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For the past couple of months, COVID-19 has been posing a threat to people’s lives and livelihoods. However, by combining the latest technology tools with good old common sense, Realtors, lenders, title officers and other real estate professionals can help protect themselves, their clients and their market share.
Many of these solutions can continue to play a valuable role in your business outreach after the coronavirus has been subdued.
WEST, the marketing and technology arm of Williston Financial Group, recently began a series of webinars on how to safely connect and build rapport with your clients. By focusing on this as a “people moment” and not a “sales and marketing moment,” real estate professionals are continuing to provide the essential service of selling real estate, with marketing opportunities that materialize down the road as a bonus.
We are fortunate to be living in an era when much of our workload can be handled virtually. Here are some suggestions to minimize contact while continuing to sell real estate and fund loans.
Focus on serious customers
As experienced real estate professionals, we have an intuition about “shoppers” who aren’t serious buyers. We often can identify them during preliminary telephone conversations and by raising the issue of preapproval early on.
However, where this traditionally has been a way to avoid wasting time, it’s now an important step in reducing unnecessary direct contact and foot traffic through the seller’s property. And while it may sound sacrilegious, disqualifying people who are just going to “kick the tires” will reduce unnecessary risk for your clients.
Use the internet and digital platforms
At buyer and listing presentations, establish client confidence by sharing procedures you will be following as a part of your company’s coronavirus plan. Tell prospective sellers that you will restrict visitor access to their homes without limiting viewings. Explain how a property listing on the MLS can have digital walk-throughs available.
Make sure your buyers can properly use search tools, Google Street View and examples of 3D video technology. Also encourage them to drive by the property, without getting out of the car, to see if they like the neighborhood.
Take advantage of 3D tour technology
Use video services such as Matterport and iStaging that allow people to remotely walk through every room with full 360-degree visibility. These may require professional help, but once the video has been created, homeowners can return to quarantine. Include a note in the listing saying: “All showings will be via 3D tour. Offers are subject to interior inspection.”
For prospective buyers who ask to view the floor plan, use a floor plan creator. These can turn a sketch into a professional rendering that can be uploaded with the listing as a PDF.
When a showing is necessary, make sure it’s a “clean” process. Turn lights on in advance, and tell visitors not to touch the light switches. Open a few representative cabinets, cupboards and closets. Have rooms open so no one touches doorknobs. Have soap at every bathroom sink, but identify one for use by visitors when they require it. Afterward, “deep clean” all bathrooms. If you can find them, have hand sanitizer, booties and gloves ready at the front door.
Consider eliminating paper flyers. Brochures can instead be uploaded to Issuu as digital magazines. This saves printing costs and allows you to track viewers. If you prefer paper handouts, instruct visitors not to return them to the pile but to take them home or discard them instead.
Zillow and Trulia offer live digital walk-throughs, but I recommend using Facebook Live or Instagram Live to create a walk-through event. Answer questions immediately as viewers raise them. Open cabinets and doors as you go. Now, instead of a half-dozen people walking through, it’s just you. If you have competing serious parties for a unit, do a walk-through for each.
As a listing agent in a multiple-offer environment, prioritize offers from people who appear most serious, and walk the most promising person through to begin the process.
I have used Zoom extensively, and with the proper safety settings configured, I recommend it as a way to have conversations with multiple people involved with a transaction. In a pressure situation, with multiple offers coming within hours of a listing, you can have the two parties, the mortgage broker and the Realtor all on a call and get this taken care of in real time. Its free “basic” program satisfies most needs.
As opposed to phone conversations, any video chat has the added advantage of access to non-verbal communication, which shows how a client is responding and allows you to immediately change course.
Another good tool is BombBomb. Although it’s not free, it integrates with just about everything and is a great way to conduct weekly client updates or stay in touch with a client who, although at-risk, doesn’t want to risk losing priority position in a purchase opportunity. BombBomb lets you record video, edit it and then send it for the recipient to view when convenient.
Because the focus must remain on people while we follow government guidelines, we must think as both representatives of our professions and our communities. For us to get past this, it’s going to take the world’s communities to come together and work unison.
We’re in uncharted territory, and we’ll have to adapt and change. Fortunately, many helpful tools already exist to help us do just that.
Aaron Stelle is the vice president and regional marketing technology director at WEST, a Williston Financial Group company.
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