to the Internet, there is exponentially more information available about real estate.

However, in my experience, that doesn't necessarily make Buyers and Sellers more knowledgeable about how the process works.

As far as the "emotional" side of the business, there's no denying that technology makes an already close relationship even closer.

You don't invite your lawyer or dentist into your home, and share intimate details about your family, finances, and lifestyle; trusted Realtors are privy to all that (and more).

Where I think the article misfires, though, is extrapolating from Manhattan to other markets generally -- markets that don't have Manhattan's demographics, density, or money.

At least in the Midwest, not everybody is a Gen-Y'er who lives and breathes Twitter, Facebook, and blogs (at least not yet). Nor are they in the market for $1 million-plus Soho (or NoHo or NoLita or TriBeCa) lofts.

So, maybe the world Steele describes is coming . . . but it's not here yet.

*When Josh Kaplan, a former social worker and now long-time City Lakes office manager, is asked why he got out of social work, his standard reply is, "what make you think I got out of social work??"

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