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Ask McEnearney: Man vs. machine?

This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Ann Duff of McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Ann at 703-965-8700 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: Man vs. Machine?

Answer: For many a successful Realtor, this recruiting call will sound familiar… “Technology will boost your business and make you a star.” (While I agree it helps, personal relationships and real substance mean the most to me. Signed, Ann D.)

For instance, I absolutely hate to throw out old files which, of course, can be scanned into my iCloud account, the company server or a system we have called “Skyslope”. But, much like holding a real book instead of a Kindle, I really prefer reaching for the old, ink-stained file with scribbled notes from your purchase on N. Fairfax Street or Mount Vernon Circle, or sale on Grand View or Prince Street, when it is time for me to sell or help someone buy that property.

What is so blasted precious? A wide range of hidden treasures can be found in those paper files — the first name of the scheduler for the unreachable master carpenter who put in the den bookshelves, the key pricing information for the French drain contractor, as well as for the contractor you didn’t choose and why, or the cell phone number for the talented electrician and his brother who can install fans in 14- to 20-foot family room ceilings (imagine the Flying Wallendas).

Oh, I’m not such a dinosaur that these people aren’t also in my personal Excel Resource List, but the context, receipts, paint colors and scribbles are often a huge help in getting onto a pro’s schedule.

Luckily, I have outgrown many out-of-date practices — heck, we used to have 25 copies of a photo made at Ritz Camera, then wield Glue Sticks to attach them to the front of cardboard brochures! Open Houses were heralded with waving helium balloons before we realized that helium is a non-renewable resource — made on earth via nuclear decay of uranium, and it is recovered from mines (TMI?) — we even had a tank here in the office.

And even I have graduated to creative tools — Saved Searches, instant alerts to screen and match listings, text flashes — though just last month I went “street walking” with a pen and notebook, like a flat foot detective, to find clues for commercial lease opportunities – unadvertised empty spaces, old signs, etc.

I also rely on the personal strength and human excellence of my full-time assistant. We take any situation and make it better with laughter and a nice dose of creativity.

Using the skilled, real people of our company’s in-house marketing staff means we can personalize each one of my listings far more effectively than using a standardized format in a technology-constrained data dump.

People are just better. We haven’t hired a robo-calling program to make cold calls as some firms have. Some vendors even use call centers to create lists of homeowners who don’t hang up when they are asked whether “they’d sell their home,” then sell those lists to startup real estate companies for targeted mailings or Meta blasts.

Yes, Realtors do grow with the new systems, but I just can’t give up all of my emails, text messages, or, yes, my own vice of using way-too-many Bitmojis with a character designed to look like me on a good day, with regular wardrobe changes!

Warm messages and hundreds of memes are found in my email and paper files, mixed with the real work of contract strategy, home inspection results, and eventual successes. Even today, I have 20,585 emails tucked in my new iPhone — to the shock of the Verizon tech guy — but heck, I can find my “people” quickly any time I need them or see their name pop up when they need me.

The future is great, but so is embracing our past, either for a laugh, a lesson or an experience. “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other is gold.” The Scout jingle of years ago applies as we weave the tapestry of our daily lives in these crazy times holding people, not machines, close.

These thoughts and years of experience are brought to you by Ann Duff, Realtor, with McEnearney Associates. Based in Alexandria, Ann is busy day-in and day-out in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, listing, selling, and leasing distinctive properties with and for wonderful people — and all with a splash of fun! Let’s Get Busy… contact Ann at 703-965-8700 or visit her website

If you would like a question answered in our weekly column or to set up an appointment with one of our Associates, please email: [email protected] or call 703-549-9292.

McEnearney Associates Realtors®, 109 S. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreAlexandria

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