Nineteenth century-French novelist Alphonse Karr probably wasn’t referring to a global pandemic when he first wrote, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Those of us here in 2020 can surely attest to that as our lives have been dramatically altered as a result of COVID-19. From stay-at-home orders and government shutdowns to social distancing and mandates for wearing masks, life today is vastly different from life just a few months ago.
The same can be said for how we work, a point that is especially true for real estate agents. With so much in flux, agents have had to get creative with how they move houses, both on the buy- and sell-side. But are these modifications just temporary or permanent?
The answer is both.
To help understand what we mean when we say that, read on for a breakdown of how real estate will and won’t change with COVID-19.
How real estate will change with COVID-19
Let’s start with the ways that COVID-19 could change the face of real estate forever. The most likely change to stick is the use of technology to support virtual visits and open houses. While 3-D tours and video walkthroughs were a tool in an agent’s toolbox for occasional use, social distancing guidelines essentially made it mandatory — and that’s something we don’t see changing. The days of buyers caravanning through 10 or 15 houses in one day are likely over. Instead, these virtual tours will allow buyers to easily eliminate properties that are clearly not “the one” so that they can whittle the list down to a more manageable number.
But it’s not just searching for a new home that’s ripe for change — it’s the entire purchasing pipeline. COVID-19 has thrust a digital, or at least a more hands-off, revolution upon us that’s sent ripples throughout each step of the process. Those ripples include a shift to drive-by and desktop appraisals and remote online notarization for closing. Even inspectors are conducting examinations with the buyer tagging along via video chat.
It’s unclear how long COVID-19 will be a concern in the U.S., but most expect it to be a problem for some time. These adjustments to longstanding processes are not only more convenient for buyers and sellers, but they’re in alignment with the type of tech used in other transactional situations.
How real estate won’t change with COVID-19
Beginning with arguably the most critical point, the first thing to know is that location will continue to drive market activity. The caveat here is that it may not be a good thing for some areas. Regions with established neighborhoods, a solid economy, high quality of life, and superb school systems (like what’s in Northeast Florida) with ample amenities will continue to move, but cities or regions hurt by the pandemic will likely be slower to rebound. Places like Las Vegas that are almost entirely dependent on hospitality will need more time to recover as visitors will be less likely to travel.
We also can’t underscore the importance of a professional agent in the process — if for nothing else, to be a sounding board for buyers and sellers and help manage the hundreds of steps in a real estate transaction. Those conversations may be more likely to take place over video chat or text for now and even in the future if more convenient, but customers will always rely on their agents for sage advice.
Lastly, a poor pricing strategy will remain one of the biggest impediments to closing a deal. Even at the height of COVID-19, buyers were willing to jump through many hoops for homes at the right price. As we get to the other side of the pandemic, buyers will be even more cognizant of how far their dollars will stretch.