In this monthly column, Anthony Askowitz explores a hypothetical real estate situation from both sides of the broker/agent dynamic.
A veteran agent is feeling paralyzed by her desire to get back to work, uncertainty in engaging her customers given the paradigm shift of the past few months, and serious lingering concerns about avoiding the virus (even as things open up). Her broker needs to help her find the right balance of soldiering ahead, shifting tactics and maintaining safety guidelines.
The good news is — my phone is ringing again! Buyers and sellers alike are starting to emerge from their shells, as most states begin to loosen restrictions put in place during the COVID-19 outbreak. The bad news is that I’m still pretty terrified to get back “out there.”
As businesses and institutions open up and people let their guard down, we’re seeing spikes in the number of positive cases. It just makes me think we’re not quite ready to leave our bunkers.
At the same time, I see my competitors hammering away with their businesses and showing properties (albeit with masks, gloves and social distancing). But is it too early to be doing that? And with all the technology tools now at our disposal, is it worth the risk? And am I going to lose business to them?
So many serious questions to ponder, but it really boils down to: Is this the “new normal?” Have the basic strategies and tactics that made me a successful producer for decades changed for good, or is this only a temporary phenomenon?
I can certainly relate to my agent’s concerns and trepidation. Everyone in residential real estate — including brokers, managers and office owners — has felt the ground shift dramatically beneath their feet over the past few months, and it can be alarming.
For all of us, bills still come in, families still need food, and responsibilities to ourselves and our customers still exist.
As my agent mentioned, there is good news in the emergence of pent-up buyer demand. Just as always, properties priced correctly according to location and condition are selling quickly. Loans are being approved, and closings are happening daily and with greater frequency.
Although we’re not yet close to a normal volume of business for this time of the year, at least we’re seeing the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.
But I would highlight some other good news as well, which is that the realities of the past few months have made our industry do things much more efficiently than we’ve been doing for years. Let’s be honest — we got used to being complacent in our methods and routines, and this situation forced us to evolve.
Look no further than the way we typically showed property to clients. The agent would chauffeur the buyer to four to six properties a day, wasting gas and time, getting in and out of cars and homes. The lives of sellers were also terribly inconvenienced, with the need to clean, rearrange schedules and vacate the home in order to accommodate showings.
But now, thanks to the rapid onset of virtual showings (and the dramatic improvement of interactive technology that allows them), buyers can see as many properties as they like online from the comfort of their air-conditioned living rooms.
In doing so, they can actively narrow down the number of listings to see in person, knowing they won’t lose out on a “hot” property just because they didn’t get an appointment before it was gone.
Sellers only really need to stage and video or photograph the home one time, and know that any subsequent showings are for seriously interested prospects. This is a major improvement to our business dynamic that only came about through necessity. It’s also a reminder that we can’t go back to the old “normal” any more than we can go back to using typewriters over laptops.
How to resolve
The manner in which residential real estate is practiced has very likely changed forever. The tools agents and customers use to buy and sell houses will be completely different from what they have known for decades. The speed with which homes are listed, marketed, sold and closed will never be the same after what we’ve experienced these strange months.
What hasn’t changed? People. Human beings. And real estate will always be a “people” business. People are people, and we all want to be considered important.
The pandemic has made us break from the old scripts and speak from the heart. We call because we’re genuinely concerned about the people in our lives, and we care if they need help and are scared or confused.
The broker should advise the agent to quickly accept these fresh changes. To reconnect with old contacts and make new ones. To use the amazing new tools at their disposal. To narrow down prospect pools to only the very serious. To limit the number of in-person showings and meetings as needed. To use masks, gloves, wipes and sanitizer as advised, and even do the closing virtually if possible.
Despite the lingering concerns of the virus and the changes to our business, agents have every opportunity to be highly productive — and safe — in the days, months and years ahead.
Anthony is the broker-owner of RE/MAX Advance Realty in South Miami and Kendall, where he leads the activities of 155 agents. He is also a working agent who has consistently sold more than 100 homes a year for over a decade. For two consecutive years (2018 and 2019), Anthony has been honored as the “Managing Broker of the Year” by Miami Agent Magazine’s Agents’ Choice Awards. NOTE: Anthony is not an attorney and does not give legal advice. Please consult a licensed attorney regarding matters discussed in this column.