Homeowners seeking larger spaces in the suburbs, prequalified renters and Millennials seeking their first homes are emerging from their COVID hibernations to discover not only prices holding steady but also fewer homes available for purchase.
Much of the seller reluctance to make a move can be attributed to fears over job loss and the future of the economy.
So how does a real estate agent in the midst of a pandemic strengthen a buyer’s position in a tight market while convincing more sellers it’s a great time to sell their homes? Glad you asked. We’ve got 5 ways to help you push your deals across the finish line in today’s tight inventory market.
Many potential sellers who don’t have to list today are taking a “wait and see” approach from the sidelines rather than risk a line of strangers trudging through their homes. But rather than wait out the virus, savvy agents are getting a jump-start on listings by including 3D virtual showings, such as Zillow’s new 3D Home, as well as live and recorded digital tours on FaceTime and dotloop integration partner BombBomb.
As a result, sellers are seeing more traffic on their listings. In March, Zillow 3D Home tour listings received about 50% more site visitors and were saved approximately 60% more frequently than other listings. Also, about a quarter of recent home buyers say they prefer 3D tours to in-person viewings, while almost half said they wish more listings included 3D tours.*
For Quentin Dane, who co-owns The DASH Realty Group, Raleigh, NC, the 3D tool expands the shopping window for potential buyers from the “one hour that I might be able to meet them when they get off work to 24 hours a day. The 3D tour gives buyers a fully immersive way to remove any questions they may have about the property.”
The virtual tech also lets DASH agents host virtual open houses every day from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. to personalize the virtual tour experience for any Zillow shoppers who may click on the listings. “It used to be that one agent would go to one house and hope someone would stop by. The truth is, now people are driving by on Zillow.com so I can have one agent sit home and have 100 people come in to the virtual listings from 100 different properties,” says Quentin.
In addition to booking proprietary 3D Home tours, Zillow’s Choose Virtual program allows buyers to view floor plans, eSign and, where possible, close remotely.
“This gives buyers value add and removes any obstacles 24/7. I love the 3D tour and what technology has brought to real estate during this pandemic has truly increased our efficiencies as an industry,” says Dane.
After a steep drop in early spring, new for-sale listings are up 12.5% month-over-month as of the seven days ending May 10, though they remain down 27.6% from last year, according to Zillow Research.
There is, however, one oft-ignored alternative to engaging in bidding wars and waiting for inventory to return — new construction. According to the 2019 New Construction Housing Trends Report, 64% of active buyers are open to buying new construction.
New construction offers several advantages over existing homes. One, new properties tend to lead to quicker transactions, often within days since there’s fewer issues associated with existing homeowners and inspections. Also, customers can often choose their own finishes and customize the home to their preferences.
Another great way to encourage the reluctant seller to list is the option of selling to an iBuyer. Quentin and Lady Dane, who represent Zillow when they buy and sell homes through Zillow Offers, find this option provides their clients with a huge value add by giving them a guaranteed cash offer.
“Getting your family out of the house to show a property is difficult even in normal business times. Now with the kids at home, it’s even more challenging. iBuying is a great convenience, but also there’s the certainty that comes with getting that guaranteed offer,” says Quentin. “For buyers, Zillow doesn’t have that emotional tie to the home compared to the seller who raised their kids in the house and has so many stories left behind. So when we make an offer for a $1 less than what they asked, you don’t have to worry about offending them, whereas if you offend a typical seller, it can kill the deal. iBuying removes that psychology that you have to deal with on the conventional market.”
Timing is the other critical advantage to buying or selling an iBuyer property. “If a seller wants to get into a new house for the next school year,” Quentin says, “they can sell their house to an iBuyer when they want to sell it.”
If a client needs to adjust the move-in date, say for weather delays on new construction, they can sell their existing home on their own time frame using an iBuyer that offers flexible closing dates.
“For sellers who want to both sell their house and get into new construction, Zillow Offers iBuying allows that to happen so much easier,” Quentin notes.
In Hilton Head, SC, where half of the property owners have other homes out of the area, ERA agent Seth Tilton finds just having a digital transaction management platform is essential to doing business for its speed of action.
The mobile app also helps him make speedy offers on the spot. “I can be in my car with my laptop or phone with clients who love a house and make an offer right there, rather than have to go back to my office and fax the offer,” says Tilton. “I can also create a loop directly from the ERA platform, allowing me to log into one platform rather than two.”
Dane agrees. “If two offers come in on a listing and one is a handwritten offer and the other has dotloop signatures, every single time, I’ll tell my sellers to go with the dotloop offer. As sellers, we need convenience in our lives. If I can present to my seller the less difficult option, that’s how we separate ourselves.”
Certain dotloop features help expedite the offer and the transaction. Tasks lists, for instance, helps agents like Tilton organize clients and expedite tasks such as signing an exclusive agreement, getting prequalified and issuing the digital transfer of earnest money once an offer is made.
Teams and brokerages can also help their agents and admins expedite offers by using Loop Templates, an easy way to add prepopulated details using either the desktop or mobile app.
At any point in the transaction, text Messenger allows agents to share documents, collect eSignatures and make contact with buyers when a fast response is needed in a tight market.
In Hilton Head’s beachside community, texting on a mobile-first transaction platform is critical for agents like Tiilton to do business with remote clients. “I use the app for on-the-fly business, which is how I do 80% of my work,” he says. “My admins and broker are connected. My VIP inspectors and attorneys are connected in the loop, so when they see a notification come in from me, it’s like a family group text that makes the process all that much more efficient.”
For listing agents, the Easy Offer™ feature within dotloop provides a handy tool for sharing a folder and its documents in a loop via a public link. Agents can place the link on their email or social media to quickly and easily share information and documents on the listing with any buying agent or prospect while maintaining complete control over what the buying agent sees.
In these uncertain times, many would-be buyers and sellers might want to transact but just need that extra reassurance from their agent or broker to enter the market. To help keep his agents’ names front and center with potential clients, Gus Grizzard, broker and owner of ERA Grizzard Real Estate, Leesburg, FL, integrates his CRM, kvCORE, with dotloop to automate marketing pieces such as monthly newsletters.
“The idea of automating processes and eliminating as many manual touches is key,” says Grizzard, whose ERA brokerage leads in Florida and is a nationally ranked company by RIS Media and Real Trends. “One of the reasons why we went with dotloop was its open architecture since it communicates with different systems. This ability to integrate with our CRM is huge.”
With unsold inventory affecting most markets, many industry experts predict a sellers market to linger at least through the end of 2020.
“What we’re seeing and feeling and getting the pulse on buyers and sellers locally is because the inventory has shrunk so much, it will be very hard to turn this into a buyers market any time soon,” says Dane.
“These are completely unprecedented times that you can’t even point back to anything that compares — 9/11 or the Great Recession — but we’re right in the middle of a health crisis, which is drastically affecting our economic environment, especially with unemployment,” says Grizzard. “That is the big piece affecting residential real estate. It’s a matter of how quickly we can get these people back to work.”
The good news is buyer demand is bouncing back and agents are finally adopting the digital technology that will better prepare them for any market they may encounter in the future.
Source: *Zillow Economic Research | Zillow Data