In the more than three decades years she has worked as a real estate broker in Boston, Ivy A. Turner has seen the industry transform into what she describes as “very much a service-oriented business” where her clients expect the same level of efficiency and instant results they can find online.
“I’ve always had to deal with clients’ demands, but now they expect more and expect it faster,” said Turner, who established her Charles Street real estate office The Ivy Team/KW (formerly Ivy Associates, Inc.) in 1995 after spending seven years working for other Boston firms. “Because the Internet is fast, people expect everything quickly. They now want a customized experience with a high level of service that meets their schedules.”
Turner noticed the emergence of this trend about four or five years ago, around the same time she first observed that more of the home-buying process was being conducted online or remotely.
“All of the paperwork is done online, their home previewing and research process is done online, even the closing is done partially electronically so that their lawyer doesn’t even have to go to the Registry of Deeds,” Turner said. “Weather doesn’t affect the process the way it used to because there are few things that need to be done in person. In fact, it’s easy for a client to go on a trip after they view the property and complete the whole process remotely.”
And unlike in years past when a real estate broker commonly showed clients an array of properties, likely making multiple visits to their top choices, Turner said, “Today, with photos, videos, floor plans and Google, they typically just visit their top-choice properties once or twice.”
Turner said the Internet has also inundated her clients with so many different options that they’ve come to expect the same range of choices from their real estate brokers.
“[My clients] are used to making a lot of selections like, ‘what color do you want an item in?’ and ‘how quickly do you want it shipped?’” Turner said, “and this carries over to everything they do.”
As her clients have grown more comfortable with conducting the process remotely, Turner said they’re increasingly buying “move-in-ready homes,” which are already renovated, painted and cleaned. “There are fewer contractor visits and decisions to make,” she added.
Still, certain tasks still need to done on site, which fall on the broker and their team, such as meeting inspectors at the property, letting contractors and movers in for estimates, letting the appraiser in and providing access to the Fire Department to inspect the smoke detectors Or an out-of-town client might ask their broker to visit a property to verify that it matches the photos, as well as their personal expectations.
Another recent trend Turner said she has observed is that clients today are “fiercely protective of their weekends and vacation time.”
Said Turner: “Typically people used to do research by spending their weekends driving around, exploring neighborhoods, figuring out what is nearby. Then, they would drive their commute to check the time and often would repeat this process during the week to see what the traffic would be like then. Now that same research can be done on Waze, Google Maps or any navigation app that tells travel times and traffic conditions.”
Turner said she and other real estate brokers have had to adapt to this by scheduling open houses on Monday evenings or other appointments on Thursday evenings or early Friday morning to work around the would-be buyers’ vacation plans. Clients will also provide what Turner describes as a “slew of dates” for her to schedule a visit to the property for a family member or a designer.
“For every appointment the client doesn’t come to, we are there,” Turner said.
But as real estate brokers must now worker harder than ever to accommodate the schedules of their clients, Turner said what is commonly known as the spring real estate market now begins around Jan. 2 of each year.
“People think of spring market as being when the flowers come out, but it generally starts in January…and keeps chugging through the end of August,” she said.
And while winter weather alone was often enough of a deterrent to discourage clients from the home-buying process in years past, Turner said they also often had made arrangements to take winter trips and felt it was “unrealistic” to shop for a new home at a time when they had already planned a vacation.
“Back then, [clients] really had to be present and show up in person,” Turner said, “but it’s just not like that anymore.”
To reach The Ivy Team/KW, visit www.ivyboston.com, call 617-723-6000 or email [email protected].