The lockdown diaries, day #1 : A Black Swan event for the real estate industry?
With South Africa entering a 21-day lockdown state due to the Coronavirus epidemic, I thought now is a good as time as ever to try and catch up a bit on my writing and see if I can share a daily post with my views.
The industry’s black swan event
One can argue that some biological disaster like this was bound to happen one day. Not if, but when. Now it’s here, you are part of history. The coronavirus epidemic may just well be the (real estate) industry’s black swan event, that defining moment that will elevate some companies, and crush others.
We know there will be an immediate short term impact on the real estate market. People will be hesitant to open their homes for viewings and others will be left in financial distress and forced to downscale. There will be a recovery period where life returns to normal, but it all depends on the duration of the economic shutdown.
Buying a home will remain a smart thing to do if you take a long term view, but the way estate agents operate will change and be pushed to a more digital and virtual environment. Is this perhaps the perfect storm for the iBuyer … will more people want a no-fuzz, instant selling and buying solution at the push of a button?).
One big uncertainty is whether a 3 week lockdown will be sufficient to ‘flatten the curve’ or if there will be relapses with social distancing becoming the new normal. The possibility of a lockdown being reinstated several times is there and we will need to rewire our brains to a new world for now.
A change in the modus operandi
With this in mind, there has never been a better time for agents to change their modus operandi. You now have a big excuse for better screening your buyers including making pre-qualification mandatory before viewings are conducted. There also has never been a better time to price right. That overpriced home could have been sold before the lockdown started.
Here is a great opportunity to better protect your sellers with virtual tours. Sellers will demand this. If you haven’t looked at Matterport 3D or other tour solutions, now is a good time to educate yourself. We’ve recently launched a great cost effective virtual tour offer for agents.
Paperwork will need to move completely digital, fast. Our deeds office will introduce the e-DRS (electronic deeds registration system) but still years away as systems have to be built and run in parallel for testing.
Has your real estate business stopped?
I saw some agents posting on LinkedIn that they are closing today and will re-open for business again in 21 days. I guess some will see it as a mini break, while others will see it as the perfect storm to connect with customers and build new relationships. Referrals costs you nothing.
Now is the time to communicate with your clients. You have a captive audience. That square space on the consumer’s phone, is now the most valuable piece of real estate in the world.
You need to interact with your community. Twitter and Facebook has been flooded with questions about occupation dates during lockdown and related questions. Why not post a news article on your real estate website or facebook business page detailing the ins-and-outs.
Although physical viewings are paused, some agents are continuing with virtual viewings using pre-recorded virtual tours.
If push comes to shove, how about getting the seller to tour his home via video and making it available to pre-qualified buyers? Some people will be eager to buy now, or at least narrow their decision. They have lots of time on hand and it is your job to help navigate their emotions and make the deal happen.
Tracking the impact on websites
Our team is tracking the impact of the lockdown on client websites and our own portals, including MyProperty. One can measure the impact on website traffic via tools like Google Analytics while our lead import mechanisms can track the change in enquiries received for offices. In Google Analytics we make little annotations like the screenshot below when there are important updates or events. This makes it easier to analyse trends over time.
You can do it too with your own website and perhaps capture any offline and online marketing efforts with annotations. If you are not tracking your lead sources, read this blog post and save yourself a ton in marketing fees and blind spending where portals have perfected the art of creating buyers out of thin air. The real estate agent of the future is data driven and armed with the right tools to optimize their time.
What to do now?
Don’t stop. Don’t give up.
Real estate is a zero sum game. If you give up, you are handing over your share of the sales pie to your competitor. You need to keep momentum.
Marnus Broodryk compiled this great resource packed with 90 ideas to help your business survive this epidemic, maybe you can find a few ideas in there.
It’s a great time to revisit your business model, look for opportunities and tweak your online marketing strategy. This includes one of your most important marketing tools, your agency website. (We’ve structured some discounts during this time to help agents out).
Update your Google My Business page (you have one, right?) and tweak your social media pages including Facebook and LinkedIn. Focus on promoting your own website listings on social media. Look for opportunities to connect with people in your community by giving free advice and guiding consumers on the rapidly changing market conditions that they will face. Be armed with stats and local area knowledge. They need someone they can trust, that person is you. There has never been a better time to connect with consumers.
With the South African lockdown starting today, will it be 21 days of gratitude and opportunity or 21 days of complaining for you?
Final thoughts. It’s time for earth to heal itself.
Maybe we will all come out better after this? Until then, uncertainty is the new normal and momentum is your best friend.