With public health safety measures in effect across the country, real estate agents have been quick to find innovative ways to serve clients who need to buy, sell or rent a home during the pandemic. Here’s an overview of how agents can best serve their clients during this time while following local real estate board guidelines, plus a look at how these changes could impact the future of real estate sales.
Be the Voice of Reason:
In these unfamiliar times, clients are looking for clarity. With most people spending more time at home, you have an opportunity to reach out and check in with past and existing clients.
Not all clients are looking to buy and sell at this time and some may be directly impacted by the pandemic. Make sure you’re sensitive and helpful, no matter what their circumstances are. Some clients may just be curious about prices or market conditions in their area, so arm yourself with relevant data to facilitate these conversations.
When working with clients who do need to buy or sell right now, make them feel confident that you’re prepared with market knowledge and are well-informed on real estate board and association guidelines for operating in the current environment. Brush up on tools that facilitate virtual interactions, as this will be your lifeline to accessing clients and properties. Educate clients on the current guidelines for conducting showings and transactions, such as limited in-person contact, and keep clients updated as those guidelines evolve.
While it is important to showcase your expertise in these changing market conditions, also consider this an opportunity to simply check in and build meaningful relationships with them.
Go virtual, electronic and use COVID-19 clauses in offers:
It is important to educate clients on how technology is no longer optional but is necessary for the home-buying process. Many Realtors are pre-screening properties solo, recording videos or streaming showings to clients using their smartphones. These are great options in lieu of halted in-person open houses. Agents who are familiar with current technology will be a step ahead in servicing clients.
In addition to ensuring that technology-powered interactions are prioritized, pay extra attention to instructions in broker remarks. Here are examples of remarks you may see, or can consider using:
- In-person showings are not allowed for tenanted listings due to COVID-19.
- Live virtual tours and showings will be offered through smartphones provided either by the tenant, listing agent or buying agents due to COVID-19.
- Please insert the COVID-19 clause outlining that all offers shall be conditional upon viewing the property.
Technology can benefit your real estate practice beyond showings and client interactions. Going paperless by using electronic signatures for documents, and wire or electronic transfers for deposits and back-to-vendor cheques will help you streamline your business now and in the future. Speak to co-operating brokerages and your own brokerage in advance to ensure all parties support these types of transactions.
Another way to provide value to your clients during the pandemic is to use COVID-19 clauses in purchase and sale agreements to address potential delays in closing timelines or limiting in-person contact to protect yourself and your clients. Here are examples of conditions, but contact a lawyer and consult with your broker of record for specific direction:
- Make offers conditional upon the buyer or tenant inspecting the property in person.
- Acknowledge and agree to the use of electronic fund transfers and wire transfers when/if required.
- Acknowledge and agree to the use of electronic signatures by all parties.
- Acknowledge and agree to the requirement to close the transaction notwithstanding any impacts of COVID-19, excluding the closing of land registry offices and financial institutions.
- Acknowledge any keys shall be left in a lockbox at the property with the codes released upon transfer of ownership.
Post COVID-19 and brokerage operations:
As the COVID-19 situation improves and life goes back to normal, we may see technology continuing to play a bigger role in all aspects of real estate transactions. Perhaps virtual showings and virtual meetings are here to stay.
Despite the limitations on in-person interactions right now, technology has allowed clients and agents to continue working through all aspects of a real estate transaction seamlessly. It is possible virtual tools will remain for the long-term if they prove to be convenient, efficient and effective. If that happens, we may see a world in which training and licensing criteria for all brokers and agents are updated and adapted by provincial licensing bodies to set new standards of virtual-first service. Agents who take the time to update their virtual skills and adapt to these changing circumstances are already two steps ahead.