I visited the National Association of Realtors convention in San Diego last week.

The show was markedly different than the year before. The footprint was smaller, but the energy was higher. Fewer vendors were serving the market, but the vendors that were present focused on very specific utility that would produce benefits for brokers and agents.
nar.jpg

Talk with agents and you heard a firmness in their tone and a positiveness in their approach that was absent the year before.

The market isn’t bouncing back anytime soon, they said, but there was consistent activity and the opportunity to make money.

My colleague Todd Dubner had many of the same impressions, which he shares on his blog Being Present.

Todd was particularly struck by the approach of the entrepreneurs he met during the show:

Creative vendors are getting their mental juices going. At NCI, we believe in the intelligence of the entrepreneur. We pay attention to what innovative thinkers are chasing and try to find where people are showing signs of profit. There was just more of that at the show this year than last. The ideas that were being shopped felt more concrete and actionable with a clearer value proposition than those in the past. No one was doing the, “if I could get 80% of agents to give me a dollar” math that never works out.

We’re hearing more positive reports from the field across our company as well. More is a relative term: for the past 18 months, positive reports have been few and far between in our real estate media business. I sat down with one of our business partners in the northeast over the weekend. He’s been with our company for more than 15 years, and the anxiety that he had expressed a year ago had been replaced by a confidence that the market was recovering, slowly and fitfully, but consistently.

These are anecdotal and ground-level reads. As such, one should be cautious to not get swayed by isolated instances of positive emotion. But, the repetition of these instances, in the face of continuing negative macro conditions, suggests that the pace of business activity is picking up in such a way that people who make their living from it are feeling like they are going to be able to make their living better.