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The New Norm: How the Real Estate Industry is Adapting

We’re in a time that took us all by surprise. We know that each day brings a “new norm”…and each day requires new levels of adaptability. Although real estate has been redefined in current days, business still goes on.  We had the privilege to chat with Stephanie Anton, President, Luxury Portfolio International® and Leading Real Estate Companies of the World®.  Let’s hear from one of the industry’s leaders on how to navigate through these disruptions.

–What is the current sentiment of real estate companies in this market?

First and foremost, the leadership at our firms are most concerned about the health and safety of their agents, and their community. Ours is a network of very local businesses and people who are deeply rooted in their community, concerned for their friends and neighbors. Beyond that, we have learned through a long history of weathering storms that this is an incredibly resilient industry, and I’m consistently impressed with how quickly people are pivoting to create truly creative solutions to keep deals together, continue to help people with their real estate needs, ensuring everyone stays safe in the process and really remaining positive in the face of a lot of adversity. It really is inspiring.

–What are companies doing to preserve business in this landscape?

Brokers and agents are doing what they need to do – within the letter of the law. In markets where real estate has not been deemed essential, transactions are much more at a pause, but in those that have been deemed essential, real estate professionals are still able to help – within restrictions.  For example, in NYC and many other big cities, many large residential buildings are restricted so photographers, inspectors, appraisers, agents or even prospective buyers cannot gain access to a unit. As such, business has slowed dramatically. But in many markets where real estate is essential, we can still arrange for photography (though often only under strict rules, such as the use of gloves and masks, home must be unoccupied, etc.).  In every market, however, we have seen the advent of the ‘virtual real estate experience.’ We are seeing exponential increases in virtual showings in which agents are leveraging Zoom and Facebook Live for “virtual open houses”. The virtual experience continues beyond showings. We are also seeing the evolution of virtual closings, with companies working with attorneys, notaries, appraisers, title companies and all the necessary professionals to ensure a safe and secure closing process. . In fact, I hear from brokers every day that they are amazed how much business we are still doing, considering the circumstances.

–What advice would you give to your industry peers?

Now is the time, more than ever, to lean on one another – learn how others are making business work while remaining safe and leverage your connections. I also recommend agents use this time, when perhaps they are not as busy, to invest in themselves, their education, their business. The transformation that has happened in real estate in just the last few weeks is fairly stunning. Suddenly there are endless resources for education, webinars, peer discussions, online training and incredible ways to get stronger and better at your craft so that when business returns, we’re ready and better than ever. While this is an unspeakable tragedy, difficult situations are also the birthplace for innovation, and we are seeing that every day as well. I know that we will come out of this a stronger industry.

–What do you see as the biggest potential threat or opportunity in the coming months?

The experts seem to all agree that this is a moment in time, not a forever shift, but those that really understand that, believe it, and plan for it,  and will be best positioned for great opportunity in the coming months. We need to only look to the east and how China is now emerging from this crisis, for proof. We can also look to history, and how Asia rebounded after the SARS epidemic, to know that “this too shall pass.” So, if we know this is temporary, the biggest threat is not being prepared to pivot, not being prepared and ready to work hard. We need to be prepared to meet the pent-up demand that is likely to make for a very hot real estate market when we come out of this.

–How important is it to maintain visibility with marketing, even though the industry has slowed business practices?

Maintaining visibility with marketing is critical right now and is a fantastic opportunity because more people are paying attention to media than ever before. We know, for example, that many of our firms are experiencing a significant increase in views both in emails and their social media. Multi-channel digital and print programs are prime for engaging prospective audiences. Disciplined messaging is key though.  It has to be relevant and robust, otherwise they are just making a bad situation worse, rather than capitalizing on the moment.  Plus, as your peers pull out, what a perfect time to be in because you send the message you are still strong, and it gives you more visibility if  your competitors simply disappear.  Ensuring  that your messaging is relevant, thoughtful and timely is more important than ever.

–A recent report talks about a focus on wellness amongst affluent adults. How could that play into what society is going through?

The affluent have been ahead of the curve in placing an importance on a life well-lived and bringing that into their home. Now, at a time when HOME is taking on a whole new meaning and importance, those that set up their home to be a sanctuary, embracing all aspects of wellness —  physical, mental, social, spiritual, etc. — and have incorporated wellness into their lives are, no doubt, faring well while sheltering in place. Likely we will emerge from this period with new priorities for our homes. For example,, I suspect people will care a lot more about having a home office (that certainly has become a priority), more dedicated and private outdoor spaces or small spaces for quiet contemplation.. Wellness was already a great trend. I expect it will only get more important as a result of this period.