Back in March, COVID-19 hit the U.S., and the real estate industry was thrown into a tailspin. Agents across the country were forced to reevaluate and make changes to keep their businesses afloat.
But seven months later, the market has drastically improved, and in many places, completely recovered. We recently checked in with agents across the country to find out how they coped with the pandemic crisis and how business is going today.
Perhaps surprisingly, many of them say their businesses have never been in better shape.
Don Dunbar — Bay Area, CA
“I actually have done pretty good when it comes to sales. Most of the properties I sell, a lot of them are properties for investments, so I do pretty good.
“I work with a lot of first-time home buyers, as well. So I'm going back and forth to Stockton like every weekend showing houses. I actually just sent a contract to an agent before I got on the line, but I'm working a lot with real estate. I have a relationship with a foreclosure bank, so I'm getting — I got one of those ready to go. We're in escrow dealing with that, and I do a lot of things with families and getting families together to buy. So that's been one of the main things because the values are so high up here. You know, and it’s continually rising.
“People are saying, ‘Well, I'll just wait till COVID.’ For me, I had to adjust my open house set up because that was a good way that I would get the property out. I do a lot of social media. I did the virtual home tour, virtual open house, which I thought was kind of ridiculous. One, because I was there all day. No one even said anything. And then the next day on a Sunday, my phone blew up with people going to the property, wanting to see the property. It was a vacant one. So and then this weekend, I did something. It was shown by appointment. I put it out there, and I had one individual call me about the property that wanted to come by there and just take a look at it. So, you know, I just adjust with it.”
Bob Thompson — Hampton Roads, VA
“When the COVID thing first hit, there was definitely a sense of panic in terms of, OK, we're shutting this down and we're just going to have to make do with whatever closings we've got coming.
“I actually took a couple of my higher-end properties off the market. And when I say higher-end for Hampton Roads, we're talking like $450k is higher end. So I pulled some of those off the market because there was just so much, you know — everything was in flux. I didn't see any point to leaving them on the market when I wasn't going to be able to say, ‘OK, why is this thing not selling?’ Because we don't know what's going on. And at the time, folks that are buying a $450k property typically are more influenced by the stock market and things of that nature, and that was going crazy. So it was the best-case scenario to just, let's walk away for a month and see what happens.
“Lower end properties kind of did what they were going to do. Then surprisingly enough, all of the short sales that I had that had been taking forever to get done magically got done because the bank had way more time to deal with them and wanted to get them off their books. So after about a month of ‘Holy cow, let's start saving our pennies." Things kind of just started going back to normal, didn't do a whole lot of virtual selling.
“I'll be quite honest, and I'm probably in the minority. I don't really believe video selling works. I think folks need to get their hands on it and look at the property. Now it's fine from a starter's point of view in terms of, ‘OK, you live in California and you're buying in Hampton Roads.’ We can FaceTime and you can go, ‘OK, well, let's put it contingent on me viewing the property and all that,’ but at the end of the day, it's been my experience that your average Joe wants to get in there and feel that property and see that property and just kind of have that sense of, ‘Wow, this is going to be my new home, and I love it and Bob, can you make it happen?’ So then, if things have gone and gone back to normal, rates are great. What I'm telling everybody in Hampton Roads is it's a great time to sell. It's a terrible time to buy because you're overpaying like a champ.
“For the most part, (it’s about) being respectful of what the seller's desires are. I have a seller that, pre COVID to post COVID, she ended up moving her 80-year-old mother into the home. So we're only allowed to show the house on weekends and they have to wear a mask, gloves and booties. So that's been a bit of a challenge. It's a higher-end property, but I mean, it is what it is. It's going to sell sooner or later. And it's just a matter of being patient and respecting her wishes. Other than that, that's really been it. I've been blessed where a lot of times, it's been a vacant property or something like that, so you can kind of go in and do your thing.
“I do a lot of pre-showing, especially if I've got a client that kind of wants something a little bit out of the ordinary, then I'll do the pre-showing ahead of time. So I can go ahead and cut down and eliminate, ‘OK, well, they got six properties they like. I'm going to look at them and I'm going to narrow it down to three because the other three don't really fit. So that helps with just kind of, just me going in and getting out without bringing the whole, you know, mom, dad, and the kids.
“While we were having that down period, I got my diversity training. I got a couple of different little what I would call quote, unquote, “little real estate diplomas,” little bobbles and trinkets that whether anybody likes it or not, the banks like, and I had like a month there where that's really, all I could do was just, OK, put my head down and got my North Carolina license and just, you know, got ready.”
Madison Schott — Black Hills, SD
“I actually sell in Western South Dakota in the Black Hills area. So I focus mostly on the Northern Hills area but kind of sell everywhere in our Black Hills location. I just celebrated my one year of being licensed in August. But I've been familiar and kind of training in the industry since June of 2019, so just a little over a year. I recently joined a new team, so I started out doing real estate on a team, and it wasn't the right fit for me. So I joined a new team right as COVID hit. So that was back — oh that would have been April. I joined in April and have been with them ever since and definitely a great fit for me now. I do, you know, 99% residential, and buy and sell, don't really have a specialty there yet, but that’s what I've been doing so far.
“It was shocking, but it definitely, my production has never been better since this started. I mean, your first year, you know, you're not expected to produce very much, but you know, I had 21 pending homes under contract in the last three months. From COVID, our market skyrocketed, the Black Hills, I don't know if it's just, they want to get out of the big cities, but everybody and their brother, it seems, is coming to our location. It is such a hot seller's market right now that we've got a lot of people wanting to downsize or upsize, you know, whatever that looks like for them.
“It's been crazy, but I can't complain. (In) South Dakota, I think everybody kind of knows where the governor stands on things. So that's definitely affected how we run things a little bit. Virtually, my life has not been much different. I worked out of the office and from home for about two months. Then, we were kind of back in it full swing by June. We show houses like normal. We do open houses like normal. We wear masks when people ask us to, you know, wash your hands, use hand sanitizer. But other than that, I mean, I definitely have a lot more virtual than I did before, but it's not, I think how most agents are dealing with it around the world.”
Chris Cusimano — Boca Raton, FL
“What was it? March 13th. You know, it was weird. So I was showing properties and my videographer, he calls me like three times in a row in a panic. And the text was like, ‘Chris, you need to start stocking up your house. Now the government's going to shut us down for weeks.’ I'm like, ‘What are you talking about, anyways?’ Well, he wasn't totally wrong, but he wasn't totally right. And you know, it was weird.
“It was kind of a sign of like, I guess a lot of real estate agents — the successful ones — are business people. We just — we feel guilty when we're not productive. We're not doing something. So when it hit, a couple of things happened first. My son was born in March, and it was a combination of, OK, my son is born and now I have the opportunity to take a sigh and not feel guilty. Like, I'm not competing with anyone. No one's going to shame me for not going to work. You know, no one's going to shame me for, if we go into debt, I can just go in the ironic thing of it all. It gave me more time to use that time to study and research and grow the business. And it's probably been my best year yet. And I think that's a direct correlation to taking that breather.
“I think that's everything in life. People have two ways of looking at the situation that they're handed. And I don't know if there's unfortunate or fortunate, a small percentage of people look at things as how can I twist this into a positive one? A lot don't, and if you're aware of that, you're cognizant of that. And you put yourself in the positive mindset, you can get yourself ahead. Cause while everyone else has their head in the sand, you pull yourself up and you're OK. Let's figure something out and utilize this opportunity to our advantage.
“I was like, I have a coaching program that I wasn't on here to push, but what it did was during that two weeks, I could really focus on the content for that. And we revamped everything and relaunched it to be like greater and better than ever. It was. And again, I stopped myself because I didn't want it to come up here as a plug in. And then I'm like, well, that's really what I focus my time on. And ironically, the relationships I made with other agents along that way has helped grow my business even more.”