Real Estate Showings During Covid-19: Unexpected outcomes of screening requirements
August 24, 2020
It’s official, real estate agents find themselves in a world of bubbling demand and sluggish supply — all in the middle of a pandemic and shattered employment figures.
But real estate agents face one more new obstacle: some of the “old, tried, and tested” sales tools are either less effective, or their use is explicitly restricted as a result of Covid. Open houses and showings fall in that exact category. And even with screening tools for real estate now available, the re-opening is slow to unfold. After all, RECO advises that open houses still “should be minimized and avoided unless they are necessary and with the seller’s informed decision.” Meanwhile, some professionals have turned to virtual tours to deal with the physical distancing requirements, but many buyers still feel that “you just can’t get an impression from a camera.”
So, how is this all actually playing out in the field?
To get a better first-hand, we spoke with 3 real estate professionals to get their take on four topics:
How effective are open houses as a tool in general? While not a must-have, they’re still one of the most effective ways to build up a book of potential business.
Question: How effective would you say are open houses as a tool in the real estate sales process, generally speaking?
Hélène: Open houses are, in my opinion, just another tool in a realtor’s arsenal to market and feature a home, and bring the best price possible to a seller. Though, statistically-speaking, few homes are actually sold during an open house, there's no question they’ve been known to be a great strategy for a realtor to recruit new clients, as most open house visitors walk in without an agent. I have myself acquired many new clients this way. These days, if we consider the health risks associated with mingling with many people, the restrictions imposed on gatherings, and given the advent of great technology for featuring homes online through virtual tours, interactive 3D videography, etc., it is no surprise that the need (and desire) for open houses is diminishing. After all, truly serious buyers hire a professional to help them find a home, particularly in the competitive real estate market we experience here in Toronto.
“Though statistically-speaking, few homes are actually sold during an open house, there's no question they’ve been known to be a great strategy for a realtor to recruit new clients, as most open house visitors walk in without an agent.”
Samer: When clients come to us wanting a home, we understand that it’s very much an emotional process for them and we take that into account. We find that private tours of a home can be more effective as it allows them to be more relaxed as they walk through a space and really envision themselves living in it. At an open house, there is an element of discomfort of other people being present which not all clients are comfortable with.
Impact of Reduced Real Estate Showings
Question: Some agents expressed that the reduced number of showings due to Covid-19 actually lead to an unexpected positive outcome, because those who show up now are more serious buyers. Would you agree?
Samer: Generally speaking, COVID-19 has resulted in most people thinking twice before going into anything they might not be serious about. In my opinion, the pandemic has resulted in higher efficiencies in the way we do work, one of them being virtual tours, which help clients shortlist listings they receive, hence only visiting homes they feel are actually options they’re interested in.
“Generally speaking, COVID-19 has resulted in most people thinking twice before going into anything they might not be serious about.”
Hélène: Absolutely. The inventory is still relatively low so buyers who are actively searching hire realtors and come ready to present their best offer forward. In fact, after the lull we experienced during the usually busy spring market, we saw a flurry of activity in July particularly, and many multiple-offer transactions, which benefited the sellers.
Real Estate Supply and Demand During the Pandemic
Question: There have been reports that the supply of real estate is yet to catch up with increased demand in certain regions as a result of the pandemic. What has been your experience?
Amy: One of the homes I put an offer on had over 25 bids for a starter home a ways out from the downtown area. My impression is you'll likely see more households look further out into the suburbs with a backyard and more land as a lot of companies proceed to maintain work from home. You're likely also seeing a softening in the market for condo values in downtown cores.
“One of the homes I put an offer on had over 25 bids for a starter home a ways out from the downtown area.”
Samer: Toronto is a desirable city for many people. Be it a first time buyer or a seasoned investor, Toronto has had a track record of success in this area. With the highest level of immigrants coming into Toronto, the demand for housing continues to grow and the market continues to catch up. I think it’s a good problem to have - it drives growth and development for the city on so many levels.
Viability of Virtual Real Estate Showings
Question: Some buyers that have gone to “virtual” showings commented that “you just can’t get an impression from a camera.” Do you think more people would start coming out to showings if they felt safer to do so?
Amy: Safety is for sure a concern. Quite frankly, seeing a place in person is never a replacement for a virtual showing. Whenever any of my clients get close to putting down an offer, I always try to make sure they have a chance to see the place at least once in person, because you never know. It’s a big purchase! You want to be sure about it.
“Quite frankly, seeing a place in person is never a replacement for a virtual showing.”
Hélène: Yes, I think they would. We have tried to put all the necessary measures in place to make sure we limit exposure to the virus and reassure our clients that it is safe to show your home, and also visit properties. Few buyers would be willing to make such an important investment without actually walking through a property, and expecting them to make decisions based only on a virtual tour isn’t reasonable. So we need to come up with safe ways to conduct our business going forward. Once a vaccine is found, things will hopefully improve in our industry, though I believe that some of those measures we’ve put in place - such as tracking open house visitors, requiring ID and masks, etc., will remain for the foreseeable future.
“Few buyers would be willing to make such an important investment without actually walking through a property, and expecting them to make decisions based only on a virtual tour isn’t reasonable.”
Samer: I’ve recently had transactions that closed site unseen. Most properties speak for themselves; add to it a high quality virtual tour, videos and images, and you have yourself a deal. However this isn’t an approach that appeals to all clients and we mustn’t underestimate the importance of a physical tour/visit. And yes, I believe that once it's safer we will find an increase in physical showings - but I also think the virtual tours are here to stay.
"I’ve recently had transactions that closed site unseen... However this isn’t an approach that appeals to all clients and we mustn’t underestimate the importance of a physical tour/visit."
Making Showings Safer and more Comfortable for Both Buyers and Sellers
Real estate entrepreneur Jeff Greene once claimed that “you make 10% of your money because you’re a genius and 90% because you catch a great wave.”
Now would be a good time to add that to catch that wave you still need a surfboard.
Real estate agents may be able to forego open houses for a while, but even with the growing popularity of virtual tours, physical showings are far from optional when it comes to closing the sale.
To give both buyers and sellers a sense of security while doing showings, real estate professionals are turning to CrowdBlink Protect — a lightweight, turn-key app that lets anyone easily conduct symptom screenings, get instant alerts about failed assessments, and also collect visitor information.