For the third year in a row, I attended a bar camp for real estate professionals held in Omaha, Nebraska. (REBarCampOmaha) It is a six-hour drive from my home in St. Paul, Minnesota, but that includes a stop in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to pick up a friend who also enjoys the event.

  • In technology years, 2014 was a long time ago.
  • Video was still the next big thing in real estate just as it was in 2014 and has been since 2002.
  • Supervision and proximity do not seem to be as closely related to each other in the information age.

For the third year in a row, I attended a bar camp for real estate professionals held in Omaha, Nebraska (REBarCampOmaha). It is a six-hour drive from my home in St. Paul, Minnesota, but that includes a stop in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to pick up a friend who also enjoys the event.

Sure, I could fly. There are airports on both ends, but that would take a lot of the fun out of it for me because the journey is an important part of the experience. I travel through cities and farmland and watch the early spring green wave intensify as I drive South. I see the flowers blooming once I hit the southernmost part of Minnesota.

Even though I am exhausted when I leave home, I feel better when I return. I feel as though I have spent time with my tribe, and the open spaces I drive through remind me of the vastness of the earth and to not take myself too seriously.

Some things have changed since the first Omaha real estate bar camp in 2014 and other things have not. In technology years, 2014 was a long time ago.

Now and then

Our phones have much better battery life than they did in 2014. That year, we could meet people and make friends by hanging out near the electrical outlets and by providing power strips and other devices that can charge several phones at a time.

This year I did not see anyone sharing a power strip. In fact, I had a whole electrical outlet to myself when I decided to top off my battery.

Some of the attendees at the 2014 event were wearing Google Glass because it was the next big thing. I did not hear a word about Google Glass at this year’s event, and no one was wearing them.

I saw a lot of people wearing Apple Watches. They were not available in 2014 and did not hit store shelves until after the 2015 bar camp. Maybe I’ll see them again next year — or maybe not. I have no doubt that wearable technology is a thing — it just isn’t clear at this point where it will be worn.

This year we talked a lot about the “internet of things,” which I have kept up with as much as anyone can. But I felt kind of silly when I did not realize that IOT means internet of things. IOT is a game-changer for homes and offices and the way we live. My lack of familiarity with the acronym is inexcusable.

The use of social media by agents is now so mainstream that it was not mentioned nearly as much as it was at conferences in prior years. It seems to be a part of our lives, and it isn’t going away — it’s evolving and maturing.

There were many things that have not changed in the past few years. Video was still the next big thing in real estate just as it was in 2014 and has been since 2002.

There were top-producing agents who still make a lot of money by making phone calls and by mailing postcards just like real estate agents have been doing since the phone and postcard were invented.

As always there was a lot of discussion about lead capture and those portal type websites with the funny names.

The brokers I talked to almost universally believe that there isn’t any way to improve the tried-and-true business model of having a central office and giving agents at least some of what they need to do their jobs and a desk to sit at.

Some have changed the way their offices look, but changing the way an office looks is not a new business model. Real estate offices are designed to hold office equipment and solve communication problems we don’t have anymore, but getting rid of them creates a new set of problems.

I highly suspect that when it comes to agent supervision that a broker doesn’t have any more knowledge of what an agent is doing if that agent sits in a cubicle a couple of feet away or works in a home office across town.

Supervision and proximity do not seem to be as closely related to each other in the information age as they were in the industrial age.

Some things are constant

Agents are still made to feel inadequate or like losers if they are not rich, and the only reason for being a real estate agent is to get rich, that never changes. No one wants to acknowledge that the vast majority of us are not wealthy, and not everyone defines success the same way even though there is still only one definition of success in our industry.

Most real estate is sold by agents who sell only a few houses each year, and I don’t think even video can change that. We always seem to believe that most of the agents we talk to are doing very well, yet the numbers for our industry tell a different story.

Real estate agents seem to be looking for some magical way of capturing leads and of making money still. Most seem reluctant to try anything that is different from what other agents are doing and that will truly distinguish them from others in an overcrowded market place.

Some of the new products we talked about this year will have been completely forgotten by next year, and newer products will take center stage. I have witnessed many products launches during my career in real estate.

I’ll bet that in 2017 and 2018 video will be the next big thing in real estate, along with some new products that I have not heard of yet. And I very much look forward to driving across the prairie to discuss it with my tribe in America’s heartland.

Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and broker/owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul. She is also the founder of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com.

Email Teresa Boardman.

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