With the limitations and restrictions in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19, real estate agents who are deemed essential are forced to adapt and work in new ways to continue serving their clients. To understand how agents are able to sell homes without meeting their clients in person, we talked to Cindy Chen of Justin Havre & Associates with RE/MAX First in Calgary, Alberta, who recently sold a home in Calgary to a buyer who resides in Scotland, UK.
You recently conducted a sale with a buyer in a different country, who you never met in person. How were you able to do this?
Yes, that client is from Scotland, but at the time they were vacationing in Spain. At the beginning of the process, they had intentions of coming to Calgary and viewing and signing, but when we were trying to firm everything up, that’s when traveling stopped.
My client’s daughter lives in Calgary, so the deposit was the only thing that we didn’t need to do virtually. It was just me picking up the deposit from the daughter and that was it, everything else was video or calls or emails. All showings were done virtually. We were lucky to have a client that trusted us. A key component to this is to have someone you’ve never met trust you to facilitate this transaction.
How did you build that trust with them?
They’ve been to Calgary before because they have family here, but they live full-time in Scotland. They came in as a lead, and I think me taking the initiative to use video was a big component for them. Obviously, as an out-of-town buyer they were really stressed out about the things they would need to do to make this transaction work, so walking them through it and coming up with ideas of how to make it work as easily as possible really helped put them at ease.
What systems are in place to do everything safely with an inspector, appraiser, the closing, etc.?
Our clients’ safety, as well as our own, is more important than anything. Home inspections still happen, but they limit the number of people at an inspection; it’s just the inspector doing it himself or the home inspector and me, and then just videoing in the buyer. Appraisers no longer access homes. They just drive by here. I encountered a seller who was very concerned about people going through their home, so they sent me a personal video of them walking through the house so I could pass it on to my clients instead. When I got the video, I looked through it, put it in an email with my notes because we (agents) are going to see things differently, and then had a chat with my client after.
What hiccups did you encounter or what tips do you have for agents to look out for?
You need to be really honest with your client about everything up front. Because these transactions are not in person, you have to anticipate the problems first and then try to take care of it that way. For example, my Scottish buyers were potentially coming into Canada and/or Calgary to do the mortgage signing. Then it was not possible anymore with the lockdown, and it posed a new challenge for the financing, which we had to work through. Of course, with real estate transactions, anything might come up at any time, but we really have to prepare and organize upfront, and make our clients aware as well.
What programs do you use for the videos?
I used to use FaceTime and/or something like Zoom or Google Hangout to do a live chat so they could go through the house with me and ask questions live. But now I like to use BombBomb because the clients can watch the video back whenever they want because the file is saved. I also like to ask the buyers if there’s anything important to them before viewings are booked so I can be sure to show specific areas of interest. For example, if my client always looks at the baseboards, I’ll make sure to get those close-up in my videos.
Why do you think agents are still imperative in transactions like these?
There are so many things that can and do go wrong in a transaction. It’s my job to manage emotions and problem solve. We’re way more than just door-openers.