After the harvest, a time to give thanks

A turkey with stuffing.
Cranberry sauce.
A vegetable casserole.
Old friends.

As social structures dissolve, as family members spread further and further away from each other, as our lives get more chaotic, we hunger for the simple traditions that act as an anchor point for our lives.

This past weekend, we all took time to savor a tradition that dates back to 1621 when Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast. This harvest meal has become a symbol of cooperation and interaction between two distinct cultures and people.

Well after dinner, stealing a few moments away from family and friends, I composed a simple text message and sent to close friends in business. It read, “You know, we really have a lot to be thankful for.”

Collectively, as an industry, we hardly celebrate the cooperation and interaction of the many distinct cultures and people within our rank and file. If we did, I believe we would find we have so much to be thankful for. Perhaps during this time of harvest and low yield, we could reflect on the past feasts and all the participants that made those harvests plentiful. Maybe in doing so, we can find and perhaps create a more positive outlook on the future. 

Let us give thanks for “

The past. One hundred years ago there were only 8,000 cars and 144 miles of paved roads.  Alabama was more populated than California. Fourteen percent of homes in the U.S had a bathtub. Seventy-five percent of urban Americans lived in rented apartments. Real estate was a lawless practice. There was no testing for agents, no MLS, no ethics training, nothing but anarchy. It has come a long way since then, and despite the assumption of many that real estate and Realtors don’t like change, leafing through its history one marvels at the amount of change and reform within the industry.   

The Internet. In the time it took to dial an agent on a rotary phone 20 years ago, today we can access listing and neighborhood information about any neighborhood and any home for sale in America. In the time it took for that agent to call back, we can now browse through dozens of sites, view videos of homes, save listings and target them on area maps. The Web has not replaced anything other than wasted time and has added a dimension to real estate that might be the single biggest contributor to the boom in housing that recently ended.

Low interest rates. Before taking credit for any sales, we must first give thanks for the  incredible loan interest rates that feed the dream of home ownership. While there has been a measure of irresponsibility in this regard, many Americans have realized the dream of home ownership many times over because money was, and remains, incredibly cheap.

Technology vendors. Despite all the bickering, slander and overzealous indictments of vendors, can anyone imagine where real estate would be without the thousands of vendors that keep the industry moving forward? From the earliest of IDX vendors to today’s blog providers, Web site hosts, language translators, social networks and electronic marketing tools, if it weren’t for the men and women who’ve taken their inspiration to the mat and put hundreds of millions of dollars on the table to advance this industry, odds are you probably wouldn’t be reading this article now.

The media. Say what you want about the media but, historically, publishers have been friends of real estate. TV, radio and newspapers have dedicated more airtime and ink to agent advertorial, home listing advertising and positive coverage than the industry would care to remember. Even “negative” coverage, now in hindsight seems more like a friendly warning rather than an evil blow. Today, the media is targeted as the scapegoat for real estate’s woes and undeservedly so. It’s sad to see this age-long ally to this industry cast aside, especially in light of some of the great things I see going on with media.

Inman News. Without the Real Estate Connect conference, without the exploration of new ideas and challenging of old ones that takes place on, our industry would be far poorer. Carp all you want about phantom biases and imaginary agendas. It’s the truth.

Zillow. Rich Barton and company are beacons for this industry. They showed real estate how to shake it up and reinvent itself for modern times. Some 3 million eyeballs come to Zillow each month and a vast amount of them proceed onward and out to other real estate destinations. View this company as a competitor or as anything you like, but appreciate it for opening our eyes to the possibilities and learn from what its founders have done.

Customers. Without them, there is nothing. From touchy buyers and unrealistic sellers to the tens of millions of random voyeurs who visit Web sites each month, they are the ones to whom we should offer the most thanks. Six percent of tens of trillions of dollars over the past decade has provided so many people with a way of life few people experience.

Each other. Few industries contain as diverse a collection of people as those who drink from this well we call real estate. Men, women, young, old, formally educated and street smart — the multitude of experiences and array of talents is awe inspiring. I marvel at the things we can all learn from each other.   

Apple Pie

My wife bakes the best apple pie I’ve ever eaten. By Sunday night, it, along with all the turkey, had been devoured. Our Thanksgiving celebration ended. The fridge was bare.

Symbolically, we have harvested the fields of real estate and eaten from the yield of the past 10 years. And like the farmers of the past, we need to now get back to work and sow the seeds of our future, collectively and interactively. We’ll need to dig a bit deeper, think a bit wider and work a bit harder. We have tools and technologies like never before. We have an industry filled with amazing people and ideas. The possibilities and partnerships are endless.