Shifts in the landscape of the real estate industry happen all the time. I’ve lived through double-digit mortgage interest rates in the ’80s, Y2K (when we thought the MLS was going to blow up), 9/11 and the Great Recession. Here’s my grey-haired advice.
Something that drove your business during one set of conditions will likely not work if those conditions change. Take 2008 — the two most common ways to survive the Great Recession as a Realtor were to be an REO agent or specialize in short sales. Today, no one is marketing themselves as a “short sale” expert because there is no demand for those services.
The current pandemic we’re confronting is going to change the complexion of the real estate market. That’s not open to debate. You can ignore it if you want, and suffer the consequences. You can, on the other hand, think critically about how these circumstances are going to change real estate, and how you can position yourself to not only survive — but thrive.
What should you expect?
During times of uncertainty, buyers cancel visits and are less likely to make a purchase decision when they do visit you. This is a temporary problem. When the pandemic appears to be under control and financial markets stabilize, those buyers will return to the market. But this phenomenon could disrupt your business in a major way in the short-run.
How should you refocus your business?
1. Commit to building your listing inventory
When the Great Recession eased, our local market — which is heavily dependent on retirement migration — experienced a perfect storm that lead to a period of great activity. This began around 2010 and lasted into 2013.
The buyers who would’ve retired in 2008 through 2010 under normal economic circumstances, finally got off the sidelines and entered the market. Meanwhile, people who were at a natural life stage to retire between 2010-2013 did so. We even saw people who were still several years away from retirement enter the market in order to take advantage of perceived bargains.
The problem for Realtors was: if you were running a buyer-centric business, your ability to participate in this sudden prosperity was limited to the number of hours in the day. Working with buyers just takes more time, period.
Buyers also convert into closings at a much lower rate than listings. Having a strong listing inventory will give you a much better chance of recovering commission income you might have lost out on during the crisis.
2. Beef up how your listings look online
Even if buyers aren’t actively touring homes in person, you can surely bet that they’re looking online. Every listing should have a 3D interactive tour, professional photography and detailed description. I shouldn’t have to say this but, the website Bad MLS Photos is proof that I do.
3. Don’t be a taxi driver
Business is going to slow down, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to stop. When you have the opportunity to tour property with qualified buyers, and your typical practice is to have your customers ride in your car, you should rethink that for now. It’s just safer to ride in separate cars.
4. Connect with your sphere of influence and past clients
If they’re practicing social distancing, your friends and past clients may actually have the time to talk to you! You may be a welcome distraction to watching the news.
These should not be sales calls. This is about connections and showing you really care about them as human beings and keeping up with what’s going on in their life. If you don’t truly care, skip this one, and rethink your career choice.
5. Commit to your own professional development
Realistically, in the next couple of months, you’re going to have more time on your hands. Use some of that time to become a better Realtor. If you have CE credits, and you need to renew your license, get it done. Complete the C2EX curriculum from NAR. Consider working toward a professional designation. If you are a sales associate, consider studying for your broker’s exam.
6. Change brokerages
Seriously, if you’re happy where you are and your broker provides you great support, you can skip this paragraph. But, if you weren’t experiencing the success you wanted and were already considering changing brokerages before the pandemic, now may be a good time to make that move.
Great brokers have extensive onboarding protocols, programs you can leverage to grow your business, as well as outstanding coaching and training. Use a potential slowdown in the market to make that smooth transition and set yourself up for future success.
7. Stay positive and challenge your negative thinking
Every day has something positive in it. I love this quote from business philosopher Brain Tracey: “When the universe needs to teach you a lesson, it comes wrapped in a problem.”
Don’t get so focused on the problem that you forget to look for the lesson. The most successful people in the world all have one thing in common — they’re all hopelessly optimistic.