Chicagoland real estate’s brave new world

by Jeff Lasky

Jeff Lasky is chief executive officer of the North Shore-Barrington Association of REALTORS® (NSBAR).

The world is reemerging from two years of navigating a seemingly endless obstacle course of operational and societal pivots and restrictions driven by the urgent pandemic threat. And like so many other industries, the real estate world is discovering that some of our “temporary” changes may be more permanent than we once imagined — and that’s not necessarily bad for us or for our clients.

Things that were rarely heard of in real estate — like “sight unseen” home purchases — have become almost commonplace. Open houses — once such a ubiquitous feature of residential marketing — are now conducted digitally over Zoom with video home tours, drones and high-res photos taking the place of traditional in-person walk-throughs. Document exchanges, signings and closings are done “over the air” with an array of paperless solutions, without the need for everyone to be in the same room (or same town) at the same time.

REALTOR® reliance on technology to support and conduct their businesses is at an all-time high and will only increase in the months and years ahead. There is simply no going back to the “good old days,” and trying to operate without tech in our businesses is like trying to function without electricity.

Decades ago, NSBAR pioneered the concept of personalized tech support services in the real estate association world. In these past several months, we’ve seen dramatic increases in the numbers of our members taking advantage of our bread-and-butter offerings. Our friendly team is here to help whether our members need personal assistance and attention with a malfunctioning mobile phone, or getting a laptop repaired, or any of the following from our robust menu of services: new computer setup; printer setup; virus removal; data backup/transfer; mobile email setup; recommendations and assistance with tech product sourcing; or complete SentriLock support. 

Once the stuff of science fiction like “Star Trek,” video communications have become absolutely critical to how we function efficiently and effectively in our personal and professional lives. With tech like Zoom, FaceTime and Google Duo, we can “beam in” practically anywhere on the planet and conduct a meeting or a class across vast distances. Time that used to be spent commuting from place to place can now be put to more productive pursuits — or we can literally be in two places at once!

Moving forward with intention, at NSBAR we’re strategically using hybrid meetings, online classes and multimedia digital broadcast communications to engage and connect with our membership at ever-higher rates. As Illinois’ third-largest Association of REALTORS®, we’ve found that going digital has empowered us to reach far more people with our events and offer an almost limitless classroom for our professional development opportunities. Adding a digital component to what we do as an association has become a need, not a want.

But by far, the most ambitious undertaking of these past six months has been the complete re-imagining and extensive renovation of the NSBAR Campus facility in Northbrook. NSBAR’s Board of Directors invested in a visionary space — without an increase in member dues or a special assessment — designed to accommodate the needs of the emerging real estate professional. Our welcoming new configuration invites our members to stay in a comfortable, business-conducive environment.

Member-dedicated space has been increased from 50% to 75%. Exciting, new spaces include a state-of-the-art TechBar and comfortable Business Center — with free Wi-Fi, charging stations and even complimentary Keurig coffee service to enjoy while members wait for a tech repair or meet with their clients in this showplace.

Our new Events Center will host in-person professional development classes again and after-hours networking events, along with other topical programming. We created the NSBAR Studio — an in-house multimedia production space and the new home to our popular podcasts and digital programming. Plus, what was once a broom closet has been utterly transformed into a gorgeous new conference center and boardroom, where our board of directors and committees can meet in style and comfort as they conduct their important business on behalf of NSBAR.

We just can’t wait to welcome our members, friends and colleagues back home with an official dedication and grand opening “open house” slated for early June. We look forward to seeing everyone again in person soon!

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