How NYC Real Estate Professionals Can Stay Relevant During the Coronavirus Pandemic

It seems like the coronavirus pandemic may have killed NY real estate. Learn how you can continue to expand your business despite having no obvious sellers or buyers. relevant

New York City now accounts for roughly five percent of the world’s confirmed cases of people who have been infected with the coronavirus.

As a result, Governor Cuomo called for people to stay at home and only visit “essential” places like grocery stores and pharmacies in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.

These edicts are already being utilized all over the county.

So many businesses are floundering now since they’ve shut their doors, and in New York City, the real estate industry has been impacted as well in a big way.

Just last Friday, Governor Cuomo, who called for “shelter-in-place” in New York, made it official that real estate brokers need to cease practicing their business due to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the statement released by Cuomo, the real estate industry is prohibited from holding open houses, showings and in-person listing presentations.

How Real Estate Professionals Can Stay Relevant

  • The stay-at-home order mandated by NY State makes real estate activity non-essential business.
  • The current state of the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a big drop in interest in real estate.
  • Real estate professionals can engage in virtual tours for certain types of clients who are active in the market.
  • Agents or brokers who are engaged in any kind of interaction with clients should take public health precautions seriously and wear masks and gloves, as well as observing social distancing.
  • Adopting a CRM can help you stay organized and complete any outstanding real estate transactions efficiently. CRM's can also be instrumental for future business.
  • Professionals can expand their business while in quarantine by staying in touch with current clients, expanding your social network online, and organizing your entire business.

Adapting to a New World

As such, the real estate industry is learning how to adapt to a new business model by working hard to reduce person-to-person contact.

Now brokers and agents have to work from home and all business transactions must be accomplished remotely.

They are adapting to change by looking for ways to protect both the buyer and seller from the coronavirus.

The Real Estate Industry Can Change Almost in a Split Second

The Real Estate Board of New York issued a statement saying that the real estate market is constantly changing because of the virus.

“[B]y the hour and today we are in a very different place compared to where we were a few days ago.”

That’s true.

Just two weeks ago, New York City real estate brokers were still showing apartments.

But now that the virus has proliferated throughout New York City, person-to-person meetings, such as what happens in an in-house apartment tour, are now banned.

Real Estate Industry Employees Are Now Non-Essential

Governor Cuomo made the decision on March 20 that left little doubt that brokers and real estate agents were non-essential, meaning they must cease face-to-face business and practice “social distancing,” so that people will be less likely to contract the virus if they keep a distance from strangers or people whom they do not know.

According to a transcript released by the governor’s office, Government Cuomo said,

"By my mandate, you couldn't even have your real estate agent out showing the apartment. . . Same with the commercial tenants."

For the industry, some found the governor’s rules to be welcoming words, as they now don’t have to try to decide if brokers should show apartments anymore.

Safety First

The real estate industry in New York City now understand the severity of the situation, and that safety and health must be put forward to protect not just their agents and support staff, but also their clientele.

A Repeat of the 2008 Recession?

The real estate industry most fears that the virus will have a widespread effect on the economy that resembles the 2008 recession when home prices plummeted and thousands of realtors were forced out of business.

Unfortunately, we don’t know how to predict when the virus will subside.

Some of the businesses that had to close down may find that they’ve survived, while other businesses may fear how they will look like after the outbreak slows down or is contained.

But it looks bad already for real estate agents because, of course, they rely on commissions from sales and leases for their income.

The bar against showings will make it harder for them to make sales and to market properties.

The Real Estate Industry Still Functions

Despite all the hurtles, the real estate industry has adopted to our new world by creative ways using innovation, virtual home tours and multimedia presentations to help brokers stay connected with their clients, which should slow down the process of the real estate business from collapsing.

How Real Estate Agents Can Stay Relevant in a Crisis

While brick-and-mortar businesses have been financially destroyed by the virus, people all over the world are going online to minimize human contact.

To stay relevant, and to keep their businesses alive, the real estate industry has done the same.

In fact, while the virus continues to scare-off buyers and sellers, virtual removes their fear and is now the new norm in the world of New York City real estate.

Many real estate businesses are rushing to train their agents to use virtual tools to eliminate an in-person encounter.

They are holding online classes for brokers and agents so that they know how to do video tours and how to upload them to share with clients using email or a variety of social media sites like Instagram and Facebook.

Brokerage firms now turn to online open houses using Zoom videoconferencing.

Just two weeks ago Zoom was relatively unknown and today it is the best way to communicate with others to curb social interaction.

For the real estate industry, Zoom has become the norm. But there are many other ways to conduct virtual open houses.

Brokers can use Facetime, Instagram, Facebook Live, YouTube, Skype, and even smartphones.

There is also the option of extensive filming of an apartment that is currently on sale to launch virtual apartment tours.

Tapings of condo and co-op video showings have seen brokers rush to put them together in order to put them on social media in order to keep properties advertised.

As such, buyers can see an apartment in more detail than just a virtual tour or photos.

As the virus continues to spread, agents have found that people are still buying apartments based only on video presentations.

These buyers are mostly from China, who are buying apartments sight unseen as a real estate investment and don’t have to rush to move in.

Virtual Tours Currently on Sites are Not Adequate

For domestic buyers, however, the video tour is not enough.

For example, online real estate sites like Zillow only show photos of the home, which is useless since they only highlight the best features and you often don’t get to see pictures of rooms that make the apartment efficient, such as laundry rooms, mudrooms, and more.

Even William Raveis only shows pictures of an apartment, regardless of the price.

A twenty-seven million apartment, for example, has only four pictures up.

Sotheby’s is more informative, as they have video tours of their homes, although they reserve them for the most expensive properties.

Real estate brokers need to embrace technology more in order to lure buyers.

The video tours on real estate brokerage sites make everything look like Architectural Digest spreads.

Serious buyers need a more comprehensive view of an apartment.

In fact, the virtual tour is essential because brokers want to attract attention from buyers all over the world.

Some real estate companies already have 3-D walk-through tours.

But is a Virtual Walk-Through Enough?

Many in the real estate business know that they need to reshoot or shoot videos for virtual home tours.

The recording of the video should start at the door of the apartment and, rather than just shoot by proceeding inside, the tour should actually encompass the details you don’t see on virtual tours right now.

These things are what clients don’t normally see in videos but which they may want to see. This includes architectural elements like baseboards and crown moldings.

The broker should turn on all the faucets to make sure they work, open drawers in kitchens so that buyers can see how custom-made they are, and also do the same for kitchen islands, where microwaves are often hidden.

The technology that the real estate industry in New York City has embraced is also meant to generate interest in condos and co-ops, as well as keeping the conversation open so that buyers can easily connect with brokers and sellers can do the same.

Using CRM Software Allows Real Estate Agents to Stay Efficient

Now, more than ever, New York City brokers are using CRM, or customer relationship management software.

CRM makes brokers efficient, as it helps them manage, attract and retain clients and can even close deals on time.

Understanding real estate CRM software

Real estate agents use CRM because their data is store in the cloud.

This means that brokers can manage their business anywhere, whether that’s at the office, in-home, or while traveling.

Desktop and Mobile CRM

Brokers access the CRM software on their desktop or on their mobile device any time they want.

In this way, brokers can always assist clients in a timely manner.

For example, brokers can communicate with buyers and sellers in different time zones, allowing them to reach out to clients all over the world.

CRM Allows for Broker Relevancy

The software is essential for brokers who need to remain relevant during this pandemic.

It stores real estate leads, can manage contacts and calendars, upload documents such as contracts and deeds, find properties and attract clients and prospective clients.

This allows brokers to say organized, and to help them stay ahead of the game with real estate trends at a time when they are rapidly changing.

If brokers find potential clients who are looking to buy an apartment as soon as possible, CRM allows them to keep track of these clients and allows for free-flow communication with them as they get closer to their anticipated purchase date.

Contract Management

Real estate CRM systems also allow real estate agents to upload contracts, thus eliminating the one-on-one encounter.

Manage Marketing Campaigns

Some brokers generate leads through marketing campaigns, mostly on social media.

But how do you know if your campaign is tracking?

CRM allows brokers to discover which campaigns are successful and which are not.

CRM Allows for Organization

CRM software doesn’t just allow brokers to remain efficient. It also saves them time as they organize and build their clientele.

Without CRM, brokers may flounder during the virus because they won’t be able to communicate with clients as closely as they want.

A broker may choose to do business manually, but they will soon find out that without CRM, they won’t be as organized as they want.

Working Remotely

Another way the real estate industry has responded to the crisis was to follow Governor Cuomo and work remotely.

Some brokerages have all but shut down to protect their employees’ health.

Turn to the Phone

Right now, the Real Estate Board of New York, an industry trade group, has issued some guidelines to keep the real estate industry running.

To ensure the safety of clients and their agents, they have enforced the latter to conduct as much business as they can by phone.

This is another way that brokers can use to close a sale, or just to call their clients and buyers to assure them that their real estate transactions will still go through in this economy.

The Exception to Turn to the Phone

However, there's an exception. According to NYSAR (The New York State Association of Realtors) brokerage firms and licensees are not allowed to conduct unsolicited phone calls, otherwise known as "cold calling," to prospective clients until at least September, or whenever the outbreak passes.

In this way, the real estate industry has successfully adapted to the conditions of this new world by solving how to show their clients co-ops and condos in person and remaining efficient by using software.

Agents Who Defy Coronavirus Restrictions

Some real estate brokers have not heeded the advice to shutter altogether their business.

Some agents feel that they must carry on because their buyers or sellers have immediate housing needs.

So, they decide to show, but only with precautions.

The few brokers left showing open houses now show up wearing masks and gloves, as well as booties and hand sanitizers.

There is also a new guideline many realtors are adopting to prevent the spread of the virus.

This is the no-touching-surfaces rule.

Buyers at open houses are instructed not to touch surfaces, as well as pulls, handles and knobs like doorknobs, and must do a tour essentially with their hands in their pockets.

Agents who still show apartments do so because they are paid based on commissions.

Their base salary is zero dollars. If they can’t sell a home during the pandemic, they don’t have a salary.

That being said since the stay-at-home order mandated by the state considers real estate a non-essential business, those who choose to operate do so at their own risk.

Sellers and Buyers Also Shun Open Houses

Even though sellers want their apartments to close and buyers want to purchase a home during this pandemic, one thing they have in common is that they are opposed to in-person open houses.

Sellers don’t want strangers visiting their homes nowadays in fear that someone or some party will contaminate their apartments just by touching surfaces or such things like door handles.

Sellers also fear that prospective buyers may have been exposed to the virus.

Buyers are also wary of the in-person open house due to the risk of their health.

Even before the stay-at-home mandate, buyers canceled their viewing if they couldn’t get to the building by walking.

If they had to use the subway to get to the area, they also canceled.

Some buyers didn’t even make it to the open house in fear of touching elevator buttons without having hand sanitizers on them.

Using Quarantine Time to Build Business

You might ask yourself how you can actually build while you're not officially allowed to conduct actions that are imperative to you making money.

Truthfully, interest in buying and selling is at an all-time low as most New Yorkers turn their attention to staying at home, cutting expenses, and reducing the risk of infection.

Aside from a hand full of cash buyers who usually act when the market is down, nothing could be further from most people's minds than buying real estate.

Surprisingly, if you are a long-term game player, you can actually build business at a low-activity time like this.

Keep in touch with clients

The global pandemic is no time to lose touch with your clients just because you're not actively engaged in business with them.

Send your clients an email or, even better, drop them a line to see how they or their loved ones are doing.

Offer to provide them with any assistance if they require it.

Your clients will definitely remember your kindness and vigilance and reward you with business or referrals once the market opens up again.

Online networking should be your go-to

If you ask some of the best brokers and agents out there, most of them will sing praises all day long of just good old-fashioned networking.

However, with social distancing attending a networking event or community function is out of the question.

Connecting with people online is more crucial than ever, whether it be Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

Meet people online and add them to your network. Don't be afraid to let them know what you, but humanize yourself.

Some of the top real estate producers admit that they are not just simply brokers, but solution-providers, community members, neighbors, and friends first.

That's right.

The best brokers have lifelong clients that not only use them for every real estate transaction but also refer them to everyone in their network.

Using this time to work from home could be a pivotal time when you can expand your network exponentially.

If someone in your network needs something and calls for help online, be the first to try and provide assistance if necessary.

Solidify bonds online that have remained distant before the quarantine.

Once the market begins to pick up again, you will be that agent or broker with that much more connections and potential clients.

Get your affairs in order

Another activity one can engage in while in quarantine is getting the particulars of your business straightened out.

Using a good CRM that fits your needs, as mentioned earlier, is a good way of staying organized.

However, this is a good time to look at and organize your finances, taxes, and budget.

Staying at home is also a good time to investigate new market strategies and tools.

Make sure that you are ready to go once the market reopens.

What the Future May Hold

The real estate industry in New York has turned to online sites, phone calls, software platforms, YouTube and social media sites, for example, to avoid the traditional one-on-one encounter.

But most of us already go online by default, which may mean that, once the virus passes, we may still remain remote and in-person human interactions like, say, between an agent and a buyer, could someday seem less necessary.

Augustine Reyes Chan
About the author

As a real estate professional, Augustine Reyes Chan has helped many buyers and sellers through the process of homeownership. He is an expert in the field of how-to for potential buyers, qualifying for a mortgage, and all that goes into car, homeowners, and renters insurance. Augustine Reyes Chan graduated from Columbia University with a degree in Bachelor's degree in Sociology.