Deborah and Roy Coburn have been selling real estate more than 20 years. While technology has changed the way Realtors operate

HOMEFINDER: There’s no substitute for personal contact

Times change for real estate agents, but not so much

In any industry, it’s natural for people who’ve been around for a long time to feel they have the edge on someone new to the business.

In real estate sales, the same scenario applies. But is it as simple as saying experience is everything? Perhaps not.

Technology has definitely changed the way Realtors do business, especially from the standpoint of forwarding information about new listings to potential buyers, or moving the appropriate paperwork back and forth between agents and legal professionals.

But some things haven’t changed, say Deborah and Roy Coburn, a husband and wife team who have been in the business for 26 and 24 years, respectively.

“We’re a person-to-person service,” Deborah says. “That’s always the way we’ve operated.”

While she admits most buyers today get their first glimpse of a home online, she says, it still comes down to working with clients in person to really get a handle on their real estate needs.

She cites three separate out-of-town client couples who found “the perfect home” online in Greater Victoria, only to arrive and discover in a showing that the property wasn’t at all what they had in mind or envisioned.

“In some ways, technology can only go so far,” she says.

While many listing agents send information on homes to buyer’s agents via email, Roy finds it helpful to pick up the phone and call his counterparts to chat about “the nuances of a home” that one might not pick up in a photo.

At the other end of the scale, Taylor McMullen, 24, is in his fifth month as an agent. He’s enjoyed some success already, partially due to building a new Internet marketing program for himself and his father, longtime Victoria-area Realtor Michael McMullen.

Taylor, who also speaks Mandarin, has tapped into the Asian immigrant market, largely through his online work.

In that respect, he views technology as something not to be feared, but to be embraced, a characteristic he says he shares with other younger professionals.

“I think the difference between (younger and older Realtors) is we grew up in a period of change. Everything is changing so quickly and we’re easily able to adapt to change,” he says. “There’s still lots of risk-takers out there, but I’d say the average young person is more likely to take risks and change.”

While taking full advantage of technology to secure and work with clients can work well, McMullen admits it’s just one tool at his disposal.

But he admits much of his business has come from referrals, door knocking and cold calling: good old-fashioned personal contact.

“Real estate’s all about relationships. The majority of your business will come from referrals no matter how much marketing you do,” he says.

The Coburns couldn’t agree more. Deborah chuckles at a fringe strategy making the rounds lately, that of giving home evaluations without setting foot on a person’s property.

Whether representing clients looking to buy or sell, agents’ responsibility is huge, she says, given the need to know everything about a house.

“When it comes down to it, it still requires a relationship with us.”

One thing agents of any age may find today more so than in past years, McMullen says, is that younger buyers tend to be less patient and more focused on saving money than being loyal.

“I find younger people are always chasing the better deal or the quick response (from a Realtor). You’ve got to be so quick with everything.”

ddescoteau@vicnews.com

Q: WHAT SHOULD I CONSIDER BEFORE PURSUING A CAREER IN REAL ESTATE?

Are you a self-starter? – If you’re good at time management and don’t mind doing a lot of legwork before getting paid, you may be right for the profession.

Do you have enough savings to cover your learning curve? – It’s recommended that new agents have two years’ income put away when they start in the business.

Do you like to learn? – The education process for Realtors is ongoing and mandatory. Courses on a variety of topics are regularly offered by the Victoria Real Estate Board.

Get firsthand information – Talk to practising agents and a managing broker about the rewards and challenges of the industry

GREATER VICTORIA MARKET UPDATE » AS OF JUNE 17/14 COURTESY VICTORIA REAL ESTATE BOARD

» 381 / 664 — NET UNCONDITIONAL SALES / TOTAL, JUNE  2013

» 741 / 1,240 — NEW LISTINGS / TOTAL, JUNE 2013

» 4,674 / 4,833 — ACTIVE RESIDENTIAL LISTINGS / TOTAL, JUNE 2013

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