The industry — and society as a whole — is going through an uncertain time right now. With a global pandemic disrupting our economy and way of life, the housing industry finds itself at a crossroads.
It’s our intention with this article to assist real estate professionals in promoting safety, maintaining productivity and being of maximum value to their clients and customers.
These recommendations are by no means to be construed as a complete list, but are offered as a solid beginning to a new set of best practices you can adopt in this unfamiliar time.
1. Take care of yourself and your family
You won’t be helpful to your clients if you or someone in your family has to be hospitalized. Knowledge is Power. Get your coronavirus facts from legitimate sources like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
At the very least, “Do The Five,” which is a campaign launched by Google in collaboration with WHO. The five things you can to promote safety are:
- Hands: Wash them often
- Elbow: Cough into it
- Face: Don’t touch it
- Space: Keep safe distance
- Home: Stay if you can
Follow the advice of these organizations. For your own safety and the safety of your community, don’t pretend this isn’t a serious situation. You may be young and healthy, but folks over 60 and those with health problems are significantly more vulnerable.
Do your best to ignore rumors and drama on social media in favor of credible and legitimately sourced information from established authorities. Managing your emotions is especially important during a crisis.
Poorly sourced memes and personal drama are not only wasteful, they can cause harm. Don’t add to the problem by reposting unverified information or going down the rabbit hole of political arguments.
2. Get organized
While this is not an earth-shattering idea, being organized is paramount during times of stress. You’re going to forget things. The only way to minimize the number of mistakes is to be super organized. Make lists — technology can help. Here are four great websites and apps that can help you get organized:
- Trello is the ultimate list-making app, and it works for teams as well.
- Evernote is great for note-takers. You can create multiple notebooks (personal, business and etc.).
- Workflowy is a super simple list-making app which you can use with teams.
- Lucidchart is great for visual thinkers in regards to things like workflows, projects and etc.
3. Take action
You’ll feel way better if you’re not sitting around waiting for things to happen. If you are in or near any major city, you’re likely being asked to work from home. Real estate, however, is a hands-on, person to person business. What can you do?
Like anything in life, try to look for silver linings. How about this: Time is an asset. So now, you have an abundance of a particular asset. Are you going to squander this asset or be judicious about employing it? There are a lot of things you can do to make the most of this time. Here are a few examples.
Clean stuff out
Clean out your physical workspace. You are a professional, and you should have a professional workspace. Even if you tend to have a “mad scientist” system for filing, a freshly cleaned desk will lift your spirits and make you more effective.
Clean out your email inbox
Email is the web application you use most. A long list of unanswered or old emails can be stressful. Create folders, transfer key tasks to a list, or just delete old stuff. You’ll feel better immediately. We aren’t advocating an “inbox zero” mentality. Just tidy up.
Clean up and organize your CRM
Are your contacts up to date? Are there contacts in your phone that belong in your CRM? Get those contacts into your CRM. Are all your contacts getting the same treatment? Are your past clients getting the same drip as your prospects?
If so, create new drip campaigns for each group. Could your emails use an update? Freshen up the content. Is the content going to be jarring given the situation? Maybe you could write some emails that acknowledge what’s going on right now.
Spend some time on your sphere of influence
Do you need to update the list of vendors you work with? Do you need to find some new ones? David Weinstein, co-founder at HomeKeepr, said: “In all likelihood, the home service pros you typically work with have time on their hands as well. Take the time to get to know them. Pick up the phone and talk to them. They might even have some valuable information on what’s going on in your market.”
You can use HomeKeepr (which you can try for free for six months here) to get your vendor list squared away now. When things turn around, you’ll be able to invite homeowners to a fully organized vendor list.
Start new stuff
Been meaning to start using a CRM? Now’s the time. Digital marketing is “social distancing” compliant. Needless to say, you have to be sensitive to what’s going on out there, but at least you can be prepared for when things turn around. Here’s a list of great CRMs you could check out.
Get online training
Real estate tech companies are innovating like crazy. When things were busy, you never had the time to get caught up on the latest and greatest. Now you do! Have a look through your various systems, and see if they have some online training.
Sign up for training webinars
Poke around YouTube. Check out Facebook mastermind groups, and see who’s got fresh content out there that you can learn from. Make yourself a promise: for every four hours of Netflix, you’ll do one hour of online training. Or maybe spend an hour a day online doing training. After a month, you’ll be an expert!
4. General lockdown survival tips (we may have saved the best for last)
Keep up a routine
Keep your daily sleeping and hygiene schedule to maintain a sense of normalcy. If not, you’re going to look in the mirror one day and find the Unabomber looking back at you. Humans are, by and large, creatures of habit. Things are weird enough without adding the sense of disorientation that stems from an erratic schedule.
Fresh air helps. For most of the country, current guidance does not mean you literally can’t leave your house. Even if it’s just going out on your porch, an unobstructed view of the sky will help you.
Heck, the toughest prisons in the US allow inmates to get outside for an hour a day. If you’re able to walk around the block (maybe with a dog), even better. Just keep your distance from other people to prevent spreading. But of course, always double-check your local stay-at-home orders and other guidelines set by WHO and the CDC.
Get some exercise
Exercise is always helpful, but it’s especially good for you during times of stress. Getting your blood pumping will work wonders for your stress levels. Do anything and everything — yoga, pilates, weight-lifting, barre, high-intensity interval training or whatever else that works for you.
There are many workout videos on YouTube which you can easily do at home. Some of them don’t even require any equipment at all. Science has proven that regular exercise is great for fighting depression and improving self image. Who doesn’t want that?
Try new things
It’s easy to get into a rut during the best of times. Yes, we’ve talked about the importance of routines, but monotony can be a killer. Try some new recipes. Read about a subject you’ve always been curious about. Try meditation. Not sure how? There are tutorials on YouTube for pretty much anything.
If you are a real estate agent, you’re likely an extrovert. Social distancing might be your worst nightmare. Stay connected with people. Remote meeting software is the new normal. Some great examples of video conferencing include:
- Blue Jeans
- GoTo Meeting
- Google Meetings
- Even Facetime or Duo for Android are great for chatting with friends and family.
The support of colleagues is irreplaceable. Reach out to other real estate agents for a “virtual happy hour.” They’re dealing with the same issues you are. Brainstorm together, and celebrate your wins.
Junk food is your enemy (OK, maybe it’s more like your frenemy). Like exercise, this is always true. But you’re going to be tempted like never before because you are trapped at home under real stress — with your pantry right there. Other generations have been called off to war. We can at least try to lay off the chips during this time.
Foster a pet
You’re not going anywhere anyway, so it’s a great time to train or temporarily foster a dog. They are a never-ending source of amusement. And oxytocin — aka the “cuddle” hormone,” which is the emotional benefit that comes from snuggling up with your pup. Not to mention, being around a dog can reduce cortisol, your stress hormone.
If a dog is more than you can bite off and chew (sorry), consider a cat. Or a hamster. Or even a goldfish (although we’re not sure about the oxytocin angle on the fish). Anything that makes the happy juice flow and gives you a positive feeling is a strong self-care plan and makes you a better you.
To wrap up, life as we know it is disrupted in a way no one could’ve ever predicted. Too many people in the industry will check out or hide in the corner. But as we saw in the real estate crash of 2008, the professionals that are proactive and focused on the positive gain in all niches in down markets as well as up markets.
Use these ideas to make the most of the circumstances, and in a few months when things return to normal (or close to it), you’ll love what you see in the mirror.
J. Philip Faranda is broker and owner of J Philip Real Estate in Westchester County, New York. He is a member of Inman’s Real Estate Influencers of 2017, Zillow’s Agent Advisory Board and the 2014 HGMLS president. Follow him on Twitter @JPhilipFaranda.