In normal times, real estate is a hands-on business. Agents thrive by cultivating in-person relationships with both colleagues and clients. Although real estate websites have been steadily gaining in popularity, open houses and showings still play a vital role in sparking buyer interest.
These are anything but normal times, though. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced real estate agents to find new, inventive ways to market properties and connect with buyers and sellers. To learn more, AceableAgent spoke with Anna Uliassi, a Realtor at Juice Real Estate Group in Austin, Texas.
The Current Mood of Buyers and Sellers
After dropping sharply in March 2020, the housing market has rebounded, and in some ways, things are not that different.
"At first, there was a lot of confusion as to what we can/can’t do, are we essential workers, and just how safe it is to leave the house at all," said Uliassi. "The difficulty was just navigating through this with my clients and making sure I was still able to help them in some way."
Uliassi misses in-person contact with her team, but she finds that buyers haven't changed their priorities much. They are still primarily concerned about the listing price and moving into the right neighborhood.
The main hurdles in a tight market like Austin are finding the right property and navigating multiple offers. The pandemic has made these problems worse — some sellers have postponed listing, contributing to a decline in inventory. Now more than ever, Uliassi performs due diligence, looking for patterns in recent sales to help her buyers be successful.
Sellers, on the other hand, are nervous about having strangers in their home. To make them more comfortable, Uliassi advises them to vacate the property entirely before listing. She also schedules back-to-back showings to minimize the seller's exposure and makes sure there is a sanitation station at each listing.
Online Tools for Marketing Real Estate
The biggest change due to COVID-19 is how agents market properties. Open houses, an important marketing tool before the pandemic, are out. Instead, real estate agents rely on virtual open houses to introduce a property to the market.
Agents also need to step up their social media game in order to showcase properties effectively online. Uliassi's favorite platforms are Facebook Live and Instagram TV.
"I invested in a gimple to stabilize my video," she said. "I'm hoping that makes the videos more pleasant to watch, with less motion."
The goal is to present as much visual information as possible so buyers can narrow down their choices without having to view listings in person. Uliassi has always used high-quality photos to attract buyers. Now, she also adds a 3D Matterport tour that lets people virtually walk the house.
"I always think you really have to physically see a house to know 100% if it's right, but we use what we have to make things work during this weird time," said Uliassi.
Advice for Agents Who Are Just Starting Out
If you're taking pre-licensing courses to become an agent right now, you may be concerned about how to break into the industry during these tough times. Uliassi admits it will be challenging.
"Buyers and sellers are looking for someone who has been through ups and downs in the market to give advice," she points out. "Things are very erratic and change quickly right now from lending to inventory to COVID-related rules. It helps to have experience to navigate this with clients."
Her advice for new real estate agents is to start off working as a showing agent or showing assistant "to get a solid feel for the market and its nuances." And remember — the pandemic won't last forever.
"I still think real estate is a wonderful career," Uliassi affirms.