Many real estate agents had their busiest year ever during the pandemic. Millions of people suddenly needed more space, didn't want to be "stuck" in cities they'd moved to for work or education, or finally had the chance to buy their dream home at a great price and with a ridiculously low mortgage rate. But there was one minor snag: a pandemic that made face-to-face meetings impossible. Lockdowns, flight bans, quarantines, social distancing, and travel limits substituted showings and open houses. We were happily surprised to discover that real estate could work very well using a basic tool we all had on hand: our phones, as the industry faced its greatest challenge—and highest demand—yet.
Real estate listings have never been more comprehensive and informative. Agents have been relying on technologies for many years to give clients an accurate picture of a home before they even step in the door for several years. Prospective buyers can use Google Maps street view and exterior shots, HD and 3-D listing images, 360-degree drag-and-move panoramic space tours, and full-home camera tours instead of scrolling through a few photos and having to "go see it in person" to know for sure. Long before Covid, many agents offered these features merely to provide improved support to their customers. As a result, people have become used to seeing their homes through the windows of their smartphones and computers.
We can exchange knowledge thanks to technology. It also enables people to exchange knowledge more quickly and broadly. As a result, no agent is just a "local" agent any longer; we're all now multinational agents, linked to and representing a much larger audience. We have clients who live far away, and showing homes to out-of-state and international buyers over the internet is becoming more popular, pandemic or not. As agents, we are here to fill in any holes left by technology; if my client can't come in from around the world to see a house, I can be there for her and give her a virtual tour through FaceTime. If a client wishes to buy a home in another world, I will help him do so remotely, without having to board a plane or even leave his home. Serving out-of-state and overseas clients is now better than ever before, because we can do so without needing to fly and with limited inconvenience to the client's life.
Advantages of using technology
Digital tours can be incredibly useful even though a customer is able to visit a home in person. I can save them a ride by giving them a listing over FaceTime, Zoom, or Google Meet (and time, and money). Virtual showings can give clients a competitive edge in a low-inventory environment by encouraging them to “see” a home easily and make a bid, even before anyone else. For example, on an off-market listing, I can set up a FaceTime viewing for an international client and have their bid in by the end of the day, helping us to beat out offers from local buyers. I would carry the buyer in for a first viewing during the inspection time, which is usually when I'd return with the buyer for a second showing. Others could prefer to fly in only for the closing or moving day and not see the property at all. This was unusually popular during Covid, but it could easily become the rule in the future for investment assets, work relocations, and other circumstances.