It seems that everyone is reaching for their crystal ball, trying to predict the next move in the war against COVID-19. From healthcare workers to demographers to economists, there’s no shortage of thought about how the illness will spread and what effect it will have.
The same is true for businesses, of course. Gauging the impact on revenue, spending and regulations is an important part of weathering the economic impact of the current crisis. For real estate agents, that means determining what business we can do right now — and how we can meet the needs of clients and leads while adhering to stay-at-home orders and state and local rules for essential businesses.
However, it’s also important to think ahead to the end of the lockdown and consider how the real estate market may look and what unexpected changes may be coming up.
Potential market shifts
The impact of COVID-19 is having a variety of effects on people of all ages and all parts of the economic spectrum. These effects will, in many cases, alter home buying, selling and ownership decisions for months or years to come. We may see some or all of the following changes.
Even before COVID-19, there were agents hearing from empty nesters who had downsized too far. Now, colleges and universities are closed indefinitely, new homeschoolers may continue online, and work-from-home lifestyles may become the new norm for some. Many homeowners who thought they could make do with a small space may be upsizing for the first time or re-upsizing from their downsized condos and bungalows.
While it was already a trend, multi-generational households may become the new norm for many, especially as the economy impacts jobs, college plans, retirement planning and more. In addition, many homeowners thinking of bringing in elderly parents may have pushed those plans forward due to COVID-19. They may be looking for a place better suited to their new living situation.
One of the first trends that became evident online and on social media when quarantines began was the large number of young professionals who had gone home to wait out the virus with their parents. Having left the cities where they work and returned to their hometowns, many of these young people may not go back. If the work-from-home situation continues — or if their jobs are eliminated outright — they may find themselves moving back home for good.
Significant shifts may be on the horizon for the way we live post-quarantine — and they’ll likely be reflected in design elements. More jobs and classes may go virtual permanently, more families may choose to home-school, and we’ll all be more aware of how much of the outside world comes into our homes. Look for larger houses with an emphasis on some or all of the following:
- Multiple home offices
- Mud rooms with lots of storage
- Porches and balconies
- Multiple bathrooms
- Shifts from condos and townhomes to single-family homes
Unfortunately, many couples locked away together for months may find that their busy schedule was the only thing keeping them together. Post-virus breakups and divorces are almost certain to happen.
On the bright side, of course, some long-distance loves will find that they never want to be apart again, so there may be wedding bells — and home purchases — in many futures. And, of course, there is the oft-predicted COVID-19 baby boom, necessitating larger homes and big backyards.
While many areas have put a temporary moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, these will eventually end. Coupled with layoffs and job interruptions, this should result in a surge in demand for rental homes and apartments. In addition, some delayed moves will no doubt go forward, so this should be a lively market segment for some time to come.
With a rise in post-quarantine foreclosures and a possible glut of homes on the market, investor activity should rise as well. In addition, many investors discouraged by stock market losses may be interested in putting their money into real estate, especially if it seems to weather the economic downturn well.
Preparation is key
How can you be ready to take advantage of these growth opportunities when and if they present themselves?
Look at certifications, designations and additional training
You need to prepare to serve some of the most impacted market segments. Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource (SFR), Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES) and Broker Price Opinion Resource (BPOR) training may all be valuable in the next market movement.
Pivot your marketing
You might need to consider alter your marketing to meet the needs of new segments, whether through changes to your existing farming strategies, messaging or platforms. Don’t wait until quarantines are lifted to start talking. You should already be creating content and reaching out to your sphere, fans and followers.
Reach out to everyone
Actively reach out to friends, family and former clients, and really listen. Listen to the stories they tell, the concerns they express and the problems they encounter. Through their stories, you will gain insights that may help you predict where your market is headed — and what kinds of new services you can provide.
Find out what’s not working
Consider the holes in your current team and your current approach. You may need to develop more resources for alternative financing solutions, especially if you want to expand your work with investors or help buyers whose credit was affected by the economic downturn.
Learn your market
This is a good time to study your market for homes with in-law and au pair suites, carriage houses, pool houses and other private spaces. These may be highly prized in the event that multi-generational homes become the new norm. Start reaching out now to owners of these properties and become the listing agent of choice in your market.
Look at rentals
Many agents no longer work with rentals, but they can be a good source of cash flow. If you’re thinking of making rentals a bigger part of your plan, look at ways to streamline the process of finding and vetting qualified applicants. Brush up on Fair Housing regulations in your market, and ensure that your process for filling rental units is in compliance.
Prepare budgets for updates and upgrades
If you have a trusted contractor, work with him or her to come up with some ballpark figures of popular updates and upgrades so that you are ready to give your buyers ideas — and budgets — to work with.
While no one can predict exactly how life will change long term, everyone feels that change is in the air. How those changes will manifest themselves is uncertain. Now, more than ever, it’s up to us to have the conversations that matter most and help our clients consider their needs and their options.
Christy Murdock Edgar is a realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant with Writing Real Estate. She is also a Florida Realtors faculty member. Follow Writing Real Estate on Facebook, Twitter, Instagr