This article was updated on January 21, 2021.
Operating a business that revolves around person-to-person contact is a challenge in the best of times, but these difficulties multiply in the era of COVID-19. 2020 taught us that difficult times open up great opportunity for innovation, and one industry that has shown it knows how to evolve (even in such a difficult health and safety moment) is real estate.
The best in the business understand that to continue to operate as a real estate agent, new tools are necessary—tools that take best practices and improve upon them.
In this guide, we'll take look at some of the top-tested real estate tools to use as we continue to navigate the pandemic.
Thinking Outside the Box
For all sales-driven industries, the pandemic has meant rethinking traditional protocols and adjusting them to fit the demands of this challenging time. At restaurants, that’s meant curbside service. At medical clinics, that’s meant drive-through diagnoses. At grocery stores, that’s meant delivery services.
For real estate agents, the shift has been cloud-based.
Over the last year, the real estate industry has dramatically turned to tech. From home tours to virtual open houses, from document signings to no-contact closings, technology has filled the void of tasks typically done face-to-face. And while many in the business hope to one day return to non-social distant sales, according to Houston Agent Magazine, for now, these real estate tools have not just kept small businesses afloat, but in some cases proved more efficient than previous options.
One major hiccup real estate agents have faced with the pandemic has been stay-at-home orders.
With social distance regulations strictly enforced in a variety of ways across the country, selling homes in-person has been limited. But, thanks to the age of video streaming, you don't have to be in the same building anymore to view something.
Here are some of the video tools real estate professionals are using during the pandemic to broadcast a home showing to a potential buyer:
- Google Meet
- Instagram Live
- Facebook Live
There are other industry-specific video tools as well. But many real estate agents are meeting prospective buyers where they have the biggest following, which more often than not is on their social media pages.
Lead Generators and Info Collectors
The key to a successful small business is not just being able to interest potential clients but to convert them to actual sales. Naturally, that applies to the real estate industry. Generating leads—the process of attracting and converting prospective buyers, according to Campaign Creators—is a big part of the business. Fortunately, for agents, more and more tech companies are creating ways to make real estate lead generation easier.
Often the first step is to get your name out there. But how can agents do this virtually? Here are a few tech tool options that make word-of-mouth promotion easy:
- Encourage Testimonials on Major Real Estate Platforms – Real estate websites like Zillow and Realtor.com have pages for agents to not only share a bit about themselves but get reviewed. This is a chance for real estate agents to optimize client feedback as a way of encouraging future clients.
- Video Channels – You know what lives on YouTube (other than your favorite Taylor Swift video)? How-tos, DIYs, and informational videos from hundreds of real estate professionals. Savvy small business owners have found that platforms like YouTube and Vimeo can be used to provide value to interested home buyers.
- Newsletters – Doesn’t it seem like nowadays every hairstylist, influencer, and plumber has their own newsletter? Well, that’s for good reason: They’re a great tool to communicate with potential clients. For real estate agents wanting to engage buyers during the pandemic, a newsletter offers a soft-sell approach where an agent can be conversational and show their professional personality while providing valuable information to a potential real estate lead. Can you help someone learn how to avoid foreclosure in the midst of all this craziness? If so, use that information to help potential clients.
- Blog – Small businesses should never underestimate the power of a blog. As E-Clincher writes, “When a company blogs, customers agree that it makes them seem more approachable.” A blog can establish and build a relationship with a customer without ever actually meeting them face-to-face.
- A Well-Designed Website – Real estate and the world wide web go together like bananas and sundaes. According to a National Association of Realtors study, “90% of home buyers searched online during their home buying process.” And you better believe that means they’re also Googling potential agents to work with! Having a sub-par real estate website is no longer an option for any small business. Neither is keeping said site static. Smart real estate agents update and redesign their websites as necessary.
COVID-19 Pro-tip: With the COVID landscape constantly changing, it’s important for your businesses to build and maintain trust with clients. One way to do so during the pandemic is to continue updating clients on how your business is addressing health and safety precautions. This could mean sending a “social distancing update” newsletter or adding a special landing page to a website about new business health protocols.
- Search Optimization – SEO, or Search Engine Optimization—may sound to some like just another bit of tech jargon. But in reality, it’s a critical part of securing leads. How a website is written can make or break how it shows up in search results so it’s worth investing in.
- Social Media Awareness – Social media isn’t just a box to check on the long list of marketing must-do’s. In fact, it can be a powerful means of connecting with future clients and clever agents use it to their advantage.
What Social Media Apps Should Real Estate Agents Use?
Social media services offer a variety of different benefits and a real estate agent should tailor their choices to the audiences they want to reach. Social media use is generally defined by demographic information. For instance, Tik Tok, which has a reputation of being a favorite of teens (27 percent of users are between the ages of 13 and 17, according to HootSuite) probably isn’t where you’re going to find people looking to buy a home.
That said, other apps are great for building home buyer leads. Let’s look at some of the real estate agent tools that should be considered during the pandemic.
It may shock some Millennials who were the first to join Facebook in the early aughts, but the platform today has an average age of 41 in the United States, according to Chron. That figure changes greatly from country to country, but if you’re selling stateside, this age range might be a sweet spot of home buyers.
For first-time homeowners, Instagram could be the better choice. Statista reports that “As of May 2020, 35.2 percent of U.S. Instagram users were between 25 and 34 years old.” That said, this demographic could also be carrying the burden of significant student debt—some $497.6 billion for about 15.1 million borrowers, according to Forbes, so take that with a grain of salt.
Twitter users, like Facebook members, also fall into the average age of 40. Members also have a high level of college degrees – according to HootSuite, some 42 percent – which is higher than the national average of 31 percent. That statistic is important to agents, as “The more advanced the education, the more likely a person is to own a home,” reports Market Watch. Twitter can direct leads to a real estate website and drive traffic to the agent’s listings.
But those aren’t the only tools real estate agents are finding beneficial during the pandemic...
Build a Real Estate Reputation on Nextdoor
Nextdoor, the neighborhood hub, has become an essential tool for real estate agents during the pandemic.
Firstly, with a demographic that’s primarily homeowners, when agents communicate through Nextdoor, they’re communicating with their target customers. Like a three-in-one real estate marketing tool, Nextdoor helps real estate agents build their reputations, connect with homeowners, and meet potential clients without a hard sale veneer.
Rather than having to build a following, like the aforementioned social media platforms, Nextdoor brings the community to you.
All of Nextdoor’s users have verified their addresses, so you can rest assured that they all live in your target area. Designed to give community members a place to start discussions and address important issues, it’s a natural fit for real estate agents, especially during the pandemic when social distancing is enforced.
So how can a real estate professional take advantage of Nextdoor?
Business Page for Agents
The key is to create a free Business Page. Not only does a Business Page give a small real estate firm a place to share their story with the Nextdoor community, it also offers opportunities to advertise on the site as a Neighborhood Sponsor.
Once you've claimed a Business Page, real estate agents can share information about their listings, including open houses, with neighbors across entire ZIP codes. In addition, they can highlight their neighborhood knowledge and use it to help build their reputation as the go-to agent among neighbors, get involved in community events, and generally be a good neighbor—all important characteristics of a great real estate agent.
Craft your real estate Business Page today, with Nextdoor.
Houston Agent Magazine. How Houston agents connect with colleagues during COVID-19. www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/real-estate-agents-turn-to-tech-amid-coronavirus-pandemic-301026409.html
Campaign Creators. 10 Best Lead Generation Strategies for Real Estate. www.campaigncreators.com/blog/10-best-lead-generation-strategies-for-real-estate
E-Clincher. The Power of Blogging: Why Every Business Needs A Blog. eclincher.com/blog/the-power-of-blogging-why-every-business-needs-a-blog/
HootSuite. 20 Important TikTok Stats Marketers Need to Know in 2020. blog.hootsuite.com/tiktok-stats
Chron. What is the breakdown of Facebook users by age. smallbusiness.chron.com/breakdown-facebook-users-age-63280.html#:~:text=In%20the%20U.S.%2C%20the%20average,percent%20are%2035%20or%20older.
Market Watch. The higher your degree, the more likely you are to buy a house. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-higher-your-degree-the-more-likely-you-are-to-buy-a-house-2017-08-02
Claim your free Business Page to get started on Nextdoor. For resources on how to use Nextdoor to stay connected with your local customers, pertinent news affecting businesses, and more, follow us at @nextdoorbusiness on Facebook.