There’s no doubt the coronavirus pandemic has significantly impacted daily life, and with that, business practices. Real estate brokerages have not been outliers. With in-person interactions either severely limited or completely cut off, real estate brokers have had to pivot in order to adapt to the new environment, pushing the boundaries of technology and remote capabilities.
Scott MacDonald, owner and president of RE/MAX Gateway in Virginia says it was a big educational process trying to determine what the new office protocols should be. His brokerage had to consider all angles, from who was coming into the office to what the process was after clients and agents left the space to who would not be allowed in at all.
“We also had to keep our clients informed as to what our processes were going to be going forward with health questionnaires, PPE requirements, cleaning and disinfecting before and after showings, etc.” says MacDonald.
Dan Forsman, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties says he knew it was going to be a mindset shift from the beginning, from “business as usual to business as unusual.”
“Instead of keep calm and carry on, we transitioned to remain calm but do things differently,” says Forsman. “Within a week of sheltering in place, we had our management team, office staff and agents interacting and conducting business virtually.”
But how has the pandemic impacted decision-making processes to ensure brokers can meet the needs of both agents and clients while keeping retention efforts strong and still attracting agents to join the team? Technology has had a lot to do with it.
According to a recent Homes.com survey, agents have reported that technology and virtual solutions are key to succeeding through these challenging times.
“This survey shows how well agents and brokers were able to pivot during the pandemic,” said Homes.com president, David Mele. “Their expertise in the real estate process is invaluable which makes them indispensable to buyers and sellers now more than ever.”
In fact, 59 percent of agents said they have utilized at least one method of online home viewing when working with clients—with 44 percent saying video tours are the most popular method, followed by virtual tours (43 percent) and virtual open houses (19 percent).
“Coldwell Banker Schmidt Realty has the capacity to run our real estate operations virtually thanks to our enhanced technology platforms,” says Felicia Hengle, president of Ohio Operations at the brokerage. “Our staff can process deals virtually, our agents can conduct virtual showings and hold virtual open houses to continue to serve consumers safely.”
Through these technological solutions, buyers and sellers have been able to continue with their homeownership dreams despite the challenges introduced by the pandemic. According to the homes.com survey, 31 percent of agents said that virtual home viewings helped them close a sale and 23 percent said they were able to close on a home without a traditional, in-person viewing.”
While massively useful at the ground-level for practical approaches to helping buyer and seller clients, brokerages have found that agent-centered tech has also been essential during the health crisis, especially in retaining agents.
“I believe the level of engagement we have had through video texts, phone calls, Zoom trainings, bringing in national speakers on our calls, as well as our daily videos, has helped with our retention and will help with recruiting going forward,” says MacDonald, who adds that he’s heard from agents who are unhappy with their brokerage due to poor communication about what is happening in their offices in terms of being open, how to go about earnest money deposits and who to reach out to with issues.
“Basically, they are being left to fend for themselves,” says MacDonald. “This lack of communication will hurt those brokerages in my opinion.”
Also of importance to retaining is creating a strong culture of loyalty and recognition.
“Agents just need to feel connected more than ever during this time,” says Hengle. “We do a virtual weekly huddle as a Zoom meeting for the entire region every week. In addition, we work on recognition—sharing success stories during this time and creating an interactive platform for agents to engage with us.”
But staying connected doesn’t just mean keeping in touch. Brokers have been leveraging education to keep communication going and updating agents on the latest tools and strategies for achieving success during the pandemic.
“We have been all education all the time,” says MacDonald who hosts Zoom calls Monday through Friday as well as motivates agents with a daily video on “what to do today.”
“I believe our message to our agents and the agent population, in general, is we provide value and content, and we are strengthening relationships in the brokerage community through our education,” adds MacDonald.
The core to a good recruiting strategy during this time? According to Forsman, it’s keeping your agents happy. He emphasizes that happy agents attract other happy agents.
“Our No. 1 source of recruiting is our current agent base,” says Forsman. “We have really leaned into our resources, including technology, our alliance partners, and the support and stability of a brand like Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. People want to be associated with a name they can trust and one that can weather any type of storm that might be happening in the market.”
Another strategy brokers have used is continuing to build existing working partnerships with co-brokes.
“We are spending more time making phone calls and establishing relationships with co-brokes—thanking them for transacting with us and asking how they are doing,” says Hengle.
Brokers don’t believe the pre-pandemic environment will return any time soon, but that doesn’t mean real estate brokerages should get stagnant—the ability to shift and adapt is a must in order to persevere.
“Continue to build relationships, take care of others, provide valuable information to keep people informed and you will survive this market well into the future,” says MacDonald.
Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s senior online editor. Email her your real estate news ideas to email@example.com.