In challenging times, it’s a smart idea to revisit the fundamentals of good business. This April, go Back to Basics with Inman.
I’ve always stressed how important it is for agents to own a niche or distinct market specialization, but doing so becomes even more important in our current market conditions.
The reality is that we are facing the strong possibility of a recession and depressed markets because of the uncertain trajectory of COVID-19. However, when the market rebounds — and it will — owning a niche or specialization will be essential in helping agents revive their businesses all the more quickly.
For the immediate, foreseeable future, the best approach to take is for agents to own their local markets. This isn’t new information. It’s always been important for real estate agents to be experts in their local market.
In fact, according to our research, homebuyers and sellers in North America say that local expertise is the most important factor when choosing their agent.
The nuance here is that during this current health and economic crisis, everything has become much more localized than before. Let me explain. In past economic downturns, the impact was felt in cities across the country in similar ways. However, with the uncertain spread of the virus, every state, city and even school district is responding in different ways.
All restaurants might be closed in one town while restaurants in the next town over might be offering delivery or takeout. Similarly, while some school districts are completely closed, others are offering online classes.
As such, right now, it’s not enough to simply be a local expert. Agents must be hyperlocal experts. Instead of an entire city or metro area, agents should identify a few or even just a single neighborhood to really hone in on. It should be the neighborhood they know the best and have conducted the most business in.
While in past economic downturns there was a long recovery time for residential real estate, given the unprecedented nature of the current sudden stop to business, it’s wise to expect that homebuyers and sellers will be ready to continue their searches or sales when the health crisis passes. In many cases, they are waiting with us.
Agents should be preparing for that bounce back today. Don’t turn off the marketing funnel, but rather, double down on hyperlocal marketing efforts.
Here are a few ways to do just that:
Position yourself as a leader in your local community
We know that homebuyers follow local influencers on social media when they are determining where to buy. As a hyperlocal expert, agents should take on the role of informing residents and potential homebuyers about what’s happening in the community.
Right now, this can include promoting local businesses that need extra help, such as restaurants that have launched a takeout business; providing updates from local government entities, such as school boards or mayors; and sharing human interest stories and good news that are happening in the community.
A brokerage might consider ordering lunch from local restaurants to be delivered to area hospitals. Agents can also use their personal online presence to share “digital events” happening in the community, such as a virtual children’s story hour at the local library. How real estate professionals position themselves and provide value now will impact their business in the long term.
In embracing the hyperlocal, agents are showing homebuyers why their community is great, building up goodwill among local homeowners and positioning themselves as a community expert or leader.
Focus marketing spend on core neighborhoods
It’s understandable that agents will be more limited within their marketing spend now and must be prudent in choosing how to spend those resources. To get the greatest value, any marketing spend should be targeted toward an agent’s core neighborhoods or speciality, whether it’s luxury high-rises, golf communities, beachfront homes, etc.
In fact, it might be most strategic for agents to direct their paid marketing efforts toward potential homesellers in these specific areas. These consumers are the easiest to geo-target, which is the most cost-effective method of marketing at this time.
Anticipate what the “new normal” will look like in the neighborhood.
The biggest abnormality about the current situation is that each and every person has been impacted personally by the crisis. As a result, there will be a “new normal” when we do recover from the pandemic, but it will vary based on how individual communities were impacted during the crisis.
As an example, some communities might start relying on grocery delivery as a new norm, while others might return to their previous shopping habits. It’s difficult to determine the macro trends that will develop, but agents should be looking to identify how residents of their community will change their habits and preferences when it comes to homebuying. Will there be a stronger preference for homes with more yard space? Proximity to local grocery stores? Or convenience to order food online?
In implementing a hyperlocal approach to their specialization, agents who are able to identify “new norms” for their neighborhoods will be able to service their clients better and find themselves ahead of the game when the economy recovers.
Anthony Hitt is the CEO of Engel & Völkers Americas in New York City. Follow him on Twitter or Instagram.