It’s not an good time to be a real estate agent.
Across the nation, state and local governments have put in place “stay-at-home” orders, effectively limiting everyone to conducting “essential” services and activities only. These activities include but are not limited to outdoor exercise, grocery shopping, and filling medical prescriptions.
But what are “essential services” and are real estate agents included?
In my humble opinion, I believe real estate agents should be an essential service because we play an integral role in the strength and preservation of wealth in the economy. However, your status depends on on where you live, all the way down to the county and municipal level.
Here’s a map of the all of the states that have declared a “stay-at-home” order as of April 2, 2020.
If you’re in one of these states, then you may or may not have been declared an essential service.
Furthermore, if your state has declared you “essential”, but your local county or municipal government hasn’t, then the local law stands because it’s more restrictive.
Obviously, this is proving to be an issue for many real estate agents across the nation. Many of us are uncertain of the direction of our businesses and whether we’ll be able to make it out of this intact or not.
This article will go over what you can do as a real estate agent to keep your business moving, even if you’re not considered an “essential service”.
The Nonessential Agent’s Guide to the Coronavirus
Real estate agents have three main jobs.
- Lead generation
- Meeting with clients
- Closing deals
Unfortunately, your life is going to be a lot harder with the label “nonessential” over your head.
To make things clear, here’s what you can’t do:
- Conduct showings
- Open houses (limit of 10 people per space)
- Be in an office space with more than 10 people at a time (rules vary across governments)
- Be out of your house for any reason considered nonessential.
Obviously, it’s hard to stay in business when you can’t do 80% of the activities that keep you in business.
But if we can salvage the 20% that we can do, it might be enough.
Lead Generation For Nonessential Agents
You should be able to continue most of your lead generation activities, barring meeting new people in-person at networking events and such.
Cold calling, while something I don’t do, still works. My advice would be to come up with a new script that pertains to the coronavirus and how it could impact the market.
Say something like “We’re likely entering a buyer’s market after this virus, so it’s super important that you understand the sales process during that time.”
This is a great time to start building your online presence, which is my primary means of lead generation.
If you invest in new systems, you could have an even better business after the pandemic.
These programs allow your buyers to view homes from the safety of their homes. Most of these tours are 3-D, giving the buyers a better feel for the space in the home, the lighting, and the overall ambiance.
If you don’t have the ability to set up higher-level virtual services, then you can simply take more photos of the home to compensate.
The most important goal at this time is to show as much of the home as you can through virtual and online means. Switch your mindset from “getting buyers in the door” to “make a sale on the spot”.
The good thing is that any buyers that are still searching for homes during this time is clearly motivated. That should result in a quicker sale.
Virtual Meetings and Closings
Just about the entire real estate process can be conducted online now. Virtual meeting services like Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime allow you to connect with clients, attorneys, inspectors, and all other parties involved in transactions.
Documents are already transferred and signed electronically, so all we have to do is switch everything else over.
While closings will be contingent upon the Register of Deeds office being open and the closing attorney’s willingness to conduct the closing virtually, as well as state laws permitting it, it is still possible to close a home while sitting in your home.
I would look for guidance from your brokerage if you don’t know about the structure of an online closing, as every where seems to have different laws and ideas.
Tips for Safety and Legality
There are a few things you can do to keep yourself and those around you safe from the coronavirus. Some of those tips are:
- Ask all your clients if they have traveled recently.
- Try not to drive your clients from showing to showing. If you do, however, make sure you sanitize your vehicle afterward.
- Make sure your policies for questioning clients and driving are consistent. Otherwise, you could be violating Fair Housing laws.
The National Association of Realtors has stated that you’re allowed to ask screening questions to ensure your own safety.
Just make sure you’re staying compliant with Fair Housing laws.
No matter what, this is a difficult time to be a real estate agent. We’re all going to see a reduction in the amount of business we’re doing, regardless of essential status or not.
The most important part of all of this is to stay safe and healthy — and not put others at risk. If you feel unsafe conducting a transaction, you’re ill or have been in contact with someone that is ill. Stay home.
As I said earlier, the best use of this time is to begin building or strengthing your online lead generation systems.