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Conducting your business as an essential non-health service during COVID-19

by Baldev S. Gill, Chief Executive Officer

On Thursday, March 26, the Province of BC announced its updated list of essential non-health services in British Columbia during COVID-19 pandemic and included property management and real estate agent services along with legal and professional services in that list.

The list includes those services British Columbians come to rely on in their daily lives and was developed by Emergency Management BC in consultation with other government ministries and the Provincial Health Officer (PHO).

Given the ongoing health emergency on COVID-19, the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board continues to strongly recommend that all members refrain from holding Open Houses, avoid in-person interactions as much as possible, and adhere to the most up-to-date physical-distancing and sanitizing requirements from our government and public health officials. 

However, we realize the pandemic is affecting your ability to conduct your business, which is personal contact in nature, and we’ve heard from many of you asking us what you can do at this time.

In times like these, being a good REALTOR® demands that you keep yourself and your clients safe by following the public health guidelines of frequent, thorough hand washing and hygiene, strict sanitization protocols, and keeping a two-metre distance between yourself and others.  

With that in mind, we’ve scoured the web, talked to some members, conducted some deskside research and compiled the information below. While neither the current situation nor all the suggestions may be wholly complete, we hope that you can apply at least some, if not all, of the ideas below.

Leverage the power of digital

In lieu of open houses and showings turn the concept of physical distancing into social connectedness by using digital communication to stay connected to your clients and prospects.

You are the trusted advisors that buyers and sellers want and need to hear from. They are as stressed as you are, if not more so. So, you need to be the calm, composed voice of reason.

Use email and social media to leverage your subject matter expertise, your thought leadership and your research skills, to share timely information with your clients on how they can take advantage of this “down time”.

Advise them to perhaps clean up their homes, declutter, and tend to that long must-do list, especially in terms of do-it-yourself projects that they’ve neglected. If you choose to share news articles, fact-check your resources to ensure you aren’t spreading misinformation.

Hold online ask and answer sessions

Use online videoconferencing tools like Zoom, BlueJeans, Google Hangouts, Facebook Live video, Apple’s FaceTime, TikTok (yes, even TikTok!) and other such tools to connect with your clients face-to-face virtually, as a substitute for meeting them in-person.

Take the time to answer their real-estate related questions in real-time to the extent you can, make note of the questions you can’t answer right away, and then do your research, find the answers and get back to them in a timely manner.

This will help you stay relevant and top-of-mind with them. It’s also an authentic way for you to connect with them and keep the lines of communication open.

Conduct virtual tours and digital open houses

Consider using the same videoconferencing tools provided above to conduct pre-recorded virtual voiced-over presentations, contract walk-throughs, or conduct live digital open houses. Please heed the advice of government and regulatory authorities on physical distancing, sanitization and related, and ensure you have obtained all the right approvals permissions prior to embarking on this process.

Most of the tools mentioned don’t limit the number of online participants, so do your prospecting and marketing virtually, sign-up online participants to the open house and then keep calm and carry on…

Use digital versions of brochures, MLS® and listing information sheets, as well as other documents you would normally print. Not only are you doing your part for the environment, you’re demonstrating to your clients that you’re there for them, using channels that they are on a lot currently. 

Automate your social content

Albeit you need to start by ensuring your content is appropriate for the times we are in, put the content on a regular pre-scheduled routine. This will ensure you remain visible in the marketplace, your daily content flow is ongoing, and you will be freed up to focus on staying connected with your clients and prospects.

You’ll continue to help your real estate business stay relevant, informative and successful. By making these pertinent changes now, you will ensure your success in the future, when we get into a “new normal”.

On the lighter side, you could post lists and content on how to make one’s home more comfortable to be in at this time. Whether it’s a list of books, albums or movies, some helpful articles, or even tips on how to stay comfortable at home, these fun distractions might be welcome.

Contracts, paperwork and related…

Despite the fact that COVID-19 has hampered your ability to conduct your business as usual, you may have buyers who have sold their house and need to buy another home, or clients that may be going through a divorce or separation, or through a change in income requiring sale, or clients who need to sell due to a death in the family.

These are transactions “in-progress” if you will that require completion, often in a timely manner.

Earlier this week the Board provided you with guidance from the Law Society of BC on how the profession is adjusting to COVID-19, and how lawyers are still able to function, conduct business, and be available to clients like you at this time. You can find their news bulletin here.

Work with your legal contacts to determine how to execute and settle contracts and other related paperwork electronically so your clients have much needed peace of mind at this time.

Planning and preparedness 

The markets are in flux, and with interest rates dropping, affordability in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley takes on a new meaning for both existing as well as prospective homebuyers.

Some clients may have questions about how to put a pause on their mortgage, or they may have concerns about taxes or other related matters.

Potential homebuyers may see the coming weeks and months as a good opportunity to enter the market but need a trusted advisor – this is the time when you are needed as a guide, advisor and protector. Make sure you’re prepared with the latest information on lending options and stay engaged with your existing clients as well as with current opportunities.

REALTORS® fill a “GAP” in the market…

  • Guide – their clients through the journey of the buying and selling process, which represents one of the most significant and emotional moments in their lives…
  • Advise – their clients in an authentic, trusted and ethical manner, helping them navigate through an abundance of rules, regulations, procedures and requirements, giving their clients peace of mind through the buying or selling process…
  • Protect – their clients from unethical or fraudulent behaviour or activity, as well as helping them navigate and avoid unintended consequences, using all their tools, knowledge, experience and expertise

So, there you have it. In these trying times, while we are impacted and hampered in our ability to conduct business as usual, we hope that you can continue doing what you can to meet and exceed the needs of your clients and prospects.

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