Updated: Oct 10, 2020
What a year 2020 has been for the world. This COVID-19 pandemic caught nearly everyone by surprise and has tested the economic stability in many countries across the world. We want to share our condolences with families that have been impacted by this awful disease and hope everyone is staying safe.
Though the pandemic has created many problems for the real estate industry, in this article, we’d like to take a different perspective on assessing this pandemic. More specifically we’d like to focus on what this pandemic is telling us and what realtors should learn from it.
The silver lining
As with most bad situations, there is usually a silver lining if you pay attention and look closely. The ability to distill signals among the noise, see things with a unique perspective, and extract key insights from situations are common capabilities that many successful people possess. For most people, they respond to reality as it unfolds without much anticipation into how reality will unfold.
Much like people swimming at the beach, they get carried around with the waves, moving up and down without much foresight into what to expect next. As we saw with COVID19, a lot of businesses were not adequately ready to handle this tsunami, and thus crippled many businesses and put them out of operations. Successful people and businesses anticipate what waves will come and thereby ensure they are prepared with a surfboard to ride the waves.
Ok a little abstract here but we think you get our point. We think it is critical for successful agents of tomorrow to understand the impact of this pandemic on the real estate industry but it is even more important to see what this pandemic is inferring of the future.
> “There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.” - Vladimir Lenin
This quote from the Russian revolutionary, politician and political theorist Vladimir Lenin adequately captures the essence of COVID-19’s impact on the real estate industry. From a technology and operations standpoint, this industry has largely been slow to change in the past two decades.
The way realtors operate has mostly been the same and there has not been enough adoption of technology to change or enhance business operations. A large part of the marketing and sales process remains heavily dependent on physical presence and less so on virtual presence. For example, a lot of real estate agents do not have a proper online presence, marketing remains predominantly printed materials ( flyers, signage, billboard ads), client interactions are largely held in person etc.
It’s not really a problem when things are good, so... why change things when it works right? This pandemic is a wake up call for a lot of agents to see what the world of tomorrow will look like. In this blog article, we will summarize some insights and takeaways we’ve observed from this pandemic to help you, as an agent, be prepared for the world of tomorrow.
Takeaway #1: Digital by Default
What we saw with this pandemic is that it has forced people to social distance and operate in a social distanced manner, largely via the internet. We’ve seen this with big tech companies like Shopify, Facebook, Twitter and more with thousands of employees and complex day-to-day business operations go completely remote and operate completely via the internet.
A large part of why these companies are able to successfully transition into a ‘Digital by Default’ working model and still function effectively is because they’ve recognized the need to operate digitally way in advance of this pandemic. As a result, they’ve invested in technology and leverage technology to transform their day-to-day business operations.
What these big companies are starting to realize is that even though work has gone fully remote, productivity hasn’t suffered and for some it has even increased. For a lot of the employees, work has become more productive because they no longer need to travel and commute into the office, saving hours a day and creating the flexibility needed to maximize efficiency.
Social distancing has, unfortunately, had a detrimental impact on real estate agent’s business operations. It has really hindered an agent’s ability to meet with clients in person, build new relationships with prospective leads, bring clients to showings etc. But the real question is whether such dependency on physical interactions were mandatory and necessary to begin with, especially in 2020 and onwards. Or has it been something that agents have defaulted to because it is the ways things have been done traditionally.
Technology is evolving faster than ever and we see an increasing amount of new technologies that enable people to work and operate completely virtually. For example:
Zoom and Google Hangouts can provide free video services for face-to-face conversations with your clients. Coupled with a good webcam, microphone setup and good internet, you’ll be able to have super high quality face-to-face conversations with your clients or prospective leads anytime, anywhere
3D virtual touring is becoming more readily available and as a listing agent this technology enables you to market your client’s home virtually to a much broader audience without the bottleneck of scheduling a visit or wasting your time on prospective leads that may not have a high intent of purchase
File hosting services like Google Drive and it’s integration with 3rd party technologies like DocuSign provides a free, effective and an easy way to store documents and facilitate signing documents electronically. You no longer need to go through the hassle or printing piles of paper, signing it and scanning it for your clients.
With the amount of technology readily available today, and more being developed to help people work virtually, real estate agents really need to ask themselves why they have not started to operate in a Default by Digital model. Like employees at these big companies, they might just find this new way of operating much more effective and efficient.
Takeaway #2: COVID has not changed the future. It’s only expedited it.
What we need to know about this pandemic is that it hasn’t actually changed the world per se and how we do business as realtors. What has actually happened is that the future has been expedited. We cannot simply look at the disruption that this pandemic has created on the real estate industry as just a short term turbulence that will go away sometime in the near future.
The move towards digitalization has been happening for the past decade or two, despite the slow adoption in this industry. We’ve seen new platforms like Zillow being created, 3D virtual home touring services slowly getting traction and many more. These are strong signals that most realtors have ignored in the past. The wise agent will recognize the need to have a proper online presence and digital strategy. The wise agent will recognize this pandemic as a glimpse of the future. The wise agent will learn from this and stay ahead of the crowd instead of playing catch up.
Takeaway #3: Building up the muscle
This pandemic has given us a view of what the worst case scenario looks like but also serves as a reminder that agents can no longer just rely solely on traditional methods to build their business. The need to go online, have an online brand presence, and operate the business via the internet is very clear. But changes don’t happen overnight and it’s worth a reminder that this change will take time and effort. For example:
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) requires a tremendous amount of patience and care. It takes Google around 3 to 6 months to rank your website on the search engine and that is just getting ranked and not even ranking high for visibility. In addition, each piece of your content will take similar amount of time to start getting ranked and start driving traffic to your website (if it even exists)
Website optimization takes many iterations before achieving a good lead conversion rate
A brand can be destroyed overnight but it surely cannot be built up overnight. It takes months and years before a personal brand is recognized and trusted
Like your muscles, it takes time, effort and repeated training to strengthen it. This is no different than moving your business online. The more effort and the earlier you do it, the faster you will reap its dividends.
You’re not alone
We hope that this article has given you a different perspective for the future. Given time is a bit slower right now with the pandemic, it is worthwhile to do some introspection and assessment of your business & personal brand and ask yourself whether you are well equipped for success in the real estate industry 10-20 years from now. We understand what we’ve shared about digitalization can be quite daunting to some, especially if you’re not close with technology but it’s ok, we are here to help. If you have any questions or thoughts, we'd love for you to leave us a note and we can chat through some of your questions and challenges.