A variety of emerging trends in the age of COVID-19 are shaping the future of real estate. What can you do now to prepare for a new landscape?
Sprout from soil

© Majharul Islam/Unsplash

As any real estate professional knows, change is the only constant in this industry. With major shifts impacting how today’s agents do business, the best way to stay on top is to keep up. The biggest catalyst for change in the last few years has arguably been technology. We’ve seen its potential especially during the COVID-19 pandemic: In many cases, home buyers and sellers have had to rely on digital solutions for the different stages in a transaction. Agents are responding with virtual home tours, video calls, 3D floor plans, and other digital touchpoints that allow clients to view a home without interacting physically with the space. Before the pandemic, technology was a helpful tool; now, it’s a necessity.

This higher demand for safety and convenience—and the resulting wave of technologies that streamline processes—has changed the role of agents, too. Because consumers have more tools available to ease the homebuying process, agents are no longer the gatekeepers they once were. Now, agents are trusted resources for information and advice that consumers can’t find in a quick Google search. Real estate is a high-value transaction, and though the human element will never disappear, it’s increasingly necessary for agents to deliver stellar service that consumers can’t get from an app.

How You Can Adapt to the Times

As global health events impact how agents use technology, flexibility is key for your business to flourish. The following steps can help you build your resilience and innovate for the future.

  1. Do your research. This tip isn’t new, but your approach should be. As a trusted advisor, you’re the best resource for answers clients can’t get from Google. Know what information is easiest for clients to find online, but make sure to have ideas on hand for questions you’re better suited to answer. Research also will be important in deciding how you’ll share that information and provide more value for your clients. When it comes to technology and the many innovative ways you can streamline processes, remember that not every new app or program will improve your service. Technology is less about the shiny new app and more about making what you already have more effective. For example, my company created an augmented reality tool to address an existing pain point: Clients couldn’t visualize empty or outdated spaces. Now they can adjust a space—or see a design concept—without needing to touch any of the room’s existing furnishings. Don’t invest in new solutions without taking stock. Talk to your clients about what they need, and study the tools that will resonate with your market. This vetted approach is particularly important for smaller brokerages that lack financial resources.
  2. Adapt your visuals. One of the biggest changes across the real estate industry in recent months has been the rise in virtual home tours and open house events hosted online. Virtual content production has been, in many cases, the only way to showcase homes, and the increased focus on visuals—from video and virtual reality to livestream open houses—is working. Case in point: While my company began featuring virtual reality technology on its website in early 2016, consumers today are searching on Google for virtual reality tours like never before. We are seeing similar surges with video content, as evidenced by a 101% increase in video viewership on our website and a 137% increase in viewership on our YouTube channel. While much of the rise of visual consumption can be attributed to social distancing restrictions, it’s also an indicator of what’s ahead: Buyers are searching in new ways, and real estate firms should be ready to respond with compelling video content.
  3. Build your sphere of influence. Offering authentic human connections is a critical way to stand out, so the importance of a healthy sphere of influence can’t be overstated in today’s real estate landscape. Build a solid network, and get involved with the community you serve. While events may be on hold, offer to host webinars or support other online initiatives, and get on the phone to connect with other businesses that can help extend your reach. If a new business moves into your city, for example, reach out and offer to help with rehousing employees. This will solidify your value as a helpful resource—the kind that simply can’t be found online.
  4. Understand the emotional side of the business. The residential property market is nothing like its commercial counterpart. Businesses make calculated investments based on numbers, but when you buy and sell homes, it’s about much more than numbers. An older couple might have raised their family in the home they’re selling, and a younger couple might be looking for just the right home to do the same. Whatever the situation, there are emotions involved, and empathizing with your clients is the best way to make sure you keep pace with them and build trust instead of rushing transactions. When clients reach out to ask for your thoughts, you’ll be able to provide guidance in line with their current circumstances. That kind of service solidifies relationships and engenders repeat business.

Creativity, empathy, and flexibility will allow today’s agents to navigate a changing real estate landscape. By anticipating how recent events and trends will shape the future, you can remain a trusted and valuable resource for your clients.