Since it first broke out in the United States last month, the coronavirus has caused a shift in virtually every aspect of our lives.
Businesses have been forced to close, more people are working from home, and major events like weddings and concerts have been canceled.
But as real estate agents, we still maintain a level of control over our businesses.
Despite the obvious challenges of doing business during a pandemic, you still have the ability to stay afloat and even thrive in these difficult times. There are numerous opportunities for growth right now, and your mindset has a lot to do with whether or not you’ll succeed.
The global impact of this virus is devastating — both from a health care and economic standpoint. But with every cloud, there is a silver lining.
There are things we can do as real estate agents to be proactive, sustain our businesses and weather this storm. Studies from past pandemics show that when markets take a nosedive, they return to pre-market levels fairly quickly after the pandemic resolves.
The agents who survive any major market slowdown are the ones who fight through them. Gary Keller recently sent a letter to members of his team, urging them to take four major actions to work through the coronavirus market.
1. Wake up and pay attention.
We can't ignore what’s happening in the world. We need to pay attention to relevant news and react accordingly.
2. Learn to live on less.
We need to carefully budget how we’ll spend our money. Once we come up with goals, we need to spend on things that support those goals. If you have a program or strategy that’s working for you or has the potential to bring you business, don’t abandon it.
3. Double down on leads.
Put all of your efforts into converting the leads you have. Hone in on your sphere because that's where your leads are likely to come from.
4. Lean into the market of the moment.
Lean into the market as it is today, and be proactive. Adapt to the changes that need to be made to do business in this market.
I recently spoke to an agent named Bryan Souza who lives in California. Bryan and his wife, Colleen, worked together during the Great Recession and came out of it stronger than ever.
“Having gone through all that, I can tell you honestly, today's environment is a hundred times better,” Bryan says. “Having been through this bell curve before, riding the rollercoaster of the Great Recession, I can tell you that there's a lot of opportunity here for agents to really grow their business and not slow their business.”
It’s true that some agents will crash and burn during this current market shift. These are the agents who give up or sit around and wait for better days to come.
But if you take the opposite approach — by being proactive and continuing to work — you can take advantage of all the opportunities those other agents are leaving behind.
Understanding Buyers and Sellers
Right now, sellers and buyers are concerned about the economy, and they're concerned about being exposed to the coronavirus during home showings.
Our job is to put our clients’ minds at ease by letting them know we will exert control over their transactions. We may not be able to control the virus, but we can take steps to safeguard our clients.
If we allow ourselves to give into the stress and chaos, we're going to pass our anxieties onto our clients, and they’ll lose confidence in our abilities.
Despite their concerns, people will continue buying and selling in this environment, and they’ll choose to work with confident and proactive agents.
Bryan and Colleen have taken steps to ensure their clients feel comfortable continuing to buy or sell during the pandemic.
“We're going to ask adults to hold the children's hands,” Bryan says. “We'll have most of the doors open for people already and all the lights will be on, so eliminating the touching of surfaces is going to be really important to comply, as well.”
“It's gonna be a little more work for me, but it gives my sellers the assurance that people are being monitored in their home or that if something happens, I'll be able to report that to them,” Colleen says. “I'm going to let you know the person that came through never stopped sneezing. You might want to go buy a case of Clorox wipes, whatever the situation is, and then reassuring them to clean the house up afterwards.”
Devising an Actionable Plan
Before you can fight your way through the coronavirus market, you need to devise a realistic plan of action. What steps will you take to adapt your business?
- What day-to-day operations can you conduct virtually?
- How will you pre-screen buyers who want to tour the homes you list?
- What restrictions and safeguards will you place on home showings to minimize the number of people entering the homes and the number of surfaces they’re touching? Will you open doors? Turn on all lights ahead of time? Put signs on the bathroom door to discourage people from using it?
- Which items will you provide during showings? Gloves? Masks? Hand sanitizer?
- Will you attend all home showings to keep a watchful eye on buyers and report any potential hazards (like sneezing, coughing, etc.) to your clients?
- Will you stay after each showing to help your clients disinfect their homes?
Taking steps like these shows your clients you genuinely care for their wellbeing.
Adapting to the Market
Right now, we're still in a seller's market. This is what we need to lean into, to quote Gary Keller. Prices are still good, and buyers are still looking for homes. We need to approach the market as it is today and be prepared to adapt as it changes.
If you’re working with buyers:
- Many sellers right now are more concerned about buyers actually following through on their offers than obtaining the highest price. Rather than trying to make the highest offer, consider constructing an offer with more upfront earnest money. A lot of agents are seeing sellers accept concrete offers over high-price ones.
- Encourage your buyers to be more lenient about small favors — like including appliances in the sale or requesting small repairs. Many professionals aren’t allowed to conduct business, so requiring sellers to complete certain projects could be impossible or halt the sale.
- If buyers are willing to be flexible on move-in dates, their offers may be more attractive to sellers. The current market is making it more difficult for people to move because some moving professionals and truck rental companies aren’t allowed to operate.
- Because prices are low, investors are looking to purchase more properties than ever. This is a great opportunity to partner with investors in your area and try to establish a long-term relationship that will benefit both of you.
If you’re working with sellers:
- Advise your clients to consider the solidity of offers rather than just the sticker price. Because many people are facing financial difficulties, you should ensure that any offers on the homes you list are backed up with substantial earnest money, pre-approvals, and proof of ability to purchase.
- As I mentioned, investors are trying to capitalize on the lower prices in this market. This can bode well for your sellers, but it can also put them at risk of getting less money for their homes than they deserve. The key here is to be your clients’ biggest advocate. Help them navigate the offers they receive to make sure they’re fair.
Over the next few weeks and months, the market will continue to shift and change. It’s your job to keep up with those changes and adapt your strategy to continue working with buyers and sellers who need your help in these difficult times.
The reality is that people need food, clothing, and shelter. No matter how much the market shifts, people will need homes to live in. Embrace the changes that you can't control. The agents who figure out how to adapt will be the same ones working when the world reopens its doors.