Real estate agents adapt with new tools to sell homes

Ryan Levenson, Guest columnist
Published 7:00 a.m. ET Oct. 13, 2020

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In March 2020, real estate agents sat on the edge of their seat as a pandemic seemingly crushed our industry.

Very few people would have guessed that only six months later we would experience one of the most severe housing shortages our country has seen in decades.

A home shortage creates a great market for people selling their homes, but it poses a variety of challenges for buyers — across many different price points. But here we stand, working to keep up with demand. Homes stay on the market for days, if not hours.

Real estate agents have always been resourceful, but our tools and skills are taking on new meaning in this environment in which distance is part of our new normal.

What we’ve experienced is unlike anything we could have dreamed. Homebuyers are feeling pressure to make decisions quickly, and many are making an offer without ever seeing the home in person. The experience is leading them to ask smarter questions, and they are demanding the expertise of real estate agents to simplify the process.

Across the country, how regulations are enacted in our industry vary greatly. Here in Knoxville, showings just after the pandemic were permitted, but many people were not interested in allowing buyers into their homes. Open Houses were also suspended for a couple months, causing real estate professionals to lean more on technology and media to show homes to buyers in the market. This all led to an increase in demand for most real estate agents as sellers turned to us to help navigate a more fast-paced sales environment.

Prior to this pandemic, helping a customer purchase a home before they’ve seen it in person was rare. Today, this is happening often, and the process carries with it a variety of challenges and risks, all of which can be overcome with due diligence, research and an overabundance of communication. Agents are taking on increased responsibility in this scenario and while rewarding, the role is much more intensive. Buyers are putting a lot of trust in us to make sure the house is right for them and in acceptable condition, and this is a lot of responsibility for someone’s largest purchase of their lives.

Personalization comes in many shapes

Real estate agents are good at many things, but a few common descriptors usually come to mind: We’re known for being informational, personable and friendly.

During a pandemic, building trusting relationships can be a challenge. Solutions include 3-D renderings of homes, video conference calls and a commitment to delivering information that is thorough and timely. It’s now common to use FaceTime, Zoom calls and walk-through videos to show a home.

Despite the pandemic, our goal hasn’t changed. We still set out to showcase the whole community, neighborhood, street, and more, to ensure the consumer sees the entire picture — something easily accomplished in-person but much more difficult to capture remotely.

What we’ve learned through this pandemic, one of many things, is that personalization can come in a lot of shapes and sizes. It can come in the form of a personal phone call in which we virtually walk through a rendering of their home, or a conversation in which we explore the vision they have for their future neighborhood. The tools at our disposal are evolving rapidly to keep pace, and it’s an exciting time to be both a real estate professional, or a buyer or seller in the market.

Our end goal is to create a personalized experience for the consumer that takes into account their technological bandwidth and personal preferences.

Agents are smarter, better prepared

When we emerge from the other side of this pandemic, life will be different, as will our real estate industry. What we might expect to see is an industry comprising agents who are smarter, more tech savvy and better equipped to bring value to homebuyers and sellers.

We are far from obsolete; in fact the role of the real estate agent seems more vital than ever. With the abundance of information online, the real estate professional becomes the decipherer of correct information, the confidant, and remains the center of a real estate transaction.

We never thought the pandemic would have brought with it a housing shortage, an incredible sellers’ market, and increasing home prices. We are now fully equipped with thoughtful, efficient ways to gather and distribute information in both an in-person and virtual environment.

While shepherding clients through extremely stressful times is a hallmark of our profession, this pandemic took that responsibility to new heights. We may not know how long this sellers’ market will remain, but we are in a much better position to respond to what comes next.

Ryan Levenson is the Principal Broker/Consultant and Owner of RE/MAX Preferred Properties, INC. He is a third-generation real estate professional, and was named 2019’s Knoxville Realtor of the Year by the Knoxville Area Association of REALTORS. He can be reached at [email protected]

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