For many years, I made attending the annual gatherings of the nation's Realtors and home builders part of my schedule.

Since 2009, however, I've been able to attend these events - confined to my two least favorite locations, Las Vegas and Orlando - from my office computer. It saves time and money, and it is, in a virtual sense, just like being there.

This year, however, I was beginning to feel a bit out of the loop, and, needing a day at the beach even in December, I spent $10 on a round trip from Lindenwold to Atlantic City for the regional Realtors' convention. My goal was to get a sense of how Hurricane Sandy has been affecting real estate agents and their business.

Many of us forget that if your livelihood depends on selling houses, you'd like them to be available and in good condition. On the other hand, the housing industry lately has been extricating itself from a six-year downturn, so I was curious about the issues unrelated to Sandy that my usual sources might have forgotten to mention.

The verdict: My French is a bit rusty, but the more things change, the more they remain the same in the real estate business.

Evidence of that was readily available on the exhibit floor of the convention center, as well as in the topics of the seminars being offered.

For example, sellers still aren't convinced that they shouldn't be receiving boom prices in a market still swimming in low-cost foreclosures. A session titled "Pricing Strategies for Unrealistic Sellers" suggested that most of these folks continue to have "very high expectations."

"They want a price that covers their mortgage, what they have in the house, and what they need to move on," said seminar leader Jackie Leavenworth. "They also have an expectation of 100 percent of their list price and a quick, one-week sale when the average time on the market is much longer."

The last "average time on market" estimate for the eight-county region was 79 days. Remember, too, that every house is just a little bit different from the one next door, and that a seller's vision and a potential buyer's can be 180 degrees apart.

What you and your agent need to discuss at the outset is what comparable houses are selling for and what your property may need so you can achieve a quicker sale at a reasonable price for the market.

Although technology continues to evolve more quickly than ever, how to make the most effective use of it for their businesses continues to elude many real estate agents and brokers. One of the worst offenses is committed with the weapon of social media: too many older folks trying to be hip and looking very, very silly.

A session on "best online practices" offered ways to an "effective marketing strategy," suggesting that "many agents and brokers use social networking without any true plan for success, or they focus on numbers without a plan."

The convention's exhibit floor remained as amusing as ever, with vendors who were offering foot massages or closing gifts such as sheets and jewelry scattered among the lenders and service providers. The tastiest were the smokeless indoor grills, which the vendor was pushing as closing gifts - one for $30, two for $50.

I passed, although the two bits of cooked hot dog he gave me might have clinched it, had I not just been to Subway.

On the House: Town By Town

In the Sunday Business section, Alan J. Heavens takes a look at real estate and life throughout the Philadelphia region. This week's focus: West Chester. EndText