Let us paint a little picture. It's 1995, and the real estate landscape is worlds away from what it is today.
- MLS Books are still the norm.
- Caravans usher agents around to view all the latest listings.
- Open houses are critical in selling.
- Photography is subpar.
- The only way to really see a home is in person.
If the coronavirus had hit 20 or 30 years ago, we'd be in a much different situation.
While the virus might be seriously impacting business, we have never lived in a better time to pull through it.
In 2020, technology is the key to maintaining our business and our relationships with clients and members of our sphere.
If you haven't previously conducted business using all the free apps and social media platforms at your fingertips, now is the time to start. We've compiled a list of the best apps and platforms for each aspect of your business during the pandemic.
Technology for Prospecting
Most agents use technology to find leads already. However, because other agents are doing the same thing right now (and no one is going to in-person networking events or soccer games), it's helpful to think of a few new ways to find leads online. Here are our suggestions:
Join Facebook groups
Have you joined as many relevant Facebook groups as possible? Posting on your own timeline is great, but social media algorithms can make it tricky to get the exposure you're looking for without exploring other avenues.
Join Facebook groups related to your community — and not just the ones for real estate. Try groups related to helping others during COVID-19, neighborhood event groups, groups related to pets, or anything else you can think of.
Be warned — you're likely to be banned if you only talk about real estate. Remember to cultivate relationships with people first. If people ask questions or bring up topics related to real estate and the virus, jump in and offer your advice and expertise.
Use Instagram hashtags relevant to your community
Using Instagram hashtags are one of the best ways to find content that pertains to your community. Check out your timeline and see which hashtags are trending. Instagram now makes it possible to "follow" a hashtag the way you'd follow a person. That said, create your own hashtag in relation to your real estate business, and tag photos with it.
Join Reddit communities
Search for the name of your town on Reddit, and you will likely find a Subreddit where users post relevant content. You could join any of the conversations, just as you would on Facebook, and find out who is interested in real estate. Many times, people who are just moving to an area will join groups like these.
Technology for Marketing Listings
Again, be creative when it comes to marketing your listings. Yes, people are online a lot more, but they are likely to be on social sites most of all. That means a smart agent like you should market listings as much as possible on social sites. Here are a few suggestions:
Use Instagram stories
People love Instagram stories, and you should use the stories to your advantage when you advertise a new listing. Photos and clips of video should be shared frequently, with location tags and anything else that will capture your audience's attention. While younger people love filters and stickers, a more mature buyer will likely appreciate relevant location pinning or hashtags.
Post video tours instead of hosting open houses
COVID-19 has made open houses a more dangerous endeavor. Instead, opt for video tours on social media platforms to get potential buyers excited about homes you've recently listed.
Colleen and Bryan Souza, two agents we spoke to in California, shared with us how they post virtual tours on their social platforms.
"The reason I'm out in the car is that I am going through all of our properties that are available, and I am doing Facebook Lives [video] and I am making sure people know, ‘Hey, this home is available for you to see, so, you know, make an appointment. We can take one family through this home at a time … because there's where we are cutting our open houses based on our new state mandate. So, obviously, I can't open doors and let people walk through it freely, but I can make sure they feel like they've walked through it virtually."
Let people in behind the scenes
Is a photographer taking professional photos of your listing? Follow along with your smartphone and create a live video of the photo shoot. Are you setting up lights around the property or pretty flowers on the porch? Share that with your audience. People love "behind the scenes" content, and especially now, when people are feeling scared or idle, your proactive and cheerful video will draw attention.
Technology for Facilitating a Sale
Your current clients will still want to remain in contact with you (and each other) despite not having physical contact. Fortunately, technology has made it easier than ever to host meetings and keep in touch throughout the process of selling a home. Here are a few ways to keep up the momentum with both the sellers and the buyers.
Chat on FaceTime, Google Duo, Facebook Messenger, etc.
When you aren't going to see someone in person, video is the next best thing. Keep sellers and buyers "in the loop" with video meetings to talk about the transaction. Whether you're on an iPhone or Android, there are options for free video chatting.
Bryan Souza talked about using FaceTime and a few other platforms that make it easy to connect with interested buyers:
"They have FaceTime, right? So, if you have, you have the iPhone, you can do a FaceTime tour. We have sold homes to people that we've never met physically. … So, if you haven't done that before, … FaceTime people — they love to see your face; they love to see the properties. Colleen wrote an offer up two days ago using that technology. If you don't have an iPhone, use Zoom, which we're using right now. … Use Google Hangouts as an app. ...Use Facebook Messenger. You can actually call somebody on Facebook Messenger, and you can actually use video with Facebook messenger, if you don't have any of that."
Help buyers get to know the neighborhood with Google Earth.
Did you know that you can help buyers get to know what a neighborhood looks like — even what shopping and/or amenities are nearby — with the help of Google? Simply visit Google Earth, then look up the address of a listed property and "look around" the surrounding area.
Colleen and Bryan have helped buyers explore neighborhoods, all from the comfort of the living room.
"You can actually put the property address in Google maps. There's a little icon of a person. There's a little orange little person. You can drop that person down into the neighborhood, and you can view the neighborhood. How many times have agents driven to a home, and then get out of the car, and the buyer looks at the neighborhood, and about 10 seconds later, says, 'I don't want to buy this house?' Yeah, you can save everybody that time using Google Maps, and be on the phone with them, be on FaceTime with them and talk them through the neighborhood. What are they looking at? What's around that home? What are the schools, restaurants? What are the amenities in that area? Where's the freeway access? Where's the airport? All of those things that are very, very important."
Technology for Closing the Deal
When the time comes for paperwork to be signed, e-documents are a smart, convenient solution. Nowadays, there's even software that helps you gather everything from signatures to financial documents, photo ID and other necessities.
Colleen and Bryan have used electronic signatures for a while now and are thankful for the option.
"I think one of the things that we can point out that it has been used for years now. I was one of the first early adopters of DocuSign when it first came out in our area, and there's a national certification called E-Pro. There were only three E-Pros that were in our area about 15 years ago. But now just about everybody uses digital signatures, digital signatures for sellers and documents, but also mobile notaries."
Here are a few options for your own electronic paperwork needs.
Ranked highly by a variety of websites, PandaDoc has a free version of its software and costs just $9 per month afterward for a few more features.
DocuSign is popular among many, and it comes with a free trial for 30 days. Plans after 30 days start around $25 a month for the basic package.
As one of the first options for getting documents signed electronically, AdobeSign is still fairly popular. Trials are 14 days long, and similar to DocuSign, a basic package after the trial is just $25.
A bit pricier than some other options, LighiCo is a one-stop shop for collecting all kinds of information from clients as well as signatures, and offers different versions of the software for different industries and needs.
Above all, remain a beacon of encouragement for the sellers who have listed with you — and buyers, too. Take it from the Souzas; a little encouragement and optimism goes a long way.