The ordinary processes of home buying and selling have changed since the pandemic. Many markets in the U.S. and Canada are seeing record sales, multiple offer situations, and record prices. Luckily the new normal has been a booming business for agents. Those freewheeling days of browsers dropping in for open houses, the playful back and forth of offers and counter-offers, and the luxury of conducting business between certain hours of the workday - are all long gone.  In this new world amid a pandemic, real estate agents have had to evolve, modify and re-write their job!  Here are 5 ways that the job of a realtor has changed:

1) Show properties differently

The coronavirus pandemic quickly changed how buyers view and purchase real estate. Realtors had to strategize on safe ways to show homes to potential buyers since real estate demand did not slow down even as the whole world economy came to a grinding halt after March 2020.  Many buyers either couldn’t travel or were uncomfortable doing so, but still wanted to tour homes for sale.

Safe Showings

Safe showings involved wearing masks and gloves and sometimes even booties to cover shoes. Buyer clients would be required to wear the same. In addition, sellers of occupied homes would typically leave lights on and all interior doors open before the showing. This practice minimized the number of surfaces touched by buyers and agents. The agent showing the property would then be required to sanitize any surfaces touched at the showing, like light switches, doorknobs, and countertops.

Virtual showings are integral

The pandemic added challenges for buyers interested in real estate in other towns, states or countries. It was just not feasible for buyers to get on a plane to see a house that has just come on the market.  The pandemic forced hotels to close, and AirBnb properties required a minimum of 30 days for reservations. This would provide enough time for the guests to quarantine once arriving in a new town. While those restrictions have since been lifted, the hot seller’s market in most parts of the world means that buyers simply can’t wait in order to make an offer on a new listing.  Video tours with the buyer’s agent, using apps like Facetime, Skype, and Google Duo became the new normal in these cases.

Virtual open houses have become more common, with listing agents broadcasting from their phones on Facebook Live. Virtual showing technology, like Matterport’s 3D video walk-through, had been growing in popularity prior to the pandemic, but in today's economy, it has become integral for marketing new listings. Realtors use it on many of their residential listings, especially those that are likely to appeal to out-of-state or international buyers, such as mountain homes, vacation homes, and luxury properties.

2) Be available 24/7

To many in the industry, this is not a 'new' aspect of the job. However, with the inter-related global community and the surge in online communication, listing searches, and lockdown guidelines, realtors need to be available literally every moment of the day to capture leads and finalize deals. The number of sales is actually quite high, but homes are just not remaining on the market long enough for inventory to increase. As soon as a new home comes on the market, there is likely to be high interest for showings (both virtually and in-person), and in many cases, there are multiple offers. 

Realtors are 'on the clock' every moment in this fast-paced environment. This means that when a new listing comes on the market, buyer agents must be available and ready to show the home and write an offer with haste. Waiting even one day is often enough to miss out on the house.

  • 97% of buyers searched for their home online. This is a jump from last year's 93%.
  • Time spent looking for a home declined to eight weeks from 10,  the shortest search time since 2007. (NAR)

3) Structure offers that appeal to sellers

Another significant change in the job of a realtor due to the pandemic is how realtors write and negotiate offers. In this very strong seller’s market, buyer agents have to write offers that will appeal to sellers, especially when the buyer is competing with other buyers. This often means foregoing some terms that would be beneficial to the buyer in order to secure the contract and close on the house. It’s common for buyer agents to ask the listing agent what terms would be attractive to the seller prior to preparing the offer with their buyer.

Listing agents are also fielding multiple offers on a home, unusual for most transactions prior to the pandemic. Multiple offer situations are becoming more common, and seller agents are negotiating very favorable terms (not just the highest price) for their clients. Some examples of these terms include minimal due diligence periods, no repairs (as is), seller possession after closing, and high due diligence fees.

If you want to be the first offer, the best offer, and the only offer that the seller will accept, your bid needs to match the seller's expectations.

4) Market properties differently

The pandemic has changed the way people live, work and play.  The desired features of a new home are different than they were before 2020. The coronavirus led home buyers to reassess their housing situation, home size and location. Listings during the pandemic are attractive if they have a home office or flex space, high-speed internet availability, a fenced yard for kids and pets, or easy access to hiking or biking trails for COVID-safe outdoor activities. Buyers are looking for larger homes because extra space would allow households to accommodate older adult relatives or young adults that are now living within the residence. 

5) More virtual work

In addition to showing homes virtually as discussed earlier, realtors are doing even more of the post-contract work virtually. Electronic signature software has rapidly gained popularity since the pandemic, with most contracts being signed with programs like DocuSign and DotLoop. Even real estate attorneys and title companies are using these programs for many documents.

For documents that require a notary, title companies are using mobile notaries and outdoor closings. Some real estate attorneys have even set up what looks like a small tailgate party in their parking lot, where buyers, sellers, and realtors can observe social distancing guidelines while closing a sale.

"Realtors® did their part in not only keeping afloat America's real estate industry but also in helping sustain our nation's economy as it faced unprecedented and unexpected challenges throughout the past year. We are all in unknown territory with this pandemic, so it's no surprise that more buyers than ever turned to agents to help them navigate through some of the uncertainties and one of the most complex, competitive markets any of us have ever seen."  NAR President Vince Malta

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About the Author

Scott Russel

Scott Russell is the founder of Freestone Properties, an Asheville real estate agency located in Black Mountain, NC. Scott has been an active real estate broker and investor since 2006 and has closed over $100 million in sales consisting of residential real estate, commercial real estate, and raw land. He frequently writes real estate articles and market updates covering the real estate market in Asheville, Black Mountain, and the surrounding areas of Western North Carolina.

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