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March 2020 marked a major shift in the way real estate is marketed and sold. As the world locked down for an indefinite period, house hunters found themselves locked out of prospective homes. Open houses became virtual, and companies like mine specializing in online marketing for real estate saw an uptick in business.
This was welcome news for some real-estate agents. Shuttered open houses meant spending more time with family and less time making small talk with nosy neighbors. For others, especially newer agents who rely on open houses as networking tools, this meant getting creative in finding prospective clients. Now, as restrictions are easing in some areas, the doors to open houses are slowly starting to unlock.
Here are five ways open houses will be different in a post-pandemic world.
1. Seller decision
More than ever before, the seller is now in the driver’s seat. Previously, agents would almost always encourage an open house at the time of listing. Now, that is no longer a given. Tabitha Rourke, broker of record with Rouse Realty Advisors, says she will make sure her clients are a greater part of the decision-making process. Rourke also indicated that the number of open houses is decreasing, and it’s not always necessary to hold one.
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2. Mandatory sign-in
Signing in with a name and phone number has always been a convenient way for agents to follow up with visitors after an open house has ended. While this information was rarely mandatory to tour a home, times have changed. Sign-ins are now commonly required for contact tracing. Enterprising agents can take advantage of mandatory sign-ins by creating a sheet that allows visitors to check a “contact” box. This way, visitors can opt into the agency’s email list and agree to be contacted by the agent down the road.
3. Serious buyers only
Although it’s difficult to discern serious buyers from open house tourists, it doesn’t hurt to ask. In an effort to reduce traffic at open houses, some agents are asking buyers to do research and take advantage of online marketing materials before booking a showing or attending an open house. For example, sales representative Jessica Montague March adds the following to all of her property descriptions: “In the interest of everyone’s safety, before booking your viewing, please take advantage of our video walk through tour, photos, floor plans and mapping, during this time of social distancing.” Expect such instructions to appear more frequently in an effort to drive more traffic online.
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4. Greater online presence
Marketing assets such as professional real-estate photography, videos, 360 virtual tours and floor plans weren’t fully utilized by every agent before the pandemic. Now, many sellers are expecting to list with someone who makes a significant digital investment in order to cut down on traffic in the home. Real-estate broker Sarah Middleton says she added an iGUIDE 360 tour and floor plans in March 2020 because it makes her clients, who are mostly seniors, feel safe.
5. Safety protocols
Even in a post-pandemic world, prepare for safety protocols to stay when attending an open house. The precautions put in place to prevent Covid-19 can help prevent the spread of other viruses as well, including the seasonal flu and common cold. A sign-in sheet, sanitizer and mask protocol can be made mandatory by local public health or real-estate associations. Homeowners may also put those restrictions in place as a requirement for entry. An open house can be a very personal experience as prospective buyers walk through someone’s bedroom and open cabinets and closets. Wearing a mask and following safety protocols is a sign of respectful caution for one’s private environment.
Professional real-estate photography and videography are the best ways to limit traffic in an open house. Every listing requires a stellar online presence, so don’t forget to include a video that acts as a movie trailer. Serious buyers will then get a ticket to see it in its entirety. That ticket is a call or email to you, the seller or the listing agent.