From The Fax Machine to Facebook, ERA Team VP Real Estate Reflects on 40 Innovations That Changed the Industry

Local Real Estate Brokerage Celebrates Parent Company’s 40 Years in Business

Chautauqua, NYAn outsider might think that freeways, fax machines, and Facebook have nothing in common, but real estate agents and brokers know these innovations have played a critical role in advancing the real estate  industry since its formal beginnings in the 1800s.

ERA Team VP Real Estate, a leading real estate brokerage serving the Southern Tier of Western New York, commemorates ERA Real Estate’s 40th Anniversary, by taking the time to share a list of what ERA Real Estate identified as the Top 40 innovations in real estate history. The global franchisor believes these innovations helped to shape today’s real estate industry and will continue to influence the industry for decades to come. Click here to view a slide show of the full list, which is detailed below.

“In order to keep pace with today’s dynamic real estate market, an embrace of innovation is critical,” said Bill Soffel, Broker/Owner of ERA Team VP Real Estate. “Having ERA’s tools and resources at our fingertips helps ERA Team VP stand out among the competition. As part of the ERA® community, we look forward to championing future innovations in our industry.”

ERA Real Estate, an innovator in its own right, was the first real estate franchise to use the fax machine to transmit listings across the country, the first to expand internationally and the first to post listings online.

According to ERA Real Estate, the Top 40 Innovations in Real Estate History are, chronologically:


  1. 1863 – The London Underground, the first subway, opens. Built as a way to reduce traffic congestion in the city, people now don’t need to live in walking distance of their jobs, offering expanded choices in where to live. Today, proximity to a train station can increase a home’s value in many markets.
  2. 1880s – The Multiple Listing Service finds its origins in this decade. The concept upon which it is based – help me sell my listing and I’ll help you sell yours – serves to unify and connect real estate brokers as a group of professionals.
  3. 1889 – The first Land Run took place, providing hearty, would-be land owners with an opportunity to claim unassigned lands in the United States, primarily in Oklahoma.  Under the provisions of the Homestead Act of 1862, a legal settler could claim 160 acres of public land, and those who lived on and improved the claim for five years could receive title, paving the way to the economic prosperity long-associated with owning land.
  4. 1890 – The first automatic electric fire alarm was invented in 1890, but it was not until 1969 that the first battery operated smoke detectors came to market.
  5. 1908 – What would later become The National Association of Realtors® is founded as the National Association of Real Estate Exchanges with the purpose of uniting real estate brokers to represent the combined interests of the profession.
  6. 1921 – The Federal Highway Act is passed, allowing the Bureau of Public Roads to create paved two-lane interstate highways. Originally intended to provide citizens with evacuation routes from the cities, the 41,000-mile network contributed to city sprawl and the rise of the suburbs as commerce moved from city centers to further afield.
  7. 1927 – The electric overhead garage door opener is invented, giving the growing number of car owners an easier way to protect their new investment and adding another must-have amenity to the dream home.
  8. 1929 – More than 25 years after the invention of modern air-conditioning, the first self-contained room cooler for homes hits the market. Two years later, central air conditioning becomes available, but it would be another 20 years before mass-produced, low-cost window air conditioning units were available to the public.
  9. 1931— James Truslow Adams coined the term “The American Dream” in his book “The Epic of America, which described the belief that one’s abilities and hard work, not birthright, paved the way for opportunity and success.  Over the years the belief has expanded to include the ability to own a home, because of the related economic advantages that can lead to prosperity.
  10. 1934 – The National Housing Act is passed to spur homeownership during the Great Depression and is considered by many to be the foundation of the mortgage and homebuilding industries. From this act comes the Federal Housing Administration and the now-defunct Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation.
  11. 1950 – The first year that more people lived in the suburbs than in the cities, influenced by the development of the skyscraper and sharp inflation of downtown real estate prices.
  12. 1954 – The first age-restricted community is established in Youngtown, Ariz. Retirement communities soon gain popularity in Arizona, California, Florida and Texas.
  13. 1960 – The first condominium is constructed in Salt Lake City, Utah, creating a new housing option for consumers.
  14. 1968 – The Fair Housing Act (Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968) is enacted, outlawing refusal to sell or rent to any person because of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, providing for the first time actionable recourse for victims of discrimination. Complaints can be filed through a variety of channels including nonprofit fair-housing agencies, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Justice and state and local agencies.
  15. 1969 – The television show “That Girl” starring Marlo Thomas as an independent, single woman living in New York City ends its five-year run.  The sitcom signaled the changing role of women in the era of feminism, which influenced the 1974 amendment of the Fair Housing Act that prohibits lending discrimination based on gender. This watershed development, coupled with the rising ranks of women in the workforce, allows women to independently purchase a home using a mortgage, ultimately creating a significant market niche currently representing 20% of all homebuyers.
  16. 1969 – Battery-operated smoke detectors came to market, saving countless lives. TIME magazine named the smoke detector to its “All-Time 100 Gadgets” list in October 2011.
  17. 1972 – ERA Real Estate opens its doors for business and becomes the first real estate franchise system to use the fax machine to transmit listings across the country.
  18. 1974 – The Good Faith Estimate is introduced as part of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, which eliminated kickbacks that inflated the prices of mortgages. Provided by a mortgage or loan company, the good faith estimate includes a list of the fees and costs associated with a home loan, which cannot change by more than 10%.
  19. 1975 – NordicTrack is founded, setting the stage for the increasing popularity of the home gym.
  20. 1976 – The construction of mobile homes became regulated with the passage of the National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Act. Since the 1920s, mobile homes had served as an inexpensive housing option that also provided great mobility during the Great Depression, allowing families to follow jobs. However, as they gained popularity and became more widely produced, many mobile homes were often poorly constructed, causing harm to their owners.  In addition to ensuring safety, the act also recognized mobile homes, now often referred to as modular or manufactured homes, as low-income housing, and made government backed loans available for mobile home buyers.
  21. 1978 – Home Depot is founded in Marietta, Ga. helping homeowners’ successfully complete do-it-yourself (DIY) projects.
  22. 1979 – Government-sponsored telecommuting gains popularity during the OPEC oil embargo of the late 1970s and later gathers momentum in the private sector with the introduction of the personal computer and then the Internet, paving the way for the necessity of today’s home office.
  23. 1980 – Downtown revitalization takes hold across America’s cities, following a period of long urban decline sparked by the popularity of the automobile and the shift of commercial centers to the suburbs. Community Development Corporations (CDCs) are formed to revitalize cities to their former selves.
  24. In 1981 – ERA Real Estate became the first franchise network to expand outside of North American with the affiliation of ERA Japan.  Today, ERA Real Estate’s worldwide presence has expanded into 34 countries outside of the United States.
  25. 1982 – The Garn–St. Germain Depository Institutions Act of 1982 deregulated savings and loan associations and allowed banks to provide adjustable-rate mortgage loans.
  26. 1982 – The personal computer begins to catch on with consumers – TIME Magazine names the computer the Machine of the Year.
  27. 1983 – The first commercially available mobile phone is introduced, evolving into today’s smartphone, providing real estate agents an increased ability to be connected with clients and work from almost anywhere.
  28. 1984 – Canon debuts a prototype of the Canon RC-701 analog digital camera at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, paving the way for easy, inexpensive listings photos to increase marketing appeal.
  29. 1986 – The Tax Reform Act eliminates the broad deduction of interest on personal loans and creates a tax deduction for mortgage interest to encourage home ownership.
  30. 1990 – The World Wide Web is introduced.
  31. 1990 – Assisted Living Facilities as they exist today emerged in the 90s, creating an entirely new client niche for the real estate industry.
  32. 1994 –  ERA Real Estate becomes the first national real estate franchisor to post listings online with giving house hunters a way to search homes with the touch of a finger.  A year later, is launched as an online listing and marketing platform.
  33. 1998 – The U.S. Green Building Council is launched and develops the internationally recognized LEED green building certification system. Demand has increased in recent years for environmentally-friendly homes. Sellers may soon advertise green features the same way they highlight bathrooms, bedrooms and available parking.
  34. 2000 – Paperless transactions begin to overtake paper ones. What started with the simple act of directly depositing a paycheck into a bank account has evolved into completely online transaction management for real estate.
  35. 2004 – Facebook is launched. While it originally appeals to a college audience, the platform soon expands and becomes a major avenue for building business relationships between Realtors and consumers.
  36. 2004 – “Man Cave” hits the urban dictionary, solidifying the popularity of homes with specific space/areas for men to “do their thing.”
  37. 2005 – YouTube is invented and while many deem it only an avenue for watching the more than 100,000 cat videos that exist on the site, the channel is also a valuable tool for businesses looking to share their story online.
  38. 2005 – The first Smart Grid is completed in Italy, shaping the sustainable future of electricity. Consumers are able to purchase smart thermostats and appliances and even control lights from their mobile phone or tablet.
  39. 2008 – When the world’s first commercial spaceline launched in 2008, Virgin Galactic’s bold offering brought us one step closer to space colonization.
  40. 2011 – Three years after the launch of the iPhone App Store, which currently houses a half million apps, Augmented Reality Apps are common on handheld devices, changing the way buyers visualize potential homes.

About ERA Real Estate
ERA Real Estate is an innovative franchising leader in the residential real estate industry with 40 years experience in developing consumer-oriented products and services. The ERA® network includes approximately 30,000 brokers and sales associates and approximately 2,400 offices throughout the United States and 34 countries and territories. Each office is independently owned and operated. ERA Real Estate is a subsidiary of Realogy Corporation, a global provider of real estate and relocation services. ERA Real Estate information is available at:

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