Managing a brokerage business in normal conditions is not a simple job so managing brokers can be forgiven if they are feeling the pressures from what the COVID-19 pandemic has demanded of them.

For one thing, sales are down fifty per cent in the Fraser Valley from April last year, and even the simple norms of practicing real estate are evolving in unusual ways; toe touching could be replacing a firm handshake and remote meetings may be phasing out office chairs. 

And whoever imagined that healthcare protocols would be the main topic at team office meetings?

And yet, our managing brokers seem to be holding their own during a pandemic-triggered economic slow-down that came on fast and with little warning.

“This has been an unprecedented event in our country’s history, at least within my lifetime,” surmises Darcy Reddicopp of Sutton Group West Coast Realty who also serves as Chair of the FVREB Brokers’ Council.

As BC begins a careful and gradual reopening, many remain uncertain if the population will adhere to the prescribed measures such as social distancing and frequent hand washing.  As of Thursday (May 21), BC’s Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, confirmed the experts’ opinion that a ‘second wave’ of the COVID 19 is inevitable, which is typical of pandemics worldwide.

How would a ‘second wave’ impact our economy and will the real estate industry be set back even further? We don’t yet have all of the answers, but Reddicopp says Realtors should prepare for change.

“We are not going back to what we were, I think that is abundantly clear,” says Reddicopp. “People are looking at what business will look like, after we have amassed all this learning gained from COVID.”

What would ease Reddicopp’s mind about the future of real estate and the economy in general is when he sees the population taking the pandemic situation seriously, but without alarmism.

“Too often we’re fixated on the numbers of COVID-19 ticking up and all the news that is coming out about it,” says Reddicopp.  “But all you have to do is look at a country that has been through these types of situations before with other pandemics and how they adjusted much more quickly when they had a greater level of buy-in from the public.

“I think that’s where we’re going to be. We’ll be more responsive to risks like this and adjust much more easily next time, if there is a next time.”

Keeping the hounds at bay

That old saying, ‘keeping the hounds at bay’ by reducing overhead costs reflects what many business owners are thinking about right now, with the exception perhaps of manufacturers of plexiglass and hand sanitizer.

“Within the brokerage community we’ve had to lay off a number of staff,” says Reddicopp. “As for the government mandated programs, it has been difficult because when you get down to the heart of the matter, there are a lot of qualifications that need to be met to be able to take advantage of the programs.

“That’s because there are a lot of varied complexities within a brokerage, so all those things factor in to qualify for the government assistance programs.”

Jennifer Lynch, a former broker herself for many years and now Manager of Professional Services at BCREA, says real estate thrives on relationships with people, so for many brokers laying off staff is a measure that they will find difficult.

“Brokers are strong businesspeople and always making difficult choices in running their own business,” says Lynch. “They have a lot of experience applying those same principles to this situation.

“But Realtors have big hearts, so if they’re trying to keep staff employed, some will go above and beyond because those relationships are so important to them.”

Communication is everything right now

Reddicopp says in his mind there are at least two key takeaways arising from the pandemic fallout. One is the need and the thirst that brokers have for information about what is expected of them during a pandemic and its aftermath.

Jennifer Lynch, agrees with that view.

“The turnout rates [managing brokers] are getting are amazing,” says Lynch, who has heard of offices getting 97% attendance. “I know there is a lot of uncertainty, but the brokers are showing up and getting the information and supporting Realtors and the Realtors are supporting the clients.”

“It’s nice to be hearing that level of engagement,” Lynch says.

The second key takeaway, according to Reddicopp, is the urgency for brokers to come together province-wide to find solutions and share their business tools with one another.

Lynch says that was a goal which has helped shape BCREA’s Managing Broker Community of Practice program – a virtual community created for managing brokers to connect with one another, gather important information specific to their business, and hear BCREA’s Trevor Hargreaves, Vice President of Government Relations and Stakeholder Engagement, and BCREA Chief Economist Brendon Ogmundson, speak to their expertise. There will also be a brokers’ panel in the upcoming schedule.

Prior to the shutdown, Lynch had been working to bring the new broker program into full swing, but COVID-19 created a greater urgency to fill it with more pandemic-specific offerings.

“Realtors may not like change but their ability to adapt is incredible,” observes Lynch.

No doubt managing brokers will be bringing their A-game to the changes that Reddicopp foresees, and he seems confident managing brokers across the province are building their skill and knowledge to succeed.

Reddicopp: “If we stand back and look at [the pandemic] with some perspective and a measured calm response, I think the future bodes well for us.”

Source: FVREB Communications