The real estate industry is competitive, which has made operations all the more difficult in the face of the COVID-19 crisis. In a sector that often relies upon providing personalized experiences, helping buyers to make the biggest investment of their lives, the need to social distance has presented significant obstacles.
These challenges have meant that real estate professionals, buyers, and sellers alike have had to be flexible in their approach to the process. We’ve had to explore new methods of engaging in tours, negotiations, and closing while maintaining vital social distancing guidelines. At a time in which our ability to keep ourselves and clients safe is of paramount importance, it’s been difficult to know how best to service the needs of everyone involved.
But these difficult times also hold potential for growth and innovation, and some of the techniques you use during the pandemic may well prove to become a permanent feature of the industry. We’re going to take a look at some of the methods and areas of focus in order to not just navigate negotiations, but maintain a responsible, agile real estate business.
Clarity of communication is vital during any negotiation and is perhaps even more important at a time in which the public is bombarded with mixed messaging from government officials. Real estate professionals and brokers need to make certain that current and potential clients receive clear communication from your agency as to how you are approaching business in a way that keeps everybody involved safe.
This should include:
- A statement or link on the homepage of your website, outlining clear COVID-19 policies for your operations. Explain how inquiries, viewings, and negotiations will be undertaken. Set out strict mask and distancing guidelines for in-person activities. Provide FAQs and contact form for any unaddressed issues.
- Regular email or phone updates for current buyers and sellers, updating them on how sales are progressing, and how your policies are developing alongside public health advice. This helps to help them feel in the loop and prevents any unexpected office drop-ins.
- Internal policy clarity to ensure that there is consistency of approach across all members of staff and any vendors you work with. Use project management tools such as Slack and Asana to ensure this is directed to any staff who don’t regularly work from within the office.
It’s also important that you embrace the tools of our digital landscape that not only make negotiation communication easier during social distancing, but that reflect the future of business. Remote operations were predicted to become the majority method for working, even before COVID-19 hit. By making technological communication tools such as online conferencing software standard practice for negotiation meetings now, you can both service the social distancing needs of your clients, and stay ahead of the curve.
Providing clients with excellent resources has always been a key mechanism of negotiations. Having a comprehensive portfolio for every property and presenting it effectively allows real estate professionals to capitalize on facts rather than emotions during the process. However, chances are you’re not going to be able to present these in person while social distancing is necessary.
This can be an ideal time to start expanding your approach to resources in a way that services immediate safety requirements and fits in with the tech-enhanced sales processes that Millennials favor. This can begin with providing virtual tour videos, using drones to allow buyers to explore not only the interior of the property but gain an overview of the surrounding area, too. This can also be used to present structural and roofing conditions, too, easily highlighting the integrity of the property and boosting the buyer’s trust.
You can also accompany this with a pre-recorded, personalized narration; pointing out the elements of the property that are of most interest or concern to the buyer. However, it may be more effective to use a live streaming service such as YouTube or Twitch, so that you can enter into more meaningful discussions with the buyer during the video tour, and instantly send them cloud-stored documentation such as surveys and energy efficiency reviews to stoke their enthusiasm.
As a result of shutdowns, uncertainty, and general economic fluctuations, closing sales has been challenging for many real estate professionals. Reasons for stalled negotiations have ranged from queries about how property values might change to confusion over how the practical aspects of closing are to be undertaken safely. One of the best tools in your box during negotiations at this time is an emphasis on customer service.
What do we mean by this? Well, in addition to being assertive in your negotiations, you also need to be confidently reassuring. Prepare information that shows accurate forecasts regarding property value and how COVID-19 is likely to affect this. Offer alternatives to in-person closing, let clients know that the E-sign act of 2000 made it legal for contracts to be signed electronically, and direct them to security measures you use to make this safe. Guide them through remote notarization procedures if they’re available in your state.
Most real estate professionals know that maintaining your relationship with sellers is important even after closing. Alongside any gift baskets you might provide, it can also be extremely valuable to provide buyers with information about preparing for their move, and checklists for making financial and practical arrangements in the weeks leading up to their journey to their new home. Particularly at a time in which health concerns can make everything extra stressful, taking a little weight off buyers’ shoulders can go a long way.
Negotiations are challenging at the best of times, but the onset of COVID-19 has forced real estate professionals and brokers to reassess their approach to the process. By creating a culture of clear communication, embracing technology such as drones and video tours, and emphasizing customer service you can help make sure negotiations go smoothly during this crisis, and prepare your business for the future.
Adrian Johansen is a writer, life-long learner, and adventurer in the Pacific Northwest. She loves sharing knowledge with others. You can find more of her writing on Twitter.