Since the onset of COVID-19, our regular routines have been flipped upside down. From delayed open houses to client meetings over video calls, agents can no longer rely on traditional practices of negotiating sales.
Like any change, new challenges come with new opportunities. How can real estate agents and agencies leverage new technology in the age of social distancing and remote work?
This article explores the hurdles that the global pandemic has instilled in the residential real estate market and highlights three ways to overcome them.
New realities of selling real estate
Since last spring, the residential market has been transformed. Stay-at-home regulations and health concerns led to fewer buyers looking for property and fewer sellers willing to have strangers enter their homes. In the US, home showings per listing dropped 40% in 2020 compared to the previous year, while queries for agents and offers made also fell sharply at the beginning of the year.
We have identified two main problems that real estate agents faced during this period:
Problem 1: Lack of face-to-face interaction with clients
Before the pandemic, 46% of a sales rep’s time was either spent with the client or at their client’s work premises. This level of interaction meant that agents could spend a great deal of time with buyers for purchasing guidance and influence decision-making.
However, with new social policies and fears of close personal interaction, traditional methods of client nurturing have taken a toll. Without sitting next to a client or decision-maker, agents cannot gather:
- Strong positive or negative sentiments from the decision maker’s facial expressions
- Emotional indicators expressed through body language or vocal intonation
- Introvertive or quiet behavior that signals to buy resistance
As a result, the lack of these signals led to a lack of transparency in the sales process, gathering inconsistent signs of buyer intention and causing opportunities to come to a halt.
Problem 2: Changes in the market
The pandemic has also caused major shifts in the residential market’s purchasing habits. One of the issues was that the need to live within commuting distance of frequently visited places dropped significantly. In many cases, the office, gym, or their children’s classroom have all relocated to the interior of their living room. With that said, many younger families shifted their attention away from premium-priced downtown apartments to more spacious, suburban areas.
Meanwhile, well-priced homes that were once only seasonal destinations were getting more offers from people looking to relocate for the long term. People sought homes in less dense and more affordable areas that offer greater access to the outdoors and open spaces.
This new shift in purchasing habit means selling tactics and metrics that worked before won’t translate easily in the next few years. Solely relying on pre-covid data for trend forecasting and selling validation can result in inaccuracies. In a study by Gartner, chief sales officers saw a wide variance in their forecasting models in 2020, ranging from +25% improvement to −50% reductions in some cases.
So, what does this mean for selling real estate in a post-covid world? We suggest the following software solutions:
Solution 1: Data collection with a CRM
We’ve all heard the term “data is the new oil”.
By aggregating data from multiple sources into a single source of truth, you can gain valuable insights on your customers to tailor your selling strategies for each individual.
Data collection serves as an alternative way of dissecting communication and assesses the buyer’s commitment to a deal. With every interaction on your website – from keywords entered into the search bar, listings scrolled through, or images clicked on, all web activities leave traces of cookies that feed into an agency’s CRM database.
Information collected from various touchpoints can accumulate to a rich source to help agents make data-driven decisions. For instance, if a prospect views similar listings repeatedly, the agent can take this information to formulate a strategy for selling related homes within the same area.
Solution 2: Using AI for predictive forecasting
Accumulating real-time data can have the uncanny ability to consider the current economic situation and give accurate predictive forecasting. While the environment has brought many uncertainties, AI and machine learning can highlight client-to-property matches that are otherwise masked by intuition and historical data.
Deploying AI-based analytics can help agents capture buying signals and sentiments that are lost in traditional selling methods. When you integrate the wealth of data to a CRM with AI capabilities, its predictive intelligence will be able to learn, calculate, and generate recommendations based on a client’s preferences.
Because machine learning continues to adapt as more data is fed into the engine, agents won’t have to rely on popular trends to make suggestions for clients. Instead, AI algorithms can identify the most suited properties for each client and present exactly what they’re looking for.
Solution 3: Personalized marketing material
Communication with clients through digital mediums has become second nature to real estate agents, but are they doing it effectively? Not only do personalized emails take time and effort to create, but the process is notorious for causing delays in communication.
Integrating an email builder into a CRM will allow agents to create customized client experiences at scale. Not only will all data be in one place to create targeted emails, but it can also provide valuable feedback such as open rates and click-through rates. These metrics can act as indicators of specific listings or promotions to better understand the buying cycle.
Some software also accommodates email marketing automation, enabling long-running interactions with customers while delivering insights on the quality of the materials. By creating a more streamlined experience for an infamously challenging and tedious process, agents can better nurture returning customers and secure valuable referrals.
Technology’s growing impact on the industry
COVID-19 has shown unprecedented challenges in the real estate industry, and agents rapidly need to adjust to new ways of work to bypass uncertainties and remain competitive. Fortunately, introducing tools that can gather buyer signals and sentiments will provide agents with customer insights to maximize every deal. Firms that embrace tech as a part of their business strategy will continue to thrive for years to come, while those that don’t may end up on the wrong side of history.
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