Well, that escalated quickly! The speed and the global scale of major change that we are faced with is unprecedented, and it’s scary. And uncertain. We’ve got some tough times ahead. We all know that. But how tough?? A lot of that has to do with our attitude, and what we do with the time that we are given.
A friend of mine called me yesterday and said that she had been told that “Real Estate is going to go dark tomorrow!” (We live in Washington, which went under our state’s version of a “shutdown” as of last night, the 25th of March). We both know that real estate is definitely NOT “going dark” but we are also both still processing what our new normal is, and how it’s all going to look as we move through this next phase. So we decided to share some facts and some inspiration with you about what can still happen. What are 10 ways that you can keep your real estate business going during this down turn?
- It’s all about attitude. Seriously. To be honest, right now I am having to work for this every single day…. it’s okay if you don’t automatically have a great attitude. But get one. This pandemic does NOT mean the end for your business. Get creative, get innovative, do not turn the lights out. Now, if you want to view this as an opportunity for much needed down time for yourself or with your loved ones, if you need to recharge….. by all means DO THAT. But don’t stop working because you think there is nothing to do.
- Here in Washington transactions are still closing. Title and Escrow is staying open, the courthouse recording office is accessible to escrow by appointment, signings can still happen in person with only the parties to the signing present (not agents). So if you’ve got transactions approaching closing, at least here in Washington it is totally doable to get those wrapped up.
- Take care of your clients. Communicate. Going into this, I have had a lot more time to connect with my clients than I typically do because showings and new listings were slowing down. If your state has not gone into a “shutdown” yet, prepare your clients as best as you can for what is coming, talk with them about strategies to get through it, etc. And, perhaps most importantly, just connect with them person to person. If your state has gone into shutdown, just keep doing this – don’t talk about real estate (unless there is really something there to talk about) just check on them.
- Prepare to do things differently! In the market that I work in, virtual tours aren’t used extensively. It’s just not a thing. But when we got the notice that Washington was going to shut down for awhile, I got a virtual tour app on my phone and started to figure it out – and other agents in my market were doing the same thing. It’s not as good as an in person showing, obviously, and I don’t really expect (or want) anyone to start a transaction based on a virtual tour. I suppose there may be that unique case out there in which that would make sense, but really this is about providing one more way for buyers to engage with and experience a property during this time that we can’t show properties in person, and it’s also about your sellers feeling that you are doing everything you possibly can to continue to market their property in the face of these restrictions. Now that the shutdown is here, in Washington, I can actually edit all these virtual tours and upload them for use… that should keep me busy for a couple of days!
- Get involved with your local realtor association or lobby directly with your state government to influence how this all goes down. Here is an example: in the market I work in, in rural Washington, we have a lot of vacant land listings and sales. Per the statewide shutdown order, after today we are not allowed to conduct our business outside of our homes, which includes doing things like photographing properties. Obviously now is not the time to be going to photograph people’s homes. However, photographing a piece of vacant land is a different scenario entirely. If I can work on preparing and advertising these listings, I am not only serving my clients through this, but also helping to keep the economy flowing, albeit in a small way. I AM NOT ADVOCATING GOING AGAINST DIRECTIVES OF STATES. This is where getting involved with your local lobbying group. As states have gone on shut down, I have heard stories from across the country of what it means being figured out as we go. They don’t have all the answers up front, be a part of the solution by helping to figure out ways that we can keep doing business responsibly and safely, both for ourselves and for the economy.
- Do what you can. Be available to help. Honestly, I’m glad that they considered real estate a “non-essential” business here in Washington. I think that is the most responsible choice. However, sometimes, in certain situations, real estate is essential. I am experiencing a surprisingly high volume of calls from potential buyers, and while there is a lot that I can’t do to help them, I’m doing everything I can. And I’m keeping myself available. I think I may be experiencing a high call volume because other agents are not making themselves available and so buyers just go down the list and call until they reach a person.
- Go learn something. It’s pretty obvious that this is the perfect time to take online classes, research new tools, practice your photography skills. Make the most of it.
- Create something. Have you been thinking about producing some videos? Need to up your listing presentation game? Build your facebook page? I know there are things in this category that I need to work on and that I never seem to find the time for. Make this time count!
- Pay attention to what the satellite business can and can’t do in your state! I’m talking about home inspectors, well drillers, notaries, etc….. all the people who come into play during a real estate transaction. Did you know that on the 23rd, FHFA instructed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to accept alternative forms of appraisals??? This means desk appraisals and/or “exterior-only” appraisals through at least mid-May. In theory, that means that an appraisal can get done on a transaction. Home inspections are certainly going to be a challenge for those that have not already been completed. For folks in states that have not yet been shut down… would you consider recommending to your sellers to have a home inspection done now, before you do get shut down? While I’m not sure I would, it is something to think about. Well drillers and septic companies should still be able to stay in business as “essential services”, and the services they provide for real estate don’t usually require them to come into contact with anyone. Washington state is working to authorize “remote notaries” to help facilitate signings…. honestly I’m not sure what that looks like exactly, but it seems like a pretty big deal. So, pay attention to what these satellite businesses can continue to do, and utilize that to continue serving your clients as appropriate.
- Circling back… keep up that great attitude. If you don’t, if we don’t, real estate will go dark. Or more realistically, the people who do keep up the great attitude will get all the business. Tough times are ahead, and we don’t know just how tough, or for how long. But take heart and keep at it. I really like this quote that I have seen circling the internet recently
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
Emily Gibson | Broker