Realogy expansion brands released a new 27-page oral history of the pandemic and how it has altered the industry.

From the early days of the pandemic and through the housing market explosion, the real estate industry has been moving fast, leaving little time for reflection.

Sherry Chris | Photo credit: BHGRE

But a new undertaking from Realogy’s expansion brands portfolio — which encompasses ERA Real Estate and Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate — attempted to catalog what’s taken place over the past year and the lessons learned.

“We really wanted to capture what had taken place over the past several months in the hopes that — and this is exactly what happened — some best practices would emerge that we would be able to share within the Realogy expansion brands, and with the industry as a whole,” Sherry Chris, the CEO of Realogy expansion brands, told Inman.

Chris and the team at Realogy decided who better to tell the story than those who lived it? The result is a 27-page oral history, with interviews and insight from more than a dozen broker-owners under the Realogy flag, titled, Real Estate in the Time of COVID.

Chris, in compiling the report with her team, said she’s pulled away three key insights, the first of which is that the COVID-19 pandemic helped the industry abandon its fear of technology.

“In our industry, many agents are not technologically proficient and really relied on that referral business and face-to-face contact for the end consumer,” Chris said. “What COVID forced us all to do is utilize technology in a more efficient way.”

Sometimes it was even the most simple technology — like using Zoom for meetings or Facetime to show a house.

“We used those tools that were right around us,” Chris said. “We picked them up and used them in an effective way.”

Another insight she pulled from the project was that it forced the industry to recognize the importance of the people part of the business, whether that was through agents creating deep relations with the end consumer, or with each other.

Agents also realize that the importance of getting involved with consumers at an early stage and helping them not just through a transaction, but guiding them through “a very important decision that’s going to change the next phase of their lives,” Chris said.

That ethos extends outside the relationship between the customer and the agent to the relationship between the agent and the broker as well.

Thai Hung Nguyen | Photo credit: ERA Real Estate

“Just as agents connected with their sphere, we and our agents increased our outreach to each other,” Thai Hung Nguyen, the broker-owner of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Premier, said in the report. “We anticipate maintaining these higher levels of engagement going forward because there is heightened awareness that greater participation and engagement makes everyone better.”

The third thing that Chris pulled from the exercise is that it’s clear things aren’t going back to the way they were before the pandemic.

“I don’t think we’re going to go back to our old ways,” Chris said. “I believe that we will take these best practices and truly help make our jobs easier and make real estate a better experience for the consumer.”

The oral history project also gives some insight into a future trend of which the industry should take note. Despite the high level of sales in 2020, not everyone who wanted to move in 2020 was able to move, Chris said, which foretells a lot more demand in 2021.

The broker-owners did provide some insight into the types of buyers they were seeing flood into their home markets in 2020. That includes a lot of people looking for more space, a lot of families moving from California and a lot more interest in smaller cities.

“People are realizing that if they can work from home, they can live better on their salary in a place like Colorado Springs than in larger metropolitan areas,” Cathi Sullivan, the broker-owner of ERA Shields Real Estate in Colorado Springs, Colorado said. “Most of the activity we saw was from outsiders coming in, particularly from Denver, Coastal California and Texas.”

The report will be available for the entire industry and follows a theme that’s persisted since the early days of the pandemic. Yes, competition is still high, but the industry was much more sharing and collaborative in 2020. Companies like Keller Williams and Compass sought to make learning materials free and for the industry.

On a local level real estate agents and brokerages that usually competed for clients worked together to better their communities.

“One of the things that I found personally was that the industry did band together particularly in local communities where agents and brokers were giving back to the front-line workers and really doing what our industry should be doing,” Chris said. “We should be at the forefront of creating deeper relationships within individual communities.”

Email Patrick Kearns

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