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What Coronavirus (COVID-19) Means for Real Estate Agents

Learn how to adapt your business and stay connected to clients
By Brian Shirlaw Mar 17, 2020

It feels like we’re living in a never-ending series of breaking news updates. Over the last two weeks, the Bank of Canada cut the overnight rate, schools in certain provinces were cancelled, travel advisories came into effect, and the Bank of Canada cut the overnight rate again.

Aside from lending rates, the real estate industry is starting to feel the COVID-19 effect. Upcoming events in BC and Alberta have been postponed, the April 6th change to the mortgage stress test has been delayed indefinitely, and the REBGV has suspended their rule mandating that listed homes be available for showings. But what does the coronavirus and all its associated public health recommendations mean for day-to-day agent operations? 

 

How Real Estate Agents Can Adapt to COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

  • Making the Necessary Coronavirus Changes
  • Working Digitally
  • Using Apps to Make Face-to-Face Time with Clients
  • Creating a Video Real Estate Tour
  • Hosting a Digital Open House
  • COVID-19 and Property Viewings
  • Understanding the Impact to the Market

 

Making the Necessary Coronavirus Changes

“Self-distancing” is a phrase that’s getting a lot of airtime, and deservedly so. Cutting down on group interactions, especially in public spaces, is a proven way to reduce both the number of infected people and the strain on health care services. In these times, being a good agent means keeping yourself and your clients safe with heightened sensitivity to others, practicing good hygiene and minimizing physical contact.

This recommendation against meet-ups obviously extends to client meetings. In a relationship-driven business like real estate, that may seem like an impediment to your ability to keep business running smoothly. However, there are a few ways agents can adapt to the COVID-19 environment and still maintain good connections with clients and potential contacts.

 

Working Digitally

“Business as usual” might feel like an impossibility right now. However, there are a few digital strategies you should still adopt.  Even with market uncertainty, it’s good practice to keep prospecting for new leads and maintain activity on social media channels. Buying and selling are still happening and you’ll want to make sure you’re there for those potential clients. There may be changes from your first touchpoint to sale/purchase, but making those early connections still helps.

 

Face to Face Time, Online

Real estate runs on human connection, and though it’s not recommended to meet in person, there are still plenty of ways to stay engaged with your clients. Make time to check-in on any client or contact you’ve been speaking with lately - it goes a long way as far as staying top of mind, and it’s an authentic way to keep the lines of communication open. 

To virtually meet with clients, you can use one of these video conferencing apps:

Consider using the same tools for listing presentations or contract walkthroughs. Think about replacing printed brochures and handouts with digital copies - we live in a digital world anyway, and your clients will appreciate the flexibility.

On the lighter side, you could send clients a list of at-home comfort recommendations. It’s a nice way to connect human-to-human instead of purely talking business. Whether it’s a list of books, albums or movies, some helpful articles, or even tips on how to stay comfortable at home, a fun distraction might be welcome.

 

Creating a Real Estate Video Tour 

Thanks to smartphones, nearly everyone is already equipped with everything they need to "show" a property while still observing the recommended self-distancing practices. To create a video tour, go ahead of time to the property and plan out a clear walking route. Here’s how to make a short, useful video home tour:

  • Go to your starting position (likely the entryway).

  • Hold your phone horizontally out in front of you, keeping your hands as steady as possible. 

  • Hit record. Stand still for five seconds as a clean starting point.

  • Walk along your mapped out path, moving the phone slowly to make sure you capture all of the property’s features.

You don’t have to spend much time editing your video, but there are some free tools you could use to punch things up a little. iMovie is an obvious one, but there are a number of mobile-friendly video apps like WeVideo available on the market. 

 

Hosting a Digital Open House

Open houses are always a popular way to show off a property, but they’re not advisable at the moment. Luckily, thanks to the magic of technology, there are actually a number of easy ways to host a “digital” open house. 

Social media apps like Facebook and Instagram have built-in “live” functionality, enabling you to start a live stream that anyone connected to you can join. You may also want to consider TikTok - yes, it’s known for comedy videos, but try searching “Real Estate TikTok” on google to get a sense of how other agents are using it. 

Once you’ve picked your live streaming app, here’s how to run an open house:

  • Set up a Facebook event called “[Property Name] Virtual Open House” that people can RSVP to.

  • Send all the interested people a link to your chosen app’s live stream (likely just your profile page) once you’re set up. 

  • Follow the video tour tips we outlined above to showcase the property.

  • Let any interested parties know how to contact you after the showing.

 

COVID-19 and Property Viewings

If you absolutely must meet with a client or arrange a showing, try to schedule private meetings rather than open houses during this time. Encourage everyone present to maintain as much distance as possible, including yourself. Smile, be as friendly as ever - just don’t shake hands! 

If you have access to the property beforehand, follow these thorough cleaning tips before inviting people inside to reduce the risk of any exposure. You may also want to schedule a “lock box” showing, meaning a property viewing where the seller’s agent doesn’t have to be there - it’s one fewer person at risk.

For any in-person tours, we recommend that your clients keep their viewing group to a bare minimum. As an added precaution, keep hand sanitizer, shoe protectors and some disinfectant wipes by the front door, and remind guests to use it before and after viewing the property.

 

Understanding the Coronavirus Impact on the Real Estate Market

With interest rates dropping, potential home buyers may see the coming weeks and months as a good opportunity to enter the market. Make sure you’re prepared with the latest information on lending options and stay engaged with your existing clients and current opportunities.

Beyond that, advise your clients to proceed with caution but not overly panic. To be honest, it’s great advice for all of us at the moment. We’ve done what we can to compile a list of helpful advice here - if you have any other tips to share, reach out to us anytime at [email protected]

Brian Shirlaw
Brian Shirlaw is an experienced marketing and communications professional with ten years of experience building brands, creating content and driving sales. In his free time, Brian reads, cooks, and nurtures his strong (too strong?) opinions about where to get the best burger in Vancouver.
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