There’s a state of emergency in Ontario due to the COVID-19 epidemic and, while it continues, this will have a notable effect on the way real estate agents operate. To help you adjust to these changes, here’s a handy guide for carrying out real estate transactions during the corona virus shutdowns.
The first thing on anyone’s mind right now should be the safety and health of everyone around us. That means big changes to the way real estate transactions usually operate but it doesn’t mean that real estate will grind to a halt. People still need to buy and sell properties for a variety of reasons and there are plenty of ways you can help them in a safe and responsible manner.
Don’t Host Open Houses
This was one of our main recommendations in our recent message for sellers and it hasn’t changed. Inviting numerous people into a home is not a good idea and your sellers are unlikely to appreciate it. Take the responsible option and postpone all open houses until the lockdowns are all finished at a minimum.
Manage viewings smartly
Schedule viewings appropriately so no more than one buying group is viewing the property at any one time. Ensure the home is clean before viewing, paying particular attention to areas that are touched often such as doorknobs.
Consider leaving lights on and internal doors open to prevent the need for people to touch them. Set up one or more cleaning stations in the home with hand-sanitizer or soap, paper towels for drying and an open bin to allow users to dispose of paper without touching the bin lid. Instead of leaving out feature sheets for people to rustle through, perhaps offer to send the details by email.
While you will want to restrict open houses and perhaps limit viewings, that doesn’t mean you can’t show off the full potential and beauty of the home you are selling by inviting buyers in from the comfort of their own homes. This is where virtual tours come in and they are likely to be an invaluable resource over the coming months.
The term virtual tour is something of a catch-all description because it is used to describe many ways of marketing a home digitally. There are also other options not generally considered a virtual tour that can help you make your listing ‘virtual’. What are the options? Here are a few ideas:
- Digital tours of a home that allow buyers to view floorplans, walk through the home, enter each room and browse around on their computer.
- A walk-through video that goes from room to room and gives the viewer an idea of the full size, layout and feel of the home.
- Enhanced listings (on your own website or an alternative site) with space for more detailed descriptions of the property and a greater number of photos. By doing this, you can add almost unlimited information, more detailed photos, and perhaps photos of areas around the home such as the street immediately outside, to give buyers a better appreciation of the size and location of the property.
- Organising buyer walk-throughs of a property via video chat services like FaceTime. This is a more personalized option and allows the buyer to control exactly what they see and ask relevant questions. Just remember that appearances can sometimes be deceptive on videos and homes can seem smaller, so it is worth keeping the room measurements handy so you can tell your buyers the exact measurements.
While face-to-face contact should be limited, there’s no reason for you not to be available to your clients and potential new clients. Make sure your phone is charged and at your side and that you have easy access to your email – perhaps through your phone if you don’t have it set up already – so you are on hand and available to answer any client enquiries as soon as they come through.
For existing clients and contacts, send out a clear message by email, indicating the ways you can be contacted and the hours you will be available. For new clients, make sure your contact details are easy to find; put them in your ads, your website, your email signature – anywhere you can think of so that people don’t have to search hard to work out how to contact you.
Now might also be a time to build up your social media presence. If you have a little extra time on your hands, you can focus on increasing your follower count or even just start off with a social media account. For tips on how to get started, take a look at our beginner’s guide to social media for real estate agents.
Try digital signing
You can further reduce the need for in-person meetings by using digital signing services for important documents that need to be signed by buyers or sellers. There are lots of different services around, including a service offered by TREB called Authentisign, which is available for licensed REALTORS® and is designed specifically for local real estate transactions. For tips on how to use it, view the TREB Authentisign guide.
Work from home… when you can
Obviously, you need to be out on the road at times and there will be other times when you will need to use your brokerage’s offices. However, when possible you should try to work from your home. If you have a good internet connection and make use of some of the digital tools mentioned above, you should be able to conduct a lot of your business form the safety and comfort of your own home. Do you have any other thoughts on how to carry out your business during the shutdown? Send us your thoughts and together we can help stop the spread of COVID-19.