Real estate professionals have made significant changes in the way they do business since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a profession that is primarily about making personal connections, this has been a hard road for those who enjoy being face-to-face with clients. We’ve all been leaning on new ways to connect digitally, some with more success than others.
Now that we’re three months along, it’s time to take stock. Which tools and solutions should we continue to use now and into the future after the crisis has passed completely? Many of the solutions we’ve implemented will have long-term effects on our marketing and sales efforts—here’s my take on four of them.
Keep it: Virtual sales tools
Technology has become increasingly important in daily life with such a large percentage of the population working remotely. Real estate professionals are no exception to the rule. During the pandemic, many brokers and agents encouraged buyers to tour homes virtually, then place an offer with a contingency of seeing the house in person down the line. Online virtual tours are not necessarily a new concept, but real estate pros have pivoted more and more toward using their smartphones to tour homes with potential buyers in real time. This allows them to answer questions and address important features as they would in an in-person showing. Some are taking advantage of 3D virtual tour technology for active online listings, a tool that has become more popular in recent years but not previously used by many. This use of technology has resulted in homebuying efficiencies. Even closings have started moving to a virtual practice, such as watching clients sign important documents over videoconferencing.
Lose it: Restricted in-person appointments
Maybe you aren’t so quick to shake hands anymore, but the in-person appointment can’t be avoided forever when you are in the real estate industry. In the midst of the pandemic, many practitioners encourage minimal gatherings while viewing potential homes, with only the decision-makers touring the property. Open houses stopped in most places, with all in-person viewings by appointment only. While changing these protocols comes down to respecting the comfort levels of the buyers and sellers, I think we can all agree that overly tight restrictions are not sustainable. Agents know that sometimes the best chance of selling a home is getting the whole family (all stakeholders) on board and that having a personal connection is more easily achieved during an in-person meeting. It’s all about moving forward safely, which brings me to my next point.
Keep it: Increased safety standards
Real estate pros have taken to implementing high safety standards at showings, including wearing masks and gloves and having disinfecting products at the ready. Homeowners are encouraged to leave main lights on and interior doors open to reduce the need to touch surfaces. These are all good practices that make everyone feel safe and reduce risk. Staying 6 feet apart at showings and conducting your main conversations outdoor (if possible) are still good ideas. Many people find the masks restrictive when it comes to serious discussions, so gauge the safety of removing it for negotiations—outside might be the way to go. Experts say that maintaining physical distance is essential in slowing the spread of the virus, and everyone should follow recommendations for their community.
Keep it: Neighborhood tours
Many brokers and agents are encouraging buyers to do a drive-by tour of the neighborhood, street, or general area that the home they are interested in is located. Buyers and agents take separate cars, maintain appropriate distance when stepping outside of their cars, and get a sense of the location and amenities in the area. Sometimes, clients can even do an exterior tour of the actual home to make sure they are still interested. This not only allows buyers to eliminate homes that won’t be a good fit without having to step inside, but also helps sellers who then have to welcome only serious buyers inside their homes.
Your own health and safety—and that of your customers—are of the utmost importance when it comes to doing business. Some of the limitations meant to keep people safe are now being lifted, but it may be a good idea to carry on with basic practices as we begin to emerge from the crisis. Keep lines of communication open with your buyers and sellers, and make sure you’re implementing practices that make everyone involved as comfortable with the situation as possible, including yourself. Balance your ability to connect with others—essential to any real estate practitioner’s job—and maintain a reasonable level of safety as we move into the second half of 2020.