The added pressure of Covid — why real estate is busier than ever!

30 Aug 2021
Estate Agents Co-operative

At EAC, part of what we are doing during Covid, is regularly jumping on the phone, and making calls to members to check in and see how you are doing.

This week, we had a conversation with a property manager from the west of Sydney, whose suburb and many of the suburbs surrounding, are areas of concern.

Along with the more common challenges around listings, opens, team collaboration and other issues she raised with us, she also noted the pressure she and her colleagues are under because of the misconception that Covid is making life a little slower for real estate agents.

While, she said, many buyers and sellers know auctions and opens can’t go ahead, and understand the challenges this presents, it seems, in some circles, there is a misconception that it has resulted in somewhat of a ‘break’ for agents.

It is assumed, because they aren’t as visible on Saturday mornings, that workload has decreased, and agents have a lot more time on their hands.

Unfortunately, according to this agent, and the many others we have spoken to, this assumption could not be further from the truth!

We’ve collected some of your feedback in this article, firstly, so you know you are not alone if your workload seems to have exploded, secondly, to provide some tips on enhancing productivity, and lastly, so you can more effectively communicate these challenges to your clients and communities.

1. It’s not just you, real estate is very BUSY for some agents right now!

While a typical day for a PM or a sales agent varies from one person to the next, for the most part, the drill is much the same within similar geographic areas and agency sizes.

For example, on a Saturday, a busy city-based PM or leasing manager, might host up to 15 or more opens in one day, scooting from one to the next, ushering 20, 30, 40 people through, then heading off to another address on the list.

If you do the maths on that, it can mean one property professional will host up to, or more than, 400 or even 600 people at open houses in one day.

When lockdown put a sudden stop to open homes, the number of people looking for rentals unfortunately did not decrease.

Leases continued to tick up, terminations were still issued (where Covid affects didn’t apply), and homes were bought and sold, creating greater demand for interim living arrangements.

So, what happened when all those people could no longer attend open homes?

They wanted to book private inspections!

Needless to say, hundreds of people now requesting and needing private inspections means workload didn’t get easier for property agents, it got much, much more difficult, with more work to produce less results.

Though sales teams often don’t see quite the volumes of foot traffic as leasing agents when it comes to open homes, sales agents, especially in the city, have told similar stories, of greater workload for decreased results.

During a time like this, it’s important we adjust as much as we can, but it’s also important we understand that some things are just out of our control.

All we can do right now is stick to the rules, try to work the problem immediately in front of us (our own workload), and plan for a mighty come back once lockdowns are lifted.

2. You can increase your results without working 24/7

The response of many during this time has been simply to get in there, roll up your sleeves and work as hard as you can, to get through as much as you can. And while that is an admirable and quite an Aussie response, right now, it’s crucial we work smarter, rather than harder.

There’s no denying the lockdown rules, and the workload explosion experienced by some, are big obstacles, and it’s unlikely we can completely overcome them, but we can make them easier.

Technology can be a big help when it comes to managing workload. While every office, every agent and indeed, every client is different, here are a few ways you may be able to use technology to increase productivity:

  • Email rules: if you are being overrun with emails about sales listings or rentals, start by creating email rules that automatically separate incoming emails into folders based on, for example, the property to which they relate.
  • Set up automated email responses: once categorised, you can create a simple nurturing customer journey that lets people know you care, but doesn’t take up every second of your day.As an example, you might create automated emails that immediately respond to every email in each category, with an email specific to the property the enquiry is about. It might have some information on the changed processes due to Covid, additional info about the house and even a link to a short qualifying survey to sort the genuinely interested from the tyre kickers.You can also create rule-based responses for later parts in the customer journey. For example, if you’ve booked in the maximum inspections for the weekend for property X, trigger an email to all others in that folder that lets them know the day is booked out and they will be notified if an application is not accepted.If an application isn’t accepted, send a rule-based email to everyone in a few clicks, that lets them know the appointment book is open for the next date.
  • Don’t forget text: Just like email, you can also set up automated responses on your phone. The simplest of auto-responses is available as a standard on most mobiles and allows you to auto-text anyone who tries to contact you while your phone is set to ‘don’t disturb’.As an example, in iphone, you can go to settings, then ‘do not disturb’ and choose to send a response to all contacts, recents or favourites. CRMs with text functionality allow you to take this a step further and set text responses based on specific rules.
  • Automated confirmation: CRM and booking software also enable you to set up an automated confirmation text to be sent a specific period of time before your appointment.For example, one day before a private inspection, you might send ‘Just a friendly reminder, you have an appointment to see [property] at [time], tomorrow [date]. Please respond yes to confirm you are coming. Responding no, or not responding at all will automatically cancel our appointment and help you book a new time.’

3. Your clients will get it, they just don’t yet

At the end of the day, we are people and clients are people too. Just like you, they are experiencing the challenges of lockdown, and how that can change the way they do things in their lives.

The best way to let clients know that workload and processes have changed is just to be honest. Research tells us a transparent brand, is a more trusted brand.

To start off, you might send a bulk, yet personalised email to all recent contacts, letting them know that the team is still there, still working away, but right now, because private inspections have taken the place of opens, appointments are booking out quickly.

It’s ok to tell them that, due to so many requests for inspections, agents are experiencing high email volumes, and will do their best to work through them as quicky as possible.

It’s also ok to ask something of them – you need their help to make this work. You can ask them please to be mindful not just of the agent’s time, but also of other buyers, renters and sellers, by always arriving to appointments on time, and always responding promptly to appointment confirmation texts.

Communicating this way helps them understand the automated emails and texts they receive, and actually appreciate you have gone to those lengths to make sure they are communicated with in a timely manner.

The fact is, though it sometimes doesn’t feel like it, lockdown will not last forever. Things will go back to some sort of normal.

But when they do, we have the opportunity to really learn from this high-pressure time. We know now, we need to explore and invest in new technology, to think more about how we communicate with customers, and to remember how important it is to always support our busy colleagues.

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