What selling Miami real estate was like back in the day — and what it’s like now

BY CHARLETTE SEIDEL Special to the Miami Herald

Realtor History 101: I have been selling Miami real estate and managing a Miami real estate office since 1971. As you might expect, our industry has changed dramatically over the past 45-plus years; almost as much as the city itself.

Without question, technology has been the key driver of all this change, putting more information and resources into the hands of buyers and sellers, and transforming the manner in which we do business.

What follows is a collection of random memories describing technology’s gradual impact from the start of my career, followed by recent observations explaining how things are now. I hope you enjoy the sharp contrast between the two, and can imagine how technology might further revolutionize our practice over the next 45 years.


Brochures were typed with carbon paper and then hand-delivered to the Miami Board of Realtors for approval.

A big part of our real estate lives, for many years, were the MLS (multiple listing service) books that weighed two to three pounds apiece, and were only published every two weeks. This was the only way to show current listings and “comps” to customers. They featured poor-quality home photos and limited write-ups on each property. If you covered all of Miami, you had to have two — one covering north of Flagler Street and one covering south. I often had 10 pounds of books rattling around my trunk.

We called our house photographs “drive-by shootings.” The photographer would literally drive by the house early in the morning (in order to catch the best lighting) and take the picture from his car, often with cars or pets in the driveway. (One of mine showed the seller in his pajamas, picking up his newspaper.)

We all had typewriters. I kept one in the trunk of my car with blank contracts, in case a buyer wanted to make an offer on the spot.

The office kept a file on every transaction for five years. Accordingly, offices were loaded with file cabinets and we had to rent expensive space from air-conditioned storage facilities.

Home sale contracts were two pages — front and back and fairly short. We had no disclosures.

All advertising was done through mailed-out fliers, The Miami Herald and The Real Estate Market magazine.

We made calls from our homes or the office. We picked up our calls right away or called right back.

The larger real estate offices had about 30 associates. We would sit in the office all day, unless we were out selling.

In the late 1970s, microfilm was introduced, which covered all the properties in Miami. It was actually called “microfiche,” and that became our way to do a market analysis. As each office only had one machine, there was always a line to use it.

The dot matrix printer was “born” in the early 1980s. They took forever to print documents, but at least we had current listings and sales. They were only in offices; there were no home computers.

People made appointments to use the office computers.

The first faxes became popular in the 1980s and used thermal paper, which smelled terrible. What we didn’t realize at the time was that the fax “ink” disappeared within two years. I was called on to testify in a lawsuit and took my file, which had been in the office closet for three years. When I opened it, all the print had disappeared from the documents. I was not very popular with the judge.

The first portable phones appeared in the mid-1980s. Mine cost $1,800, and my average monthly phone bill was around $700. (No one ever wanted to be put on hold.) I had a high-end client who kept borrowing my phone and talking to his office as we were house hunting. (Fortunately, he bought a home with me, so I could cover my outrageous phone charges.)

By the mid-1990s and ever since, our cellphones have become smaller. The “clam,” which flipped open, was the most popular. My personal choice was a red Nokia.

We had entire “research rooms” devoted to computers, printers and copiers.


Listings are now instantly “live” when entered into the MLS. Up to 26 photos and virtual tours can now be uploaded with each listing. Sellers and buyers on the “alert” system can now receive the same information and updates as agents, within 30 minutes.

Buyers from foreign countries regularly purchase homes (mostly condos) simply by viewing the photos and virtual tours online. In-person visits are not necessary.

Appointments for showing properties are done online and via the MLS through “request showing” buttons. Feedback is done electronically.

Contracts are emailed electronically to all parties and signed digitally — often to and from mobile devices.

Agents have home offices, and laptops/tablets which they take with them on listing presentations. They use them to show listings (through online photos and virtual tours) and to complete contracts.

Documents and files are now stored online in the “cloud.” File cabinets have disappeared from our offices, as have the costly invoices from storage facilities.

A great deal of communication is done by texting.

The larger offices have 400-plus associates. Our Miami Association of Realtors has more than 47,000 associates.

Top agents can generate more than $50 million in sales a year.

There are programs that do CMAs (comparative market analyses, or “comps”) for properties — in color, with calculations — within an hour.

I still have a fax number — but don’t know what it is. We rarely fax anymore.

Contracts are now 13 pages long, with pages of addenda and disclosures.

Marketing is done through the Internet, social media, and some print media.

Buyers search for homes online first, via websites (such as Realtor.com, Zillow, Trulia, etc.), before contacting their Realtor for physical showings.

Mobile views are up to 61 percent of the total views for properties, and that percentage is growing.

Charlette Seidel is a member of the Master Brokers Forum, an elite network of the top real estate professionals in Miami, and the branch manager for Coldwell Banker in Coral Gables. She can be reached at charlette.seidel@floridamoves.com or 305-667-4815.

The John Seidel Team specializes in Miami real estate as well as Florida Keys real estate. A Miami native, John Seidel has over a decade of professional experience assisting clients with finding single family homes, condominiums, vacant land, rental property, and more. Call 786-488-9756 to speak with a team member regarding any questions you may have about buying, selling, or investing in Miami properties such as Brickell real estate.

If you have any questions regarding the Miami real estate market or the buying/selling process, feel free to contact me at 786-488-9756, John@JohnSeidel.com or fill out the form below. I look forward to speaking with you.


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