With buyers and sellers concerned about the risks of in-person meetings, virtual presentations are now the norm. But what can brokers tell agents who aren’t convinced virtual communication is here to stay?

In this monthly column, Anthony Askowitz explores a hypothetical real estate situation from both sides of the broker/agent dynamic. 

A seasoned agent is doing her best to stay on top of the necessity for change in today’s modified market. However, she still holds on to the concept of “returning to normal” regarding some of the virtual interactions with consumers. Her broker believes virtual presentations are here to stay. Who’s making the right call in this situation?

Agent perspective

With buyers and sellers very concerned about social distancing and the risks of in-person showings (or even meetings), I understand the need for virtual presentations at the moment. It makes sense to avoid person-to-person meetings whenever possible. Adjusting to the demands and concerns of our customers is a natural response to show we understand and care.

However, I still believe that we are in a “people” business and that this shift is temporary. As concerns over the pandemic diminish, I believe things will eventually go back to the way they were — including the way we meet with each other.

I will be relieved when it does, as I’m much more comfortable working face-to-face and presenting in person. Even now, I encourage clients and prospects to allow me to do so (safely, of course).

With all this in mind, I don’t understand why my broker keeps pushing me to create virtual presentations that will be useless once we all go back to normal. Wouldn’t it make more sense to spend time and money on creating fresh versions of the “tried-and-true” marketing I’ve always used, and which helped me get to where I am today?

Broker perspective

I respect my agent’s views on this, but I believe that virtual presentations are here to stay. They are just too convenient for everyone involved — saving gas, time and mileage, among other things — for them to be discarded, even when the primary necessity for them is gone.

Technology pushes everything forward. Now that buyers, sellers and agents have become comfortable with this process, I doubt they will return to old habits when the pandemic ends. I encourage our agent to accept this, adapt and improve her virtual presentation skills accordingly.

For those of us who have been in the business long enough to remember, we saw similar resistance when MLS searches went from books to online! It’s hard to believe now that was only 30 years ago.

Ever since then, the changes in technology have come faster and faster, and with them, changes in the expectations of consumers. Buyers no longer have to follow the antiquated process of driving from house to house to look at property, oftentimes losing out on one they would have bought simply because they didn’t see it before it was sold.

Sellers no longer must risk allowing hordes of strangers into their home at odd and inconvenient times, in the hopes one of them may like the property, make an acceptable offer and qualify for the loan. This pandemic forced us to move quickly into a world and process of selling homes that turned out to be much more efficient for everyone.

Still, each buyer and seller — as well as every agent — is a unique individual. That’s why the connection between the agent and the client is so special. Agents build their reputations and business models to accommodate customers who want what they have to offer.

There will be buyers and sellers who abjectly refuse the virtual process. They crave the personal touch and will require a traditional agent to assist them and cater to their comfort zone. My concern is for us to be able to accommodate those people as needed, but to the extent that we are always capable of giving the best of cutting-edge technology to those who demand it.

How to resolve

On the company level, it’s critical to provide agents with the latest in technology and techniques. They must be encouraged to stay ahead of the curve in their service to buyers and sellers.

In a market where competition is fierce between agents and between buyers, it’s especially important for an agent to stand head and shoulders above the rest. This means having the skills to do things virtually in a professional manner.

How does an agent compare to another agent when they can’t meet a customer face to face? In the past, we dressed for success, polished our smiles and learned to use body language to charm and bond with a prospective client. The “New Age Agent” must know how to project that image virtually. It takes practice and dedication to learning a whole new way of doing things.

Does this mean that we should discard the requirement for personal interaction skills? Absolutely not! The agent is correct — we are, and always will be, in a people business. There will be times when speaking face to face is critical. However, these situations will become a smaller part of what we do on a day-to-day basis.

Just as a personal phone call or handwritten note will always hold an important place in communication in these days of text and email, the face-to-face meeting will never go away. The bottom line is to be prepared for either opportunity: virtual or in-person.

Anthony is the broker-owner of RE/MAX Advance Realty in South Miami and Kendall, where he leads the activities of more than 165 agents. He is also a working agent who consistently sells more than 100 homes a year. 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.

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