Our home staging company works with very talented and dedicated realtors each day, helping them sell their real estate listings faster and for the best asking price possible.
But things are different now. Some condominiums have restricted access for contractors (except in case of emergency) while others have shut down altogether, refusing home showings and even move-ins. Every day, both industry professionals and the public expect further amendments to existing emergency orders. And everyone says that we have yet to see the worst.
This new “normal” will undoubtedly stay with us for a while, and requires us to adapt and develop new ways of interacting with colleagues and clients to conduct business.
The following “6-Step Coronavirus Action Plan for Realtors” is a list of suggestions to help you continue to conduct business safely and efficiently in these trying times. It is meant to be an independent guide for those who continue to serve their communities in their real estate advisor capacity—evaluate it and implement it as you see fit. In addition, you’ll find a downloadable PDF version of the plan at the end of this article that you can print out or save on your phone for reference.
IMPORTANT NOTE: In the state of Florida where my company operates, real estate services still fall into the “essential” category and are therefore permissible during this period. You should be sure to follow all your state and local emergency orders and abide by the best practices we keep hearing about: keep six feet apart from other people, wash your hands regularly, avoid touching your face, and stop going out of the house unless absolutely necessary.
Step 1: Take Extra Steps to Reassure Your Clients
It has never been more essential to stay in the loop with updates from your local realtor association. If you haven’t been sent any recent information, pick up the phone and call them for current status updates. Don’t wait for your clients to reach out to you—make it a habit to be proactive and find answers before questions arise. Over the course of the next few months, there will be constant updates and you must stay on top of them all. This is the time to become a true real estate advisor, the trusted resource your current (and future) clients can rely on.
There are many ways to share updates with your clients, and you should opt for the communication method they prefer. (Never asked your clients how they wish to communicate with you? Now is the time!) In addition, make it your mission to share this information with those who do not currently work with you: record videos and post them on YouTube, send email updates, and share updates on social media. People need leaders they can turn to in times like these—now is your chance to play this role.
When it comes to working with clients (both sellers and buyers), you must employ utmost diligence when scheduling showings, and you should stock up on the following basics:
- Face masks and eye protection
- Gloves in different sizes
- Booties for shoes
- Disinfectant wipes or spray, hand sanitizer
Both your sellers as well as buyers will appreciate your care and attentiveness to protect everyone involved. Set up a “protection station” at the entrance to your listings (more on that later), and keep some extra stock in your car. When working with buyers, make it a standard protocol to call the listing agents of the properties you will be showing ahead of time and ask what measures they have put in place to conduct showings safely. In fact, take it a step further and add a note on your listing, letting other agents know what you’re doing to keep them and their clients safe.
Step 2: Make Your Listings as Visually Appealing as Possible
Do you remember when younger real estate agents started talking about virtual showings and all sorts of technology-based real estate tools? What seemed far-fetched a short time ago has become something we need to consider adopting quickly. We had better get used to technology being our daily companion in selling real estate. Virtual showings may overtake in-person walk-throughs because the current restrictions in place may make it impossible to visit a property until further notice.
Therefore, making a listing visually appealing online is more important than ever. You must do whatever you can to maximize presentability. Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes and ask yourself, What would I most want to see in photographs or videos of the property?
Start by revisiting all existing photos and videos. Do they show the spaces accurately? Do you get a good feeling of size, shape, depth, and height of the space? It is a good exercise to ask a friend who has never seen the properties to review the listings for you, and get honest feedback about what their impressions are.
There will always be a way to make your listing look better, and it’s now more important than ever to make that first impression count. Home stagers help to create living spaces that are welcoming and tailored to buyer expectations. Schedule a virtual consultation with your trusted home staging company and let them guide you in making modifications to your existing furnishings, or develop a strategy to stage your vacant property. Home staging remains the single most effective way to visually differentiate your property.
- Staging turns an empty space into a home by furnishing it with tasteful, buyer-centric furnishings and accessories.
- It helps buyers create an emotional connection with the home and helps them envision themselves living there.
- It helps buyers better understand room layouts and dimension in photos and videos as well as during in-person walk-throughs.
- It creates excitement and prompts would-be buyers to make an offer so they don’t lose the opportunity.
If you choose to stage the property virtually (which is possible these days), you must be careful. While you may allow virtual furnishings to be added to your room photos, you cannot alter interior or exterior features of a property. Such changes may be considered misrepresentation and can get you in big trouble; it is imperative that you represent a property accurately and realistically. (Keep in mind: virtual staging is a great back-up option but if you are selling in the luxury market, buyers will expect a fully decorated, nicely presented home.)
If you haven’t yet done so, procure a floorplan of the property (either from the developer, the construction company that worked on the last remodel, or city records) and make sure it is as accurate as possible. Keep one version as you received it, and make a copy on which you mark the names of the rooms. Then add both the original and your amended copy to the listing’s picture gallery. For further clarification, add descriptive text to all the images in the photo gallery and connect them to the rooms in the floorplan. This should help potential buyers better understand layouts and views.
Next, record several detailed video walk-throughs of the home—preferably one per room as well as one overview video of the entire property. Note in the listing that videos are available on demand, or add the overview video to the listing directly.
You may also consider recording a 3D walk-through of the home (based on the type of buyer you are targeting, this option may or may not make sense).
In short, do everything you can to bring the property closer to buyers.
Step 3: Harness the Power of Social Media
One of the biggest challenges right now is simply connecting with prospects and clients in these times of “social distancing.” One option is to offer virtual showings on demand. If your state or county still deems real estate as essential, visit your listing and broadcast a live “showing”—either for a single client or for all your followers to watch (Instagram and Facebook are the key social media channels we use to interact with our clients and prospects).
Instagram Highlights are a great way to prominently feature specific content under a customized title on your Instagram profile (the circles in the example below). Create one highlight for each of your listings and name them for the property address.
Just as you can use Facebook and Instagram to conduct a virtual property showing, another innovative idea is to use these channels to conduct a “virtual open house.” It’s as simple as announcing an open house as usual, and being onsite at the set time. Start a live video and provide a walk-through of the home as you would during a showing. Encourage anyone watching to submit questions in the comments, which you can answer in real time.
Once you become more comfortable in front of the camera, offering Q&A sessions via social media would be another way to connect with your audience, clients, and prospects. Whether it’s about a specific property, your market situation, or another interesting real estate topic, this is the time when you can create value by offering your advice and insights to those who will appreciate it.
Social media is also a great way to share those Covid-19 general updates you have been collecting and staying on top of. Record simple, 1-minute updates on the current situation and the latest emergency orders in your neighborhood. With a lot of noise out there, people value a single reassuring voice. As the responsible and dedicated real estate agent you are, you can bring true value to your audience and become the go-to resource for all their needs and questions.
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Step 4: Establish a “Showing Protocol”
If you are still allowed to conduct business, you should establish a showing protocol, both for showings of your listings and showings you conduct with buyers of other agents’ listings. Some of these ideas were first shared by Compass, a popular online real estate company, with their real estate agents. Here are some ideas that might come in handy, and while wearing gloves and masks seems to be the standard procedure, we encourage you to go above and beyond for your clients and community.
- Remember that even if you are an essential business, you must abide by the rules set by your local and state authorities. Better yet, go with the recommendations of the CDC.
- Maintain a stock of gloves in different sizes, face masks, plastic eyeglasses, booties for shoes, and disinfectant spray and wipes.
- At your listings, set up a “protection station” where you store this protective gear, making it easy for buyers to put everything on before entry and dispose of everything properly and safely when leaving.
- Collect all information digitally, and save the business cards for better days.
- Reconfirm showings and arrival times; you want to ensure that you don’t have groups coming in at the same time, and you want to accompany all groups so no one is left alone in the home at any time.
- Turn on all lights and open all doors beforehand to ensure nothing needs to be touched by buyers walking through.
- Once a showing is complete, disinfect everything that was touched during the walk-through.
- Consider maintaining a log of showings and timings. Should anyone become ill, it would be valuable to have the names of those who may have been exposed.
We all hope that this new “normal” doesn’t last forever, but the likely scenario is that it will last for months to come, so be proactive by amending your yard signs and letting the public know that you are Covid-19 prepared if they would like to visit the property.
Step 5: Master Virtual Meetings and Paperwork
During the past few weeks I have been conducting most calls, both personal and business, via video. I’ll be honest: I was not a big fan of video calls before all this started, but the more of them I’ve had, the more I’ve come to appreciate the experience. There isn’t anything wrong with a normal phone call, but there is a certain depth that’s added when you can see the other person you’re talking to, just like in real life. There are many video conferencing solutions out there, and right now it’s the best way we can interact with each other.
Covid-19 has also changed some of the more behind-the-scenes aspects of real estate: contracts and paperwork. Before this, most residents here in Miami only thought about hurricanes when it came to the “force majeure” clause in a real estate contract. Now, thousands of real estate contracts nationwide have been canceled or postponed and listings have been taken offline. Get ahead of the changing legal landscape and inform yourself of any and all Coronavirus-related addenda and regulation changes that apply to your market. Your buyers and sellers will be looking to you for this kind of information.
If you’ve been a strong advocate for the “paper” in paperwork, take this as an opportunity to switch to an e-signature solution. Allow buyers and sellers to execute documents without having to leave the safety of their home.
You should also establish contact with the title companies (and escrow if applicable) to learn about the measures they are taking, and how they are transitioning to completing transactions entirely without physical contact.
Much of your value as a real estate agent has to do with your market knowledge, situational knowledge, and thorough understanding of the entire real estate transaction process. Make it a goal to become an expert in how the pandemic is affecting this aspect of real estate.
Step 6: See the Current Situation as an Opportunity
There’s no doubt—the world will change as a result of this horrendous pandemic. There are already millions of people suffering, and we have yet to see the worst of it. Our communities need us more than ever.
It’s also a time to reflect, revisit, and reshape our beliefs and values. Practicing true self-care usually falls short in our busy lives; maybe this can be a time for us to reconnect with ourselves through mindfulness and gratitude.
Show your clients that you care about them beyond your professional relationship. Check in, say hello, and ask how they are doing. Do the same with family, friends, and old clients.This can also be a time to build new relationships and partnerships. Reach out to vendors and discuss ways you will be able to do business together when this is over.
Invest time in education and self-development. There’s an enormous amount of interesting online courses, informative YouTube channels, and educational books out there. And for those high achievers who can’t stop, use this time to craft new workflows and processes. You know, all that stuff that’s on your “must get to but don’t know when” to-do list. This is the best time to dedicate to new strategies that will improve your business in the long run.
There’s definitely more that you can do beyond these six steps, but it’s a solid place to start. This list is meant as a starting point, and hopefully there will be more ideas and initiatives in the weeks to come. To get a free PDF outline of this action plan, go to www.thecurated.group/covid and click on the download button.
Please stay updated. Stay home. Stay safe.
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