How This Real Estate Company Transformed Its Business Overnight
The global COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most challenging things we’ve had to face as a community and as an industry. While we watched in disbelief as the impact of the coronavirus revealed itself and rapidly expanded, we saw the bustling city streets of major metropolitan cities empty across the country. Residents have retreated to their homes and are practicing social distancing as they wait for the wrath of the pandemic to pass. While we are all working from home, we are continuing to provide service to our clients and persist with active listings and escrow. Facing the new reality that we will endure for some time, we banded together as a team and changed how we have conducted business over the past eight years.
Practically overnight, our business went from one that was built on human interaction and connection to one that is now conducted virtually. The practice of buying and selling real estate is one of the most emotional processes a person will undertake in their lifetime. In the era of coronavirus, conducting business virtually is still distinct from digital-only brokerages because we are sustaining established relationships, through a different medium, and for what we expect to be a limited time. There is truly nothing that can replace a dedicated real estate professional guiding you through the process.
At this time, we are conducting home tours, open houses and one-on-one client meetings by video conferencing—just a few of the many crucial in-person interactions that occur in the daily life of an agent. And we have had success stories over the past few weeks of homes being put into escrow after an agent has (while safely adhering to guidelines set forth by industry and government associations) conducted a video tour. But it is a real live person that we’ve met, known and worked with on the other side of the screen, and there is an established level of trust, as well as relationships, that had already formed between agent and client. Before coronavirus, we had rare recorded sales from virtual tours in both the resale and new development departments, typically only in cases of investment purchases.
The Agency has been utilizing virtual tools and technology long before the coronavirus pandemic. We paved the way in our industry with innovative video and social media marketing. We were the first real estate brokerage to create a lifestyle focused e-blast for clients around the world, and today, we have some of the most followed agents touring their followers around their homes on social media. That said, we are finding creative ways to showcase the scale of a house, provide a sense of place and deliver the feeling of a property through a screen. I am now preparing virtual home tours by setting up as though I am actually showing it in person. To prepare for a recent virtual property tour, I turned on all of the fireplaces, the water features and the surround sound—just as I would with a normal tour. I got back in my car, FaceTimed my client and drove up to the property’s entrance to begin the tour as if the client were next to me.
In addition to our existing videos, virtual tours and innovative marketing strategies already in place, we began hosting staff-guided virtual classes for agents to provide the latest tools and tips on utilizing social media for streaming live tours of listings, marketing, CRM tutorials and other items to brush up on their skills. We had an overwhelming response to our online learning classes, with agents telling us how valuable the support, tools and solutions were for readjusting their businesses and that it was nice to see familiar faces and to interact with colleagues, albeit online. We moved as many of our regular meetings as we could online, including our weekly sales meetings that are held at our headquarters in Beverly Hills each Tuesday and live-streamed to all agents across the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. Using Zoom, for the first time since launching the weekly sales meetings, everyone was able to be a part of the conversation in real time.
Adjusting swiftly and safely has allowed us to keep operating and serving our clients to the very best of our ability. Inspections and appraisals have been continuing, though some inspectors/appraisers have opted not to work during this time. We’re bringing lenders, title companies and all members involved in making a deal together virtually to record and continue the sales process. While the number of home tour requests and scheduled showings have declined since the COVID-19 outbreak, our website has had an uptick in visitor traffic. Our web data and analytics inform us that people are continuing to look at properties from the safety of their homes, and we continue to engage existing and prospective clients to let them know we’re here, working to provide service and support.
It is imperative for agents to be entrepreneurial to succeed, so adjusting to changing situations quickly and overcoming challenges is all part of the job. Given this time of social isolation, we will continue to be experts in our respective markets, educate and guide our clients every step of the way, and continue to broker transactions, all by utilizing and offering virtual solutions to our business.