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When tough times come, real estate agents often turn to their team of colleagues and mentors. But what happens when that team has gone virtual? Or when agents are swaddled with work while navigating these uncertain times?
Troy Benes, the owner of Elite Nebraska Real Estate, has been leading his 30-agent team through both the coronavirus and the unexpected rise in clients that came as their area started opening up.
The Omaha-based brokerage, which is affiliated with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Nebraska Real Estate, has been working remotely since March, and the team is planning to make many of the habits they took on during the pandemic permanent — with most things done online, they may not need as much office space as they once thought.
“The pandemic has also made us realize that you can’t take anything for granted,” Benes told Inman. “This could come back and we might have round two even if Nebraska was not hit as much as places like Florida or New York.”
Inman recently spoke with Benes about the Nebraska market and the challenges facing agencies in the area.
Inman: What’s been happening in the Nebraska real estate market lately?
Troy Benes: Right now, the market here is awesome. Interest rates are super low; they’re under 3 percent and often in the mid-twos. Inventory is super low. A lot of homes in the $150,000 to $350,000 price range are getting multiple offers and selling for well above asking price. There is not enough supply and a lot of demand. Things are booming right now. Obviously, the coronavirus caused us to close down for a month, but right now we’re having a record-breaking month with everything opening back up.
Has your business been affected by the coronavirus outbreak? Has the panic that swept the country in March and April eased up?
Absolutely. In April, things really slowed down because it was a lot tougher for us to show houses when everything shut down. Then in the middle of May, things started to pick back up and open back up. But we did have a 30-day period in which there were not very many sales going on and nobody was listing. Things have definitely improved in the last four to six weeks. The market has been picking up a lot more active than it normally is just because a lot of people that usually would have listed in March and April are doing it now.
What has the spring we’ve had taught you about real estate?
One of the main things it’s taught us is that we don’t really need an office. A lot of agencies are getting rid of their office spaces because they realized that, for six or eight weeks, they were able to work out of their vehicles and work from home when their usual base got shut down for almost a month. Commercial real estate will get affected by this because a lot of companies might be getting rid of office space.
The pandemic has also made us realize that you can’t take anything for granted. This could come back and we might have round two even if Nebraska was not hit as hard as places like Florida or New York.
Has the pandemic pushed you to embrace new technologies and work differently in ways that you will take on even when the situation stabilizes?
Definitely. A lot of the agents on my team, because of the pandemic, started doing a lot more FaceTime showings. In the month of April, we also did drive-thru closings. Only the title company could go to closings so we did drive-thru closings where people didn’t get out of the car. They would actually sign the papers and then give them back.
It definitely made us realize that there’s gonna be a lot more stuff done through the internet, through FaceTime and apps like that. We knew all of that already but the pandemic made us realize that there there’s a lot more than can be done virtually than we once thought.
What advice would you give to agents working in teams, especially now?
I started my team at the beginning of 2011, nine years ago now. We have a group chat with all 30 agents and we’re always helping each other out. If somebody needs an electrician or a plumber or any kind of handyman, we just ask the team. If somebody has a showing and is going out of town, we ask the team. We’re always there helping each other, constantly, every single day.
And then we have the three full-time admin that do all the paperwork. Three of the agents on our team are licensed admin, and we rely on them for everything to work. The sales agents are just out showing and selling, and they don’t have to spend all their time with the paperwork.
If I was new in real estate, I would definitely want to be on a team. I got my license in 2005 and there were no teams in Nebraska. When I started my team there was only three or four teams in Omaha now there are hundreds of teams.
What advice would you give to clients who are hesitating about whether to list (or buy)? How do you advise when the future of both the pandemic and the market is so uncertain?
I always tell my clients that right now, with the interest rates being so low, there’s never been a better time to buy. The 30-year fixed interest rate in Nebraska right now is 2.75 or, for 15 years, it’s 2.25. I’ve never seen the rates this low in 15 years.