As agents and brokers try to make sense of the new normal with social distancing regulation in place, customers will increasingly look to you for solutions and support as they navigate the possibilities of buying and selling a home.
3D scans and video walkthroughs, virtual staging and video emails, social content and, most of all, lots of clear communication are just a few of the ways you can help your clients find home as we ride out these turbulent times together.
If you’re a real estate agent suddenly tasked with the challenge of transforming a high-touch business into a fully remote, digital operation, here are 6 ways to make it work.
Be sure to download the PDF version of this guide to share with other agents and brokers who could use these tips.
Communication is king now. When people are sheltering in place, sending a genuine, personable message of support can reach people in powerful ways. It tells your customers that you’re thinking about them and that you care. When done well, communication can build rapport for the lifetime of a relationship.
While it’s not a good practice to try and predict the real estate market’s future with clients, you can gently remind prospects that buying real estate in a bear market has historically been a wise long-term investment.
Here are some other ways to connect with clients and the community and keep the communication lines open:
Regular communication is even more key for homebuyers who are in pending transactions. Check in regularly and often to let them know when the transaction is progressing smoothly. No news can be bad news in these times to the nervous homebuyer.
Conversely, be transparent when you hit a glitch. Throughout the process, step up your communication format with free teleconference tools that let you relate in real time. Skype, Zoom, FreeConferenceCall.com and FaceTime are a few platforms that let you talk and see all parties on screen.
By being an advisor, an advocate and a source of information, you can educate prospects on your ability to turn a high-contact open house into a virtual “live house” with 3D scans, video tours and digital staging.
Zillow Premier Agent Rebecca Mosbarger, who’s based in California’s historic “Gold Country” of Grass Valley and Nevada City, has always offered her out-of-town clients short video clips and video conferencing where possible and when virtual and 3D tours are not available on MLS. Now, she says, it may be the norm for all of her buyers.
Because still shots make it hard to grasp the layout of a home, she can offer her listing clients a full photo shoot package with 3D and virtual tours, drone and around 50 still shots for about $500. When possible virtual staging is also used, but it’s easiest when the home is vacant or the rooms have minimal furniture.
So many real estate apps can offer home shoppers peace of mind by allowing them to tour and view a house without having to step foot inside.
Here are a few virtual and digital platforms to check out for your “live house:”
DIY Video Tours. After a couple refused to host visitors to a condo open house in Los Angeles recently, agents Heather T. Roy and Learka Bosnak of Douglas Elliman quickly pivoted and shot a video of the $2.39M Hollywood area home that they then posted to Instagram and Facebook. More than 2,200 people engaged with the post — far more than would have typically attended an in-person open house.
Sellers can take their own video tours using a smartphone and maybe a gimbal mount or a mini tripod to help stabilize the video. You or the seller can then host the video tour via FaceTime or Skype.
You might check your MLS to see if they allow you to upload videos as well as virtual tours. Some MLS also allow you to update forms for closing date extensions and offer expanded photo storage of 50+ photos. Click here for more ideas on how to “Keep the Deal Moving Forward Digitally.”
Change and government action is moving at a fast clip right now. What might seem like a benign situation in your community today may be different next week. While some West Coast cities were still reporting multiple bids at open houses last week, new shelter-in-place orders changed those selling landscapes in a matter of days.
On the other hand, many brokers like Daryl Rogers, President of Better Homes & Gardens, Reliance Partners, Roseville, CA, thinks that when this thing lifts, the housing market is going to come back in a big way. The “pent-up” buying demand will require extra resources to capture photography and process lending paperwork — tasks that could be accomplished now.
Don’t get caught unprepared. Prepare today by adding 3D scans to listings now and forge partner alliances with lenders, mobile notaries and other professionals who can help solve problems together.
“I just taped a video for someone who will make an offer on a house that will have multiple offers on it,” says Mosbarger. “The buyer knows I’m extremely picky and observant. He trusts my eye to pick up things that they may have missed even if they were on site. With a video, they can see that I’ve been on site and feel much more comfortable putting an offer on the property without even walking through the door. Some listing agents don’t like to accept offers from buyers “sight unseen” especially if they have a multiple offer situation. But when they ask if my client has been on property, I can say, ‘They saw this video’ and it helps ease their concerns.”
In addition to preparing videos and 3D scans, work ahead with lenders to prequalify and lock-in homebuyers with low-interest rates.
All-in-one real estate transaction platforms allow agents to share, edit and eSign documents with their clients within a fully mobile-first, digital system. An end-to-end platform will further let you refer third-party providers, like lenders and home warranty companies, while agents and admins can submit for review on their phones.
Many agents are closing deals with mobile notaries who watch as the homebuyer signs papers then notarizes them remotely. Notarize.com lets you legally sign and notarize documents 100% online, while OnlineNotary.net provides a remote notary platform to all 50 states with the help of a video call. Many title companies are using mobile notaries and a video teleconference platform, like Zoom or Google Hangouts, to watch and supervise the signing.
In addition to remote bank wiring, there’s Earnnest.com, which touts banking-level security and encryption to fully and securely transfer funds for real estate transactions.
Letting customers know when you’re busy goes far to ease their worries and head off consumer panic. Updating posts with the current interest rates can also help create a sense of urgency.
“This is uncharted territory,” Sherry Tobak of New York condo developer Related Companies, recently shared with the Wall Street Journal. “We somehow have to create the same urgency and excitement that a buyer would normally experience when they come through the sales office.”
Don’t miss this opportunity to reach out to investors. The dip in the market and low-interest rates sends a cue to investors who may be interested in purchasing single-family homes as sources of extra income.
Also, remind your home buying customers that the action they take today on today’s low-interest rates will spell big savings for 10, 20 or even 30 years down the road. For instance, a 30-year mortgage at 3.5% versus a 4.5% rate might save the customer $20,000 over a 30-year period. Under that scenario, buying now makes more sense than waiting until rates rise.
When done well, digital technology can reward with silver linings in new leads and ways to stand out from the competition. How are you helping to allay your customers’ fears and concerns? Please share it in the comments section below.