As people are faced with social distancing and constantly changing societal norms, many professions have transformed.
For Barbara Babcock, regional director of the Cleveland/Akron market at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Professional Realty, and Larry Rosen of GLR Realty, a brokerage of List Realty based in Columbus, being an agent during the COVID-19 pandemic means adjusting the fundamentals of their job – especially when it comes to showing homes and meeting with clients.
“The main portion of this is showing houses and meeting people eye to eye is still going on, but there are now precautionary measures that have been put in place as well as suggesting how to protect yourself and your clients,” Rosen said. “When I work with a client and they want to see a home, we’re using more technology like our cellphone and FaceTime-like programs where we don’t have to necessarily be with clients physically. So, we do have to be more creative.”
At Berkshire Hathaway, Babcock said many of these digital services were already in place before social distancing and the switch to remote work.
“Because of that, the effect on our clients and consumers was very little,” she said. “The biggest difference we saw was that since real estate is such a personal business, we were focused on keeping that personal relationship with our clients.”
Both professionals explained that virtual tours and meetings have become the current norm at their companies.
“We were already doing virtual open houses and Facebook Live open houses, as well as doing in-person showings. Obviously, we’re not doing that anymore right now, but what we have been using in place of that is the 3D Matterport camera,” Babcock said. “It’s like Google Earth on the inside of your home. We’ve had it for five years but our usage has gone way up. Agents can give a full tour through the camera and buyers have bought homes based on just that.”
Rosen said virtual tours have been the most popular service at his office, though in-person visits are still available with slight changes.
“We hire a company to do a virtual tour and that is one of the most popular things today, where they go room to room and show the space,” he said. “But again, there are still some who want to visit a home and have no problem going into it, wearing a face mask, gloves and footie disposables.”
The changes that came with the pandemic has also required real estate agents to view their jobs in different ways. These new perspectives have also taught them new things about their careers.
“I think the face-to-face interactions we took for granted, being face-to-face with our clients and consumers,” Babcock stated. “To build that relationship and learning how to keep that relationship going and building it, that has been a total learning curve right now. We found that we could do it through FaceTime and Zoom. As long as you could still see their faces, you can still work to keep those relationships going.”
Rosen added he finds himself taking care to keep people safe.
“If I was going to have a face-to-face meeting now, I’d set it up requiring a face mask,” he noted. “We’d keep social distancing in place and sit outside on a bench somewhere six feet apart. All of these have changed and made us as a society more alert to the possibility of infection and more likely to adjust our behavior.”
Following the pandemic, Rosen and Babcock had differing opinions in how life will be, especially when it comes to residential real estate.
“I think this could all go back to normal,” he said. “I don’t think this kind of action is going to replace the way we do business. Real estate is still a one-on-one business. We just have to have an understanding of what the pandemic was.”
Babcock added, “Since we’re already doing it, I think it will carry over. I think the consumer is going to be the one carrying over the practices. Instead of making phone calls, we’re going to see a lot of people opting for FaceTime. They’re easy to do.”