The 2020 coronavirus pandemic will stay with us for a long time. In fact some experts predict that it will take at least 1.5 years (till we get some kind of a mainstream vaccine on the market) for things to truly go back to a pre-pandemic normal. The fact of the matter is, as real estate professionals – the sooner we accept the reality, the sooner we will start THRIVING and have an advantage over other agents serving our target market. The goal of this guide is to show you some of the steps and systems you need to implement in order to virtualize most parts of your real estate business.
The Four Pillars When It Comes To Virtualization Of Your Real Estate Business
- Adaptive Fulfillment
Tips & Strategy To Virtualize Communication For Your Real Estate Business During COVID-19
Communication is the first and probably the easiest part that you can virtualize for your real estate business. There are primarily three types of communications that you need to focus on during the COVID-19 pandemic. 1. Client Focused Communications – We’re talking primarily about face to face communications here. Since you cannot meet someone physically, you need to get a video conferencing software in order to communicate with your clients. Here are our three favourites for face to face virtual conferencing software:
- Zoom (easy to setup and really good video and audio quality)
- Google Meet – similar to Zoom but you can connect with someone right on their browser instead of downloading software on your computer
- Skype Meet – Very similar to Google Meet
2. Client/Prospect Collateral Communications – The second most (and often overlooked) type of communication when going virtual is client collateral. You need to have systems and processes in place to communicate collateral like feature sheets, virtual open houses etc. to your clients and other agents in order to keep your business running. Here is some software you should check out for client collateral:
- Docusign/PandaDoc – Both of these software platforms allow you to send documents back and forth in order to submit offers and fill out other official documents required by your brokerage to complete any transaction.
- Matterport 3D/Asteroom – A Matterport compatible camera allows you to take a beautiful 3D scan of any home. Asteroom produces a similar 3D dollhouse to Matterport but only requires a standard cellphone. You can embed the Matterport 3D scan or Asteroom on any webpage allowing potential buyers to experience an immersive virtual open house. You can ask any homeowner to take a 3D scan themselves by sharing a tutorial on Zoom, or use a Matterport certified professional to send someone there to take the scans. In case you are listing a brand new condo (for example in the Downtown core of a city) you can even go and do the scan yourself.
- Studeo Storybooks – One of the best ways to showcase a property or even do a listing presentation online is to create beautiful interactive storybooks that you can send to your clients and prospects. Studeo allows you to aggregate text, video, images, virtual tours and other rich media into one easy to consumer interface. The storybooks are mobile adaptive and you can easily view them on your tablet or mobile. Some agents are also using Studeo’s storybook technology to create neighborhood guides, listing presentations and virtual open houses that tell a story. The best part about Studeo is that it takes minutes to create these presentations without any prior knowledge of graphic design and coding.
3. Marketing Communication – The final type of communications that you need to adapt and tweak in order to ensure that you get a steady stream of clients for your real estate business during this pandemic is your marketing communications to potential prospects in your local target market. In fact we need to cover marketing communications in their very own section (below) because there are several points to be made here.
Marketing Your Real Estate Business During The Pandemic And Some Lessons You Should Remember For Life
There has never been a better time for marketing your real estate business than now. Why? For starters, you have an exact idea of where your prospects are right now. They are all home. This means when you geo-target a particular market you are spending all of your dollar value towards people who live in that area and are probably in front of a computer or a smartphone. Now, you might argue that when you are running a geo-targeted paid ad online, you can select between everyone in an area vs people living in that area. However, from our experiments we have seen an ample amount of people (office goers, people spending tons of time in a particular area) being tagged and shown such ads despite not being homeowners in those target areas. With COVID-19 and the travel restrictions in place you will get the maximum number of homeowners that you want to target because people are not really moving that much right now.
So is it still a great time to market my real estate business online?
Yes, not only is it great, it’s probably the greatest time to market your real estate business online.
Most real estate agents are acting out of fear. This is because change is scary to everyone and means having to adapt. It means letting go of your comfort zone and processes and making sure that you adapt new ways in every aspect of your real estate business. As a result, many real estate agents have stopped their marketing ad-spend online (both Google & Facebook) thinking that the pandemic will be over soon and things will go back to normal. This is a massive mistake. The reality is that this pandemic will be with us for quite a while (according to experts) and the truth is we will gradually transition into a pre-pandemic normal life. However, the fact of the matter is you still need to do business, you still need to acquire and close customers and most importantly you need to convince prospects as to how you can virtualize and get their deals done. The good news is you will be paying a lot less to market your business online right now because most of the agents and other advertisers are reducing their ad-spend. Online ad networks work like an auction. When demand is low, the price you pay to show your ads to your target audience is always lower. Here are 3 Key Marketing Strategies You Should Concentrate During The COVID-19 Pandemic:
- Database building Funnels – sharing market reports and other valuable real estate industry trends to capture emails and then add them to your database.
- Virtual Open Houses – Run campaigns targeting potential buyers to a 3D open house or create a Studeo storybook to share a fully interactive experience with prospects.This helps you both motivate the sale while helping you also stand out from your competitors.
- Live Webinars With Prospects – Another funnel that you can run during this pandemic is live webinars talking about the local real estate market, sharing some data as well as taking any questions from people in your community. You can nurture all the registrants to try to convert them into buyers and sellers.
Tips & Strategy To Virtualize the Organization Of Your Real Estate Business To Stay More Productive
Now that we have covered all parts of communication, let’s talk about the next pillar to virtualize your business – Organization. When it comes to organization we are talking about ensuring that you have everything stored on the internet so that you can access anything and everything to ensure the smooth operation for your real estate business.
- A Cloud File Manager – Our recommendation is to go with either Dropbox or Google Drive. A cloud based file manager allows you to share anything with anyone while ensuring that you have full privacy controls. We are assuming that you already have some kind of a cloud file manager in place. Maybe do a quick audit of all your folders, achieve the ones that you don’t use anymore and re-arrange the ones you use frequently.
- A Task management software – Working from home is easier said than done. You need to stay focused in order be able to get everything done for your real estate business and task management software is extremely crucial in order to make sure you are hitting your daily goals. Our recommendation is to go with Asana (free) or Monday.com (free). If you are looking for something simpler like a to-do list that you can look at, we recommend installing an app called Todoist.
- E-Signature Software – You still need to send documents back and forth for signature during this pandemic and lockdown. E-signature software is an absolute necessity in order to facilitate any kind of deal for a potential buyer or seller.
Tips & Strategy To Virtualize Real Estate Transactions During COVID-19
People still need to buy and sell homes. The problem is most people (excluding the ignorant ones) don’t want to come in contact with someone throughout the whole process. This means you need to virtualize the entire real estate transaction process and ensure that you facilitate both buyers and sellers during the transition. In fact, when we asked a bunch of real estate brokers and agents what’s the biggest challenge for conducting business as usual the most common answer was facilitating the real estate transaction during the pandemic with minimal contact. Well, now that real estate has been declared as an essential service in most parts of USA & Canada we are legally allowed to transact but the only catch is that in most places a quarantine is in place so we need to get creative. The paperwork part of the real estate transaction is the easiest to replace. In fact, most agents are already using some sort of an e-signature platform like Docusign or PandaDoc. Next comes presenting your listing to potential homebuyers. You can’t do any open houses so you have to resort to Matterport or some sort of 3D virtual tour service. These services allow you to use their certified apps and cameras to create virtual 3D tours. You can also ask your client to shoot a video of their home sharing specific guidelines. PhotoPerfect is another tool worth looking at. For only $6 a month it allows your seller to take high quality photos that look professionally shot simply with their iPhone. It can be used in situations where no photographer is available or when the seller refuses to permit one on the property. It’s a fantastic last resort method to employ in situations where professional photography may not be possible. The final part of the transaction is the closing of the deal, the inspection and of course moving the seller or buyer in and out of their respective homes. Currently, virtual closings are typically conducted over video chat (zoom, facetime, etc) together with a tool like Docusign to allow both parties to enter into a legal agreement. As always, such agreements are conditional upon home inspections which are now also conducted virtually by professionals. Typically this can involve a video tour provided by your seller to the inspection service so that they can perform their certification. In other cases, an inspector may still show up on the premises with safety protective equipment (Face masks, gloves, etc). It all depends on the situation in your current local market – but regardless solutions exist no matter what the conditions are. Lastly, with moving a number of service companies exist to support buyers and sellers moving in and out of the homes they occupy at this time. Many of them provide both equipped staff wearing protective gear and will work together with or provide disinfecting/cleaning providers to prepare the home for its new occupants.
The Last Piece Of The Puzzle – Adaptive Fulfillment
Now that we have seen all the steps required to go virtual and continue your real estate business, let’s take a closer look at the last piece of the puzzle – Adaptive Fulfillment. Adaptive Fulfillment is a term that refers to all the changes that you would be going through in order to fulfill the transaction virtually. Keep in mind that every step of the way what you need to focus on is that your customer stays connected with you and that you are explaining every step of the process to them. Educating them is the key not only to lessening their fears but also to establishing your authority and expertise during this very unique and unusual time. Of course there are some parts of this process where you need the help of other people like moving between houses and transferring all of their possessions. The other part of adaptive Fulfillment which is often overlooked is showing the actual home. Modern MLS’s and most real estate websites aggregate pictures, videos and 3D scans. We believe in order to truly go virtual you need to do much more, because people need much stronger motivation when they transact virtually. As a result, you need a tool/software that tells a compelling story giving a unique identity to the house. This is important for two main reasons – to connect the buyer emotionally with the home (something they cannot comfortably do in person right now) and also to differentiate yourself from all the other agents online right now. In conclusion, this pandemic will lead to a lot of changes and innovation in the real estate space and with the right set of tools and marketing strategy it may not be surprising to see agents who adapt become the new go-to real estate professionals in their community by the time this pandemic is truly over.