Can you imagine how differently Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula would have turned out if Jonathan Harker, the hard-working solicitor cum estate agent, had worked for a modern real estate brokerage company? He could have avoided a week aboard a ship, trains, and stagecoaches (never mind the wolves and vampires) by simply emailing a contract with instructions directing the Count to his firm’s website chock-full of vibrant photos and stunning virtual tours of real estate listings.

Obviously, Stoker’s novel is a work of fiction, however, his description of Harker’s efforts to represent Dracula in the purchase of London real estate is probably an accurate representation of what the process entailed during that time. informs us of a history of real estate transactions stretching as far back as the Middle Ages in Europe. The practice arrived in the New World along with the arrival of the Colonists. During these formative years, England made land grants to members of the aristocracy.

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania chronicles the Penn family’s efforts in surveying, parceling and selling real estate for “15 pounds ten shillings for 100 acres and quitrent of one half penny sterling for every acre thereof.”

According to, the earliest known real estate transactions in the United States came at the end of the Revolutionary War, when in September of 1783, under the terms of the Treaty of Paris, America gained her independence from England. names Chicago’s Baird & Warner Real Estate as “the oldest US Real Estate Brokerage” citing their 160 years of business and the granting of a $5,000 mortgage loan in 1855 as the basis for the title. Frederik Heller, manager of the virtual library and archives for the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, disagrees. According to his article in RealtorMag, New York Real Estate Exchange was around as early as 1847.

Two early brokerages listed at Business History had begun operations as early as 1875. The first, leasing and selling residential and commercial space. By 1879, the second had established his firm as a manager, developer, and seller of Northern California real estate.

While the earliest real estate brokerages served to introduce potential buyers to sellers and lessors to lessees, the need to diversify and offer specialized services soon arrived. Research, valuations, and financing being just a few examples. Clients came to expect agents to be entirely familiar with the local market, as well as any future projects that could affect property values.

Modern technology and the advent of the internet are unparalleled in their impact on the real estate market. The stuffy, smoke-filled offices of the past, overrun with agents shuffling files and paperwork from here to there, have been replaced by fresh, sleek, open office spaces bedecked with large flat-screen monitors displaying flashy images of local and international listings.

In the Information Age, real estate agents are no longer the gatekeepers of sales data; consumers use community portals, social networks, and real estate websites to educate themselves before jumping into the market. They have access to much of the information necessary to make a real estate purchase. But transforming those disparate pieces of information into one grand composition that translates into personalized service providing clients with the tools necessary to make timely, cost-effective decisions is still the domain of the local, knowledgeable commercial real estate professional.

Lee & Associates Orange is a group of dedicated strategists specialized in providing brokerage, valuation consulting, and corporate services. Whether you are interested in buying, selling, or leasing, we invite you to contact us.

by Staff Writer, Lee & Associates Orange