As a lupus patient, Shaleen Young’s immune system is compromised. So, the broker-owner of Young Realty & Associations in Matthews, N.C., is taking extra precautions both at home and in her business during the pandemic.
“I am on strict isolation in my bedroom because I developed body aches and a cough,” says Young, MRP, SRS. She hasn’t hugged her four children, ages 5 through 18, in days. But COVID-19 hasn’t stopped her or other brokers across the country from extending joy, hope, and peace to their agents, clients, and communities.
“REALTORS® are known for their ethics, professionalism, and care. We lead by example and as one of the largest industry associations, we have a responsibility to serve the community by protecting it,” Young says.
The Psychology of Boosting Morale
Laura Schopp, a professor and chair of the Department of Health Psychology in the School of Health Professions at the University of Missouri, says there are simple ways people can mitigate the effects of social distancing and stay-at-home orders—and it starts by reaching out to others. “It is very empowering when everyone feels like they have a place to make a contribution,” says Schopp.
Her tips include video chats where you discuss non-virus-related topics and making time for activities with your sphere, such as playing virtual board games.
Young says she and her team are actively engaging with one another, as well as their clients, friends, and family through handwritten cards, social media workout challenges, and frequent video calls. The team connects for a weekly video meeting, daily group texts, and Zoom happy hours.
They’ve also been supporting local restaurants by scheduling deliveries through services like Postmates and DoorDash for their clients. “We’re sending desserts, hoping that it will brighten people’s day,” she says. “It lets folks know that they’re not alone in time of isolation.”
AnnMarie Janni, CRS, team leader and founder of the Element Realty Group at Allen Tate, REALTORS®, in Apex, N.C., is also getting creative in her outreach. She’s partnered with three other real estate pros from her area— Kelly Jacoby of Log Pond Realty, Nina Parker of Keller Williams Legacy, and Heather Petrovich of Choice Residential Real Estate—to support local businesses and give back to teachers. They’re asking fellow agents and members of the public to contribute donations, which they’ll use to purchase gift cards to stores in downtown Apex. Then, they plan to give those gift cards to local teachers. Their goal is to raise $25,000.
“Apex has a very cute historic downtown that has locally owned shops and restaurants. Stores are definitely feeling the effects of the shutdown,” Janni says.
Helping Optimism Grow
A born and raised New Yorker, Michael Rossi, founder and managing broker of Elegran, a tech-focused brokerage, saw Manhattan residents come together for one another after 9/11. Now he’s seeing that strength and compassion of New Yorkers again in the wave of the pandemic.
“We are a different breed. We come together in different ways, and we will come back stronger,” he says.
At first, the city’s stay-at-home orders rattled his 100 agents and 20 staff, Rossi explains. But by using FaceTime and other videoconferencing platforms to connect with each and every person on his team, and holding daily virtual meetings with his executive team, his company has quickly adapted to working digitally. The company also put together a guide for working from home that includes not only best practices but information about mental health, motivation, and creating a routine.
The human resources department at Rossi’s company also provided information about the different stimulus programs through the CARES Act, including how to apply for SBA loans and unemployment. “It’s very confusing for an independent contractor. Most of these agents have never thought about unemployment,” he adds.
But everything they’re doing is being done with an air of optimism. A group of his agents have stepped up to help other people in the office with deliveries. The company hosts trivia sessions on Facebook’s Houseparty app with new themes each week, and they started a “content club” online where agent and staff review books, podcasts, and videos, often with a business angle. They also get together for Happy Hour via Google Hangouts where they’ve played Two Truths, One Lie, a game where people must identify which of three statements is a lie.
“It was so much fun,” Rossi says.
Being Present, Showing Care
William Raveis Real Estate, a Connecticut-based, family-owned company that operates 120 offices in nine states, is taking steps that build morale and ensure everyone stays connected. Co-President Ryan Raveis, who works alongside his brother Chris and their father, Bill Raveis, has spent a lot of time on the phone checking in with the regional managers, office managers, agents, brokers, and employees to make sure everyone is healthy and safe.
“This is the time to lift each other up,” he says. “We won’t let this crisis control us.”
“Together” is a theme the company has lived by for decades. They’ve translated that into a new bi-weekly newsletter from the executive team to keep everyone in the company up-to-date. “It includes a personal video message from myself, my brother, or my father, along with a roundup of the most important best practices, tools, and training we’re offering agents, as well as the latest legislative updates on essential business,” he says.
Communication is just as valued at Raveis’s 4,000-agent company as it is at solo broker Tracey Royal’s boutique brokerage, TEAM Real Estate Services in Oak Park, Ill. Her company is built on solid relationships with her clients and industry partners, so she’s keeping them informed on how the real estate industry is adjusting to the many changes related to the pandemic.
“I conduct weekly touches, not only to see how people are doing during these hard times but to also share information that may impact them now or in the future,” she explains. Royal, ABR, PSA, reaches out to say hello to friends, family, and past clients and offer words of encouragement. She lets them know she can be a trusted resource on speed dial should they need anything.
“I want my clients to know that I am here and still dedicated to service their real estate needs, whether times are good or not so good. Either way, we will all get through this together,” Royal says.