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Burt Polson

J.L. Sousa/Register Burt Polson writes the Real Estate in the Napa Valley column for the Napa Valley Register.

Selling and buying real estate has changed more in the last five years than in the last 25. Long gone is the one-page carbon purchase agreement my grandfather used or the MLS listing book brokers kept close in hand.

The way real estate is marketed, bought and sold has changed significantly. The availability of information on the Internet has brought about the informed client, which is great, but it seems real estate has always been the last to adopt new technology.

Now technology is assisting brokers in many ways, from creating efficient transactions to the way we handle communicating with clients. Long gone is the fax machine, which has been replaced by digital signatures like DocSign or an entire transactional management system like DotLoop.

Here is a look back at improvements to the way we used to do things:

Business cards

We still use them and there is a place for them, but I have a feeling they will continue to evolve.


A broker or company website is a mainstay and a required tool that works for us 24/7 in marketing ourselves and our client’s property, but again look for this to evolve into much more.


Gone are the days of developing film hoping for a good shot. Having a high-quality digital camera in your pocket at all times as a part of your smartphone gives the broker that convenient shot. But, the new DSLR cameras provide amazing photos and videos with more abilities never seen before.

Aerial photos

Used extensively in commercial real estate and often with large estate property aerial photos give us a great perspective. I remember spending hundreds of dollars on aerial photographs taken by a professional from an airplane. Now, a basic image can be found on Google Earth for free.


As I mentioned, long gone is the paper contract and carbon forms. I must say I am glad to have a paperless office. Remember the fax machine? Digital signatures are now becoming more mainstream allowing for completely paperless transactions for the most part.

Marketing flyers

There still is a place for a beautiful glossy presentation you can hold in your hands. But, once you experience a high-definition presentation on a big screen that can also be emailed to your client or downloaded from a website, paper presentations seem boring.


These are an important part of a broker’s repertoire in letting potential clients know they exist and they have a property for sale, but the ability to upload a database to a service for distribution has made it much easier. Plus, graphics and the ability to create slick pieces are within every broker’s grasp.

Client management

Whatever someone used in the past— from manila files or a Rolodex to a spiral journal — the client relationship management system (CRM) is bringing the ability to stay in touch with clients to new levels. Taking it further, the CRM system can interface with a broker’s website creating an amazing communications tool.

New technology is also on the scene, such as:

Social media

Where were we before social media? In my opinion, this technology is still evolving and finding its place in our society, but the ability it gives us in communicating is overwhelming.

Virtual reality and virtual staging

The ability to “walk” virtually through a house is not new, but the technology to fully immerse yourself, interact with your surroundings and “see” a home with furniture is coming soon.


They are becoming mainstream with many embracing what this new technology has to offer. Video from drones gives us images we had never been able to obtain before.

Video production

With the power of a good computer and a really good camera the ability to create a story through video has become more mainstream.


The exchange of information and who possesses it will be the deciding factor of who the major players will be in the future of real estate. Brokers will always have a key role in the creation of the information. New websites are coming online every day giving us the ability to disseminate our information with ease.

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Burt M. Polson, CCIM, is a local real estate broker specializing in commercial, luxury estates and wineries. Reach him at 707-254-8000, or Sign up for his email newsletter at