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From ‘Curbstoners’ to Cornerstones of American Life: A History of Real Estate Agents

by | May 17, 2023 | Member Spotlights | 0 comments

While not technically “the world’s oldest profession” (that designation belongs to another line of work already), brokering Real Estate transactions is an activity that goes back centuries. The first recorded transaction in the West happened in feudal Europe in 1248–nearly the midpoint between the fall of Rome and today.

Travis Otto of Cornerstone Real Estate shared this and other riveting facts about the history of his profession in a wonderful change-up of content for today’s 10 minute presentation to the group.

Similarly, the first American transaction happened in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619 and the birth of real estate agency took place only two decades later in Boston in 1639.

Starting a wealthy man’s game, the real democratization of real estate investment for middle-class Americans happened during the Civil War and was largely tied to the nation’s westward expansion. Being a “Wild West” in both the literal and most figurative senses, the industry was rife with corruption and malpractice in its inaugural booming decades.

This eventually instigated the founding of the National Association of Realtors in Chicago in 1908, whose significant contribution of standardized licenses and ethics Travis stated he couldn’t emphasize enough.

Even with a self-governing body, real estate didn’t emerge by 1910 in its current form: Agents, who were known as “Curbstoners” at the time, would pile brokerage signs in front of homes without owner permission making it a free-for-all of who to call for any interested party. It wasn’t until later that homes went under contract with seller & agent agreement. Similarly, the first recorded Open House happened in 1910 and staging homes didn’t become a known practice until 1925.

With this initial foundation, it was World War II that created the REAL boom for Real Estate, accompanied by the popularization of the term “Realtor.” Around this time, new suburban developments like Levittown, NY completely changed the American landscape and solidified the profession as a staple of American life for families in search of housing to accommodate their various needs.

Nowadays, the Real Estate profession employs over 5 million people and generates a staggering $2 trillion in economic activity annually.

It’s great working with professionals who are passionate and knowledgeable in their field. Connect with Travis so he can help find the right home for you.

Visit us next week to connect with local professionals and hear more great presentations like Travis’ and become a member to eventually deliver one of your own!

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