Real estate agents have an amazing capacity to adapt.
Although our industry is often characterized as resistant to change, the current health crisis has proven that we’re able to quickly adjust when necessary. In fact, in just weeks I’ve been blown away at how effortlessly real estate has successfully adopted new technologies, business practices and forms of communication that in the past would have taken years to implement.
In other words, I believe there is a silver lining to be found in the pandemic. It’s about not just the present, but the future. I have witnessed four trends that were already present but now have been accelerated and, I believe, are here to stay.
1. Business Conducted Virtually — And More Efficiently
Despite the pandemic slowing the real estate industry, in the vast majority of places, it has far from completely stopped. In fact, it has simply forced people to get creative, figuring out new ways of virtually executing many of the activities surrounding buying and selling a home, including showings, open houses and appraisals. We were already walking down this road, but now this trend has gathered steam.
This is partly because to be truly virtual, it really needs to include all the parties involved in a real estate transaction, including attorneys, notaries, appraisers and inspectors. The collaboration and willingness to change has been impressive and swift.
As everyone adjusts, we’re witnessing the benefit of open communication, working together and, ultimately, expedited transactions. I anticipate this open-mindedness and new way of doing business will continue even after the pandemic because it’s now proven that virtual business can be easier, faster and no less effective.
This efficiency isn’t limited to transactions. Because the climate is changing so rapidly, company leaders have been forced to pivot as well, making decisions quickly and embracing change. In the end, I think it’s a good thing because we will all be less set in our ways and better positioned to adapt and adopt more quickly in the future.
2. Physical Offices Will Be Reconsidered
Working virtually has been trending in recent years, but COVID-19 has accelerated its adoption. Employees across sectors have already proven that they can maintain productivity outside of the office, shattering assumptions previously held about working from home.
But real estate has long held onto the belief that large, impressive offices are critical to being part of the fabric of a community. Critical to attract and retain top agents. Critical to business.
And yet, brokers all over the world have shifted their weekly sales meetings to Zoom, or Microsoft Teams, or Facebook Live, and are finding that there’s a benefit to conducting sales meetings virtually. And a big one is that many top agents, especially those who previously were too busy or too uninterested, are now logging on and joining to hear what’s going on. Of course, this is in part due to this moment in time, but it also can’t be overlooked that it is simply not as much of an imposition on the time of people who always have been, and remain, busy. Now, they make the time because they don’t need to leave the house.
For real estate brokerages, this is a huge opportunity. It’s no secret that broker profitability has eroded in recent years, as the company dollar has been in decline, yet expenses remain the same or greater. These large, impressive offices are a huge entry on the balance sheet. This is an opportunity to rethink, reinvent and repurpose by reducing square footage, combining offices and reconsidering shared use.
I believe the post-COVID office will act as a centralized hub for agents to gather, network and collaborate. These will be true community spaces, ideal for events, in-person meetings and speakers, rather than cubical farms. These are not new ideas, perhaps just ideas for which the time has finally come.
3. Knowledge Is Shareable And Accessible
Education is currently more accessible and abundant than ever before. Various companies are offering panel discussions, one-on-one interviews and other expert insights shared in the form of webinars, videos and podcasts.
Industry leaders who previously struggled to find time to participate are now readily sharing their insights — we’ve seen it happen with our very own web series, LPI Connected Conversations, which launched in the midst of this crisis. We use the series to highlight the ideas, business practices and creativity of brokers around the world so we can all learn from each other.
And the shared knowledge is extraordinarily accessible. Many companies are sharing this information for free, and because it’s all online, audiences can tune in easily from virtually anywhere.
4. Authenticity Is The New Norm
Incredibly, we’re seeing a new level of authenticity — both from people and brands. Presentations and meetings are being broadcasted from our homes, showcasing our personal realness. My dog Moxi, for example, occasionally makes an appearance on a webinar or staff meeting that I’m hosting, and I’m not the only one. I’ve seen numerous clients and co-workers share the screen with their furry friends and little ones. Amazingly, it’s completely accepted and even welcome. Nothing uplifts the dull of quarantine quite like a cute baby or pet.
Without the flash of a stylish office and a well-groomed appearance — we have been forgoing salon trips for two months, after all — it’s the content that shines through. It’s less smoke and mirrors and more substance.
This period has been a complete overhaul of norms that were no longer serving us in favor of processes that will more widely benefit individuals and businesses. Our lives have changed forever, and as these accelerating trends take hold, I see a lot of silver linings in our future.