The residential real estate market has not dried up, but the reality of coronavirus is forcing brokers to rethink how they reach their customers. All brokerages are relying on technology to keep their business afloat, whether that means holding digital meetings, relying on virtual showings, or shifting to totally online document signing. And for some, their business continues to expand. As of Monday, Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s, had clocked more than 30 new listings in a week, while they had a total of 135 new listings over the course of the month.
“[We have implemented] a fully functional remote working environment for all employees. Our goal is no disruption in service to our clients or our agents,” says Robbie Briggs, CEO of Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s. “We are working hard to help protect our clients, agents, staff, tenants, and landlords while doing our best to continue helping you buy, sell, or rent homes. We are seeing strong demand, low interest rates, and an early spring market that necessitates the careful balancing of needs in such unprecedented times.”
Julie Haymann of Allie Beth Allman reports that unless it is absolutely necessary to continue looking, most of her buyers have chosen to take a break until the economy becomes a bit more stabilized. She and her business partner Lauren Savariego are choosing to build rapport with their clients in the meantime. The pair hosted a wine and cheese party over Zoom (though everyone had to bring their own supplies), giving buyers and sellers the opportunity to check in and ask questions about the market.
Like most other agents and brokers, Haymann and Savariego are changing their marketing strategy, focusing heavily on social media and creating videos of properties while buyers can’t visit themselves. Luckily for the Haymann and Savariego, they’ve prepared for this moment. Video and FaceTime has been a significant strategy for the last several years.
“We have clients that [aren’t] living here and suddenly a house is on the market, and we’re there within the first few hours FaceTiming them,” Haymann says. “It’s the same sort of thing. There are buyers out there that still have to buy, so we’re able to go to the properties and FaceTime them or Skype them—depending on what kind of technology we need to use—and just walk them through slowly.”
Sloan Coleman, an agent for Keller Williams around the Cedar Creek Lake area, is whistling a tune more similar to that of the folks at Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s.
“Last week in Dallas, 2,700 homes went up for sale and 2,400 homes went under contract. Second homes have continued to thrive. With the interest rates so low, buyers are still ready to buy,” she says. “For example, the month of March has flourished at Cedar Creek Lake. There have been 99 homes sold, 195 new listings, and 105 homes went pending. Buyers are taking advantage of the low interest rates. Summer is upon us and what better way to distance yourselves than being on a boat in the water staying six feet apart?”
And while some agents have seen growth and others have slowed down just slightly, one thing everyone has in common is the uncertainty of what comes next. Julie Provenzano of Compass is optimistic that when the spread of the coronavirus finally slows, the housing market will flourish.
“Despite all of this uncertainty at the moment, there are a few things that we are very confident about,” she says. “This virus will eventually peak and start to subside and we will come out the other side of this and life will go on. The ability to buy today is not likely to diminish when this external economic shock to the system crests and the inventory floodgates are opened back up.”
If you’ve been considering putting your house on the market but are unsure what to do now that the coronavirus has escalated, Provenzano recommends sellers wait if they can and that buyers utilize professional guidance to ensure their investment is one that will be good in the long term. She warns not to chase a good deal for the wrong house.
Compass agent Mysti Stewart believes there is good opportunity for some in real estate, especially as inventory is low and demand is still present.
“Our clients are unsure about what to expect in the coming weeks/months, so the urgency to make a move has lessened for some of my clients,” she says. “We are seeing buyers with real motivation, such as those that have already sold their home or those relocating, move forward with substantial urgency.”