If you’re a realtor – whether you’ve been one for decades or are just getting your career started – you’re no doubt viewing the reopening of the country and the restart of business with some excitement and a good deal of trepidation. More than ever, more people are out of work, more than half the country is working from home, and the stock market has seen its worst days in recent history. That all combines to mean lots of worry for real estate brokers and agents.
Though it may soon change, right now, agents in most states can’t show houses. The sales offices for new construction are closed. And with the risk of contracting Covid-19, there won’t be any on-site appraisals happening or inspections completed. Everything is pretty much at a standstill.
But what will unfold as states begin to lift restrictions? Can we expect the housing market to rebound and, if so, how long will that take? Will homeowners be listing out of necessity due to loss of income? Will buyers be looking to remove themselves from specific urban centers or other spots that were hard hit by the virus? How about rentals in popular vacation destinations? Will visitors come?
Most experts agree that almost nothing in the U.S. will go back to post-virus “normal,” so the answer to many of these questions will be uncertain for a while. So much has changed in our lives, and those changes will most certainly affect the housing market as well as how realtors do their work. There’s no doubt that this uncertainty, noted a recent article in Forbes Magazine, is “housing’s greatest future risk.”
Big prices, big feelings
Real estate professionals are quick to point out that the housing market can’t likely rebound as would your local pizza parlor or clothing store that’s been shuttered for two or more months. Buying or selling a home involves lots of money, and that money is linked to jobs, investments, and a feeling of confidence on the part of the buyer or seller. Few of us are feeling very confident at this stage of the game.
Buying and selling are also very emotional transactions, and many Americans have been through enough in the last few months that they aren’t eager to take on any additional emotional upheaval. For that reason, many may put off their real estate activity for a while, even during this spring/summer season, when business is usually brisk. It may be a year or more before business truly picks up.
New marketing strategies
How do real estate companies and their agents move forward in such uncertain times, even as they can open and start doing business again? We all know it certainly won’t be “business as usual”.
For example, how do you function as a good, attentive agent while still being a responsible community member? Chances are – even with limited and full reopening of businesses – you may not feel safe parading a family through a showing or welcoming hoards of people into an open house. After all, you now have the added responsibility of keeping your clients safe, at least until there’s more virus testing and a vaccine available.
That means a transition into the digital world of real estate will be essential. Whereas 3-D tours of houses were often reserved for luxury properties, experts say they may become the norm. This will likely mean more money spent on marketing, hiring videographers, and purchasing video equipment, but it’ll be an expense that pays off, realtors nationwide agree.
Nevertheless, it’s the rare buyer who won’t ask to visit their chosen property at some point before making that all-important offer, so you may need to visit. You’ll need to be okay with this or make some other provisions if you’re not. This may involve a huge leap of faith on your part or may even include rethinking your career. It’s a tough call.
Solid, honest pricing
One thing all real estate experts agree on, however, is that this is not the time to be playing around with pricing or speculating on how much you MIGHT be able to get for listings. You – the realtor – need to be honest with your sellers and tell them that this isn’t the time to dicker on a price. They need to list at the right price from the start. They should price ahead of the market and make their price compelling. It’s not the time to drive a hard bargain.
The same goes for buyers. Remind them that this is a difficult time to buy and sell – even if things have reopened and some have returned to work. Please encourage them to make their best offer the first time so that an agreement can be reached promptly and so that emotions remain steady.
Remember, any economic crisis has a long-lasting effect on people, and while this one might not be of the scope of The Great Depression, it’s the first such event that most of us have lived through. As such, it will take time to adjust to every aspect of life, from working and playing to when to buy or sell. And while individuals and families might have a thirst for the normal, it’s going to take a while for most to reach something that resembles their “old” life. Be patient and understanding. Like everything else, this, too, shall pass.