Ralph DiBugnara is President of Home Qualified, a digital resource for the buyers, sellers and realtors driving today’s millennial market.
The emergence of Covid-19 pushed real estate agents into the great unknown of what home sales would look like for 2020. But by now, houses are selling at a faster rate than they did last year, according to data released by the National Association of Realtors. What has also accelerated is the use of virtual tours, remote sales, and buyers making offers without actually stepping foot in the property. The need now for social distance has made a virtual plan a necessity and not something optional for agents to learn.
Some of the most used tools for 2020 have been virtual tours and smart contracts. According to The New York Times, on the NYC-based real estate search tool StreetEasy, “between the second and third quarters of this year, the number of sales listings with 3-D tours increased by 110 percent. And Zillow reported a 152 percent increase in listings with 3-D Home tours between this October and the same time last year.” New platforms using smart contacts facilitate “live remote collaboration … including shared editing ability, tracked changes, and both blockchain signatures and e-signatures.”
Not only has real estate become virtual but because of work and school from home, much of society has also become more technology-savvy based on need. Zoom’s user base grew from 10 million people last December to over 300 million by June 2020 as school, social gatherings and business meetings went remote. To not adapt now could be a death sentence for agents in a rapidly growing market and business.
The good news is that because of such a great need, online tools have become more and more available and affordable. Scheduling appointments through personalized apps and communicating through videoconferencing will become and remain the norm. We use so many of these apps in our daily lives already, and over the last 12 months, more business tools have been added to them. Most agents these days have access through their agencies to a customer relationship management platform that helps with basic marketing and email campaigns. But is this enough to set yourself apart from the competition?
I believe that what today’s buyers and sellers want more than anything is efficient, fast communication, and information when they need it that they wouldn’t be able to find on their own. So not only do you have to be skilled in delivering a virtual experience but as an agent, you need to be organized and fast as well.
Real estate professionals could be at risk of loss of business if they are not well-versed in technology being used today. Such tools include e-signing platforms like DocuSign for signatures on contracts instead of handwritten signatures or virtual tours during the pandemic instead of trying to explain a property the potential buyer cannot see in person. These tools will streamline the process and better serve clients’ needs. The fundamentals of sales have not changed, but the tools required to improve your process are available and should be explored.
If you have not as an agent adapted to the new normal, now is the time. There are still a lot of uncertainties about the availability of a widely distributed coronavirus vaccine, so our “new” world is our reality for the foreseeable future. When the pandemic is finally over, most of the public will have created a new process for themselves, and it will include the expectation of high-level virtual service. Learning the tools now will only enhance your business and make you more accessible to your customers, all the while giving each agent more time to work because less time is spent traveling around to complete tasks. This new world is worth embracing.