By Samantha Jones
My, how times change. In the span of a few weeks, our entire world and industry has been turned upside down. The Earth keeps spinning while the normalcy of our lives is indefinitely put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re living in unprecedented times—social distancing, sheltering in place, and quarantines have become necessities.
Repeat after me: What goes down must come up. In all aspects of life—relationships, economics, emotions, health, and everything in between. The same is true for our real estate market and the economy. Amidst this uncertainty, have faith we will survive, our normalcy will be restored, and with it, a renewed appreciation for the little things.
Running a business these days looks different for all of us, and in most states, restricted by “stay at home” orders. Some states have deemed real estate an “essential” service, and in others, the distinction varies by county. But in many areas, agents aren’t allowed to show homes. Because of that, there’s no universal blueprint to keep business afloat these days.
We’ve all weathered storms in our lives and we will get through this, too. The insights below will help us all.
1. Adhere to state and local guidelines when running your business. It’s more important than ever to keep your business in compliance. Contact your managing broker or local board for additional insight on how to best work these days. In Illinois, we’ve been deemed an essential service, so we’re able to continue selling with a bit of creativity.
2. Be a human first. Check-in with your clients and sphere. People are doing the best they can, but these times aren’t without emotional and financial struggles. See how your sphere is faring. This isn’t a time to reach out and ask for business, but to be a resource. Send your sphere to credible sites for information on financial assistance and timely news updates (hello, tax extension!), spread positivity and honesty on your social media and community groups, organize meal trains for healthcare workers, and more. This is our time to shine as real estate professionals who care about people first and foremost. Let’s put the real back into real estate.
3. Adapt. Embrace the uncertainty and take this time to adapt. Focus on your business strengths and evaluate weaknesses. We have the gift of time now more than ever before. While it’s easy to go down the rabbit hole of social media and news coverage, focus on productivity. Tap into virtual listing appointments and buyer consults. Learn your firm’s tools, scrub client lists, even step-up your social media game.
4. Communicate. Calling, texting, and emailing clients is more important than ever. Communication is key in this uncharted territory. As news emerged about the spread of the coronavirus, we checked in on all of our current and upcoming clients to see how they were faring and to offer needed reassurance from us. Some are business owners who are facing the prospect of losing everything, others have vacant homes or were just about to purchase their first homes. Our clients want someone who will listen and care. So that’s just what we did. We are continuing to reassure them of what we know, and reminding them that there will be an end to this. Business is still open, but it may be slower than usual for the foreseeable future. No open houses or broker’s tours, and limited showings. It’s also imperative to understand and respect your clients’ comfort levels and adjust accordingly. Do sellers want private showings or to move to temporary status? Do buyers want to purchase or hold off? Respect their comfort levels and adjust accordingly. “Call me, beep me,” you better believe they know how to reach me. Ensure yours do too.
5. Listing marketing. Since open houses and frequent showings are off the table for most of us, it’s time to dig deep and get creative. Host a live video tour and virtual open house, send email blasts, or pay for professional virtual tours or video marketing for your active listings. Never have people been more confined to their homes. Those who are interested in buying are online searching for their next home. In some cases, quarantine made them realize having a home office or a basement is a necessity, or that a master bath non-negotiable. Capture those opportunities for your sellers with innovative online marketing.
6. Buyers’ needs. As I have said time and time again, regardless of market conditions, people still need to move. One of our clients’ homes has sold and they need a new one in the next 40 days. Another is relocating to our area for a new job. So we’re getting creative. With the listing agent’s permission, we’re recording video of showings and FaceTiming our clients from inside the listings while wearing gloves and sometimes masks to keep our health in check, too. Be sure to check with your firm or local board about hold harmless agreements for sight-unseen purchases. Most of the duds can be ruled out via video. This way, we’re liming face-to-face showings until they’re a necessity. Then we’ll be keeping our distance—no hugs or handshakes—and have gloves and hand sanitizer galore on deck.
7. Advise. Remember that overpriced listing you took? Me too. Now is the time to implement a price adjustment. It’s unlikely that values will increase anytime soon. Honesty is the best policy with your clients. Also, should your buyers be out looking if they don’t need to move for months? Probably not. Time is money, so do what you can to not waste people’s time or jeopardize anyone’s health. This is a different market—a shifting one—and we must pivot to move our clients onto higher ground.
8. New agents. While some of this advice may not be relevant to you yet, the majority can be applied to your business models. Take this time to absorb as much content as possible: videos, blogs, articles, and hone your social media. Host virtual open houses for other agents. It’s still possible to thrive in a difficult market. This is how true professionals are made.
9. Breathe. It’s also okay to take some time and let it be. Meditate, walk, nap, read, organize your house. Although, I won’t hold it against you if you skip out on that last option. Take care of yourself, or you’ll be no help to others. Don’t put yourself in business situations or otherwise that compromise your health and safety. A deal isn’t worth more than you are. Remember, it’s okay to not be okay all the time. Don’t forget to make your physical and mental health top priority so you can care for your business and loved ones in the months ahead.
Tough times don’t last, but you better believe tough agents do. In case you’re looking for a sign, this is it. We will get through this together. Hang in there.
How are you adapting these days? I would love to know your tips to survive these strange times! Leave a comment below.
Samantha Jones is an award-winning real estate broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in the Chicagoland area. She is a top producer who specializes in residential sales. Connect with Samantha on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.