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David Terbeek, the founder and CEO of RE/MAX Haven Realty, a five-agent team staffed with 35 management employees, advises taking an individual approach and learning the specifics of each client’s situation. Based in Cleveland, Terbeek believes that being understanding and honest is the best way to navigate the uncertainty.
“Once in a while we say, ‘you know, maybe this isn’t the right time [to buy] if you’re truly worried about your job’ and let them make that decision,” Terbeek told Inman. “We’d rather do that than sell somebody a house and watch them get laid off two weeks after.”
Inman spoke to Terbeek about enduring the pandemic, the power of the referral and embracing new technologies. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Inman News: At least in some parts of the country, it feels like the tide has turned and things are getting better. What has been happening in Ohio?
David Terbeek: The general sense around Ohio is that we’re not getting a second outbreak and things are going down the right path. Everyone’s cautiously optimistic. From a sales perspective, we had about a two-week lull at the end of March. In March, I think everybody was just trying to figure out what this meant. And then by April, our investors ticked back up. So we’re seeing a lot of investment properties. On the retail side, there’s not as much inventory. A lot of people have decided not to put their homes on the market but the ones that are on the market are selling very quickly.
You have a small team of agents. What advice would you give about working in teams right now?
We’ve really learned how to come together as a team over the last year or year-and-a-half. This means having appropriate systems so that everybody’s sort of following the same game plan. At first, everybody was just doing their own follow-ups and their own messaging or contacting people. And we said ‘let’s get a CRM system in here and let’s have everybody follow that same standard protocol.’ That transition has made our lives more efficient and made the sales guys more productive. There’s a capacity limit to one person’s time, especially when they’re changing what their roles are while also trying to process their deals and do their sales calls and marketing. We found that as you break those pieces into different chunks and assign them to people who are good at them, they can spend more time doing that.
The general attitude has moved on from the kind of panic we’ve seen in March and April, but a great deal of people are still scared about the economy and their own financial futures. How do you navigate that fear with both renters and investors?
Working with clients is more of an art than a science. Each one is going to be a little bit different. We have certainly seen a couple deals fall apart because somebody lost their job or their hours got cut. We take each one of these cases and work with them. Each one is an individual and it depends on what their fears are, and we work on what we can do to optimize overcoming those fears. Once in a while we say, ‘you know, maybe this isn’t the right time [to buy] if you’re truly worried about your job’ and let them make that decision. We’d rather do that sell somebody a house and watch them get laid off two weeks after. It doesn’t happen very often but we just feel like that’s a good long-term strategy because those people will be very appreciative of that attitude. They’ll come back when it’s ready and when everything settles down.
To summarize, never push someone into a commitment just to get a sale?
Yeah! Because let’s be honest, this is a referral-based business. One sale is great and nothing we want to argue away but the relationship and long-term benefit of working with the client is much more important than that one single sale because that client could become three, four or five sales down the road when they tell their family and friends about how, you know, these guys were honest with me and helped me out. They become raving fans.
What other aspects of real estate work have you changed recently?
We’ve really amped up our virtual showings. That’s something that we really hadn’t done a whole lot of before. We’ve done some work with video but it wasn’t nearly as comprehensive. Now, we work with a local photography company that provides very nice virtual tours. That way, we can screen out a lot of people and not have them walking through the homes. And that has worked out well. The sellers are comfortable with it, the buyers are the ones who are truly ready and need to buy that home.
There has been a lot of discussion about whether open houses are even necessary anymore. You see the industry moving toward private showings for dedicated buyers rather than walk-ins for anyone who is interested?
Yeah. We, as a team, haven’t really done open houses for a number of years. They haven’t been essential for us to build our brand and I think most Realtors use them as an opportunity to get potential buyers while we have other channels for that. We’ve kind of drifted away from that before but I could see other Realtors following that same path because of the reality of the situation we’re facing, both in terms of the pandemic and from a security standpoint.
So the pandemic may force agents who were once reluctant to embrace new technologies to run with it?
I think we’ve made leaps and bounds that were somewhat overdue but sometimes you have to take the challenge, figure out what the bright spots with that challenge are and come out stronger on the other side.