In the ’80s, the MLS Existed as a Picture Book: How Technology Has Changed Everything

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When I first started out in real estate, I was a real estate agent, and believe me, from a technology standpoint, the world was a much different place. For example, in 1987, there was no computerized multiple listing system (MLS). Couples would actually come into my office to get pre-qualified for a loan, and then they would look in a picture book, several inches thick, that got dropped off at the office every two weeks.

Then, we had to call various brokers’ offices to see if the properties were still available. We did a lot of direct mail marketing and cold calling (both by mail and by door knocking), too. It was brutal. You might actually irritate 100 people just to get a yes. What a ridiculous way to build a brand, right?

Eventually, things really started to change, especially when the MLS came out. The beeper and bag phone (super expensive) soon followed, and then the real game changer was the fax machine, which eliminated the need to drive around until midnight trying to get papers signed.

Today, the life of a real estate agent is much different due to all the changes in technology, but the same goes for a real estate investor.

So, let’s take a look at some of the powerful tools that are now at our disposal, as well as how they impact different aspects of real estate investing.


Finding Deals

When it comes to finding deals, more and more can be accessed online and not only through the MLS. There are all types of platforms for everything from HUD houses and REOs to tax liens and notes.

Social media has also become a prominent tool for building relationships to do more deals, with everything from BiggerPockets to Facebook and LinkedIn groups. You can even sell houses on eBay or Craigslist, and sites like Zillow and have become essential tools, too.


Another area that has changed dramatically is marketing.

Today, all kinds of things can be done online to market for raising capital, finding vendors and contractors, and selling our real estate or related services. One of the biggest marketing processes that has evolved is content marketing, or in other words, providing relevant content to attract a well-defined audience, and this can include blog writing, webinars, podcasts, etc. Plus, most of these things can be created from one’s smartphone!

Another big one is email marketing using software like MailChimp, Constant Contact, or Infusionsoft to follow up with or distribute content to your customers and clients.

There are also all types of contact management systems, as well as property management software.

Software and Hardware

With current and emerging software programs, our capabilities are exponential, and hardware is constantly improving as well.

For example, being able to store documents electronically, to have things accessible on a cloud using programs like QuickBooks, and to back up data for disaster recovery are all pretty amazing capabilities compared to what we could do just 30 years ago.

I love time-saving tools like DocuSign, secure upload platforms for confidential documents, and even Google Maps and Waze. How did we live without them?


Due Diligence

The ease of performing due diligence has dramatically increased as well. I can’t fathom owning hundreds of properties and loans nationwide today without the technology. There’s almost too many online resources to mention that help us with due diligence, including broker price opinions (BPOs), credit reports, skip tracing, REO liquidation software, online title reports, and online access to courthouse records.


And let’s not forget the people. The virtual assistant has changed the way we work, as well as when we work and where we have to work from. Today, we can get affordable help 24/7 worldwide. Not only can you utilize virtual assistants, but there are also virtual receptionists available. Today, it seems like anyone can be a consultant or freelancer and work when and from wherever they want to.

As you can see, the opportunities are almost endless. It’s so exciting. It’s definitely easier to start a business today, although it could be a little tougher to get noticed with all the noise out there.

So, when starting or operating your own real estate business, how are you using technology to improve and differentiate yourself?

Let me know with a comment!

About Author

Dave Van Horn

Since 2007, Dave Van Horn has served as president and CEO of PPR The Note Co., a holding company that manages several funds that buy, sell, and hold residential mortgages nationwide. Dave’s expertise is derived from over 30 years of residential and commercial real estate experience as a licensed Realtor, a real estate investor, and a fundraiser. As the latter, Dave has raised over $100 million in both notes and commercial real estate. In addition to his investments and role as CEO, Dave’s biggest passion is to teach others how to share, build, and preserve wealth. He authored Real Estate Note Investing, an introduction to the note investing business, helping investors enter the “other side” of the real estate business.


  1. It seems technology has made the work alot easier. Perhaps, this opened the door to more agents and sales volume increased.

    What was that the commission in those days? Was it still the 6%?

    • Back in the days when agents did real work comparatively speaking.

      Good point about the commission:) In my market, the median house lists for about $1,000,000. About 100 miles from here, the median house is about $400,000. A little further the median house is about $150,000. All the houses require about the same amount of work from agents. The commission system is broken.

      I really dislike Docusign. Did you know that after a Docusign document has been signed by one party, but before it has been signed by the other other party, the agent can go in and change the document, and the first party does not have to sign again. I know I wouldn’t want someone changing a document I already signed. Do you know the agent can confirm receipt of the purchase agreement after both parties sign? Receipt confirmation starts the escrow clock, and the buyer can lose precious time by actually receiving confirmation hours or even the day after the agent confirmed. I once ended up receiving a Notice to Buyer to Perform (wiring the deposit) because I did not even timely know the seller had accepted the offer and my agent had confirmed receipt.

  2. Jerry W.

    As usual very good article. I have been forcing myself to stop and use new methods of doing my business. I now list my properties for rent online before trying the local newspaper. While some locals only use the newspaper, I get nearly all of my out of town hits from sites like Craigslist or Zillow.

    • It is kind of a vicious circle. Since so few landlords list in the newspaper anymore, most prospective tenants do not even bother looking in the newspaper. Craigslist has become a mess. If you do not relist your rental everyday, your listing will be quickly buried and no one will see it.

    • Dave Van Horn

      Thanks Jerry!

      And to Katie’s point, it’s not without it’s drawbacks. I think one has to evaluate their strategies, track the data, and then stay consistent with whatever strategy works best for them. It’s like when I used to be an active Realtor, ure I had business come from my sign on the front lawn, but I also had worth of mouth, newspaper ads, etc. But it wasn’t until I learned how to bring clients to me by becoming an investor-realtor, where I was part of a network where we would buy our properties from each other.


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