Real Estate through the years

February 11th, 2011

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William HendricksonIt is well known that over the last several decades that real estate practices have undergone a dramatic transformation.  Consider that in the 80’s,  realtors kept huge ledgers that listed what we now find almost instantly in places like PropertyShark. Positively Dickensian.

To add a little more detail to that picture, I arranged to speak with William Hendrickson a broker at Prudential Douglas Elliman, about his career.

Bill came to real estate in 1990 with an MBA from Stanford and 17 years at Manufacturers Hanover Leasing Corporation, exchanging  “black wing tips for sneakers”.  His first job was with Michael Dowling doing rentals.  The office was a “gritty walk-down” basement, something we don’t see much of anymore.

CH: What was it like doing rentals then?

WH: I remember learning that if another agency rented my “open” rental listing (garnered from canvasing the NYTimes classified ads), I made no money!

CH: Were there exclusive rental listings at that time?

WH: No, every listing was an “open”. Landlords brought it around to a bunch of different realtors. I mostly do sales now, but I understand that it is still happening.

CH: How was it in the 80’s?

WH: Don’t know about the 80’s.  But when I started in 1990, the big difference from today is that all agencies in brownstone Brooklyn were small family/individual owned operations.  They operated competitively with one another and there was little or no cooperation between agencies.  Sale listings, for example, were never shared with any other brokerages.

CH:  Any changes as the decade went along?

WH: There were a lot of changes, but they started toward the end of the decade.  Paper listing records gave way to desktop computers.  Harbor View put a Mac on every desk. And Corcoran bought Brooklyn Landmark marking the beginning of the big brokerage presence in Brooklyn and grudgingly the beginning of the co-broking of listings.

CH: Did the growth of the internet have any other effects on your business?

WH: The internet made the job easier and enabled more efficient messaging to buyers.  They still had to go from brokerage to brokerage to see different exclusives but information on what was for sale became much more transparent.  It also brought about the end of classified advertising as the and other on-line listing services became the way consumers accessed real estate listings.

CH: What was a typical transaction like 20 years ago compared to today?

WH: I remember in 1992 having an average rental of about $700/month for a typical brownstone floor-thru.  A really big one would go from $1,250.  Commissions however in terms of %’s have stayed about the same.  I think they still come in around 12% of the annual rent.  On sales side, the early 90’s were very slow.  We were still recovering from the crash in late 1988. You almost couldn’t give away small studios and 1 bedroom coops.  Larger units would sell but there really wasn’t much trading going on.  The small agencies were being kept alive by rental income.

CH: What do you like about what has changed?

WH: I think the large corporations have brought about an improved professionalism to the field as business practices have become more standardized particularly around the co-broking of listings and the sharing of commission income.

Categories: Brooklyn Real Estate, Downtown Brownstone Brooklyn

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