Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, REALTORS® have been riding the ups and downs of pandemic-related restrictions in different provinces at varying times. Many REALTORS® have nimbly adjusted how they conduct business with their colleagues and clients.
One trend that emerged during the pandemic, and which shows no sign of slowing, is the adaptation of emerging technologies. Zoom and other videoconferencing platforms allowed multiple participants to meet and communicate when in-person interactions weren’t possible and increasingly are being used when meetings with colleagues or clients face-to-face aren’t considered to be necessary. Electronic signatures, 3D tours, virtual staging and livestreaming open houses were useful during the early days of the pandemic and will continue to be valuable tools in the future.
Know your clients’ preferences when using tech to communicate
REALTOR® Jennifer Evelyn, a broker with RE/MAX Hallmark First Group Realty based in Oshawa, Ontario, says some of her clients prefer using these new virtual tools and others don’t, so it’s important to be aware of client preferences and accommodate them when possible.
Evelyn worked with a family with small children that was relocating from the London, Ontario, area to the Durham Region east of Toronto. The first time they saw their new townhome was virtually, rather than in person.
“We did all the showings virtually by FaceTime video,” says Evelyn. “The interesting thing is that they flat out said it would have been better to do it in person. Of course, at the time it just wasn’t feasible to do so.”
The family then later decided that upsizing to a house would better suit their needs. This time they were able to view homes in person, with safety precautions in place, such as everyone being fully masked.
“We ensured no one entered the property when they were in the house,” Evelyn says.
Even with increasingly better tools that allow clients to virtually inspect the floor plans and take video walkthroughs, “it is different once you physically walk in and live there and discover maybe it doesn’t provide everything that you previously thought you needed,” Evelyn says. Different clients have different comfort levels, with some, like this family, preferring in-person viewings when possible. And, as pandemic restrictions ease across the country, some clients are becoming comfortable not wearing a mask, social distancing or knowing people’s vaccination status when visiting a potential home. Others show no sign of dispensing with mask use yet.
Moving from brick and mortar to a cloud-based brokerage
Ron Parpara, a REALTOR® with eXp Realty in Vancouver, British Columbia says he was already comfortable using digital tools but “the pandemic gave us a push to make those digital areas more seamless than before.” For example, he moved to a fully cloud-based brokerage instead of using a brick-and-mortar office, directing the fees he’d pay for the physical office into better hiring, more staff, and more support for his team.
“A cloud-based brokerage means everything is done through phone, email, and the web,” he says. That means signing documents with e-signatures and meeting clients and his real estate team via FaceTime and Zoom, all technological advances accelerated by the pandemic.
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For Parpara, the pandemic nudged him to grow his team and recognize the value of having ample support during an often-frenzied market over the past two years. “It’s very difficult to handle that intensity on your own,” he says. “Having a strong core team makes all the difference and it offers more value to your clients, too.”
Virtual helps break down geographical barriers
Corey Breau, broker of record with RE/MAX Professionals Saint John Inc. in New Brunswick and president of the St. John Real Estate Board, says he pivoted to virtual tools at the height of the pandemic.
“The pandemic sped up adoption of these tools and pushed us to use them,” he says. “I’d used DocuSign® for signatures but added Zoom, YouTube and video apps as I got out of my comfort zone. It works for both buyers and sellers and makes for less traffic through a seller’s house if you show virtually. We are also attracting more out-of-town buyers this way.”
With housing affordability continuing to be a concern and work from home being permanent for many, Breau believes buyers are going to be lured to smaller centres farther away, making virtual options, such as 3D tours and virtual staging, more appealing.
REALTORS® should try to be open to whatever communication tools are best for their clients. “I want to make sure they are comfortable with their REALTOR® and stay committed so that they can ask me anything in the way they want to ask it,” he said.
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