In this 6-minute read:
- A typical day for a local realty company before COVID-19
- What changes have taken place as a result of COVID-19?
- Will any of these changes continue into the future?
- You may also like: PPP for real estate agents 2021
Important PPP update for 2021
On December 22, 2020, Congress passed a bill renewing funding under the CARES Act, including an additional $284 billion earmarked for America’s struggling small businesses. The rules and application process for PPP loans and forgiveness have been modified, with more businesses eligible for PPP loans, more expenses forgivable, and a simplified application process. Also there is provision for “second draw” PPP loans for businesses that received PPP funding in 2020.
The coronavirus pandemic has impacted, and continues to impact, businesses all across the globe. Some businesses have had to shut down completely, while others have had to adapt in profound ways in order to adhere to government restrictions and meet the needs of their customers during this unprecedented environment.
The real estate industry has not been immune to these effects. And we’re seeing a huge change in the way real estate agents are communicating with their customers and potential home buyers and sellers.
Let’s look at how one such company has made changes that will hopefully keep their realty group successful as we move forward.
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Murdock Manwaring Company, a realty group with Keller Williams East Idaho in Idaho Falls, Idaho, has made some major changes to the way their office and agents operate on a day to day basis as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. From online meetings to Facebook live open houses, their largest shift has been adapting to social media and meeting consumer demands in that regard.
Prior to COVID-19 the realty group had a modest social media presence, but they’ve upped their game a lot since having to limit in-person contact due to social distancing requirements.
Let’s talk about what a typical day at the office looked like for Murdock Manwaring Company before the pandemic changed how most businesses operate.
What was a day at the office like before COVID-19?
A normal day for Murdock Manwaring Company started with every employee (administrative staff and real estate agents) showing up to the office around 8 a.m.
A daily meeting, or morning huddle as they call it, would kick off their morning before everyone split into their daily routines.
Administrative staff would then continue on with their regular responsibilities in the office and real estate agents would gather together to practice scripting and contacting leads throughout the rest of the morning.
In the afternoon, real estate agents of Murdock Manwaring Group would then do what they do best: talk to customers, network, and market themselves in person as they show off beautiful homes and reach out to fellow community members.
Then, on March 25, Idaho’s state governor issued a statewide shutdown which would last until May 1. As you can imagine, Murdock Manwaring needed to adapt to some of the new changes their state was facing.
How did COVID-19 change operations for Murdock Manwaring Company?
As social distancing became mandated, Murdock Manwaring Company made the move to work remotely. All of their administrative staff and real estate agents were able to continue working from their homes.
Their morning huddles now take place on Zoom meetings, and the real estate agents continue to practice their scripting and follow up on leads while on Zoom calls with their fellow agents.
And this may even remain a permanent change for the company.
Customer communications were perhaps among the largest challenge that this company faced amidst the social distancing requirements. In-person meetings are much more limited now than they ever were in the past.
Customers are asked not to bring children to home viewings and some agents will open any doors and cupboards on behalf of their customers during a viewing in order to keep surface contact in the home to a minimum.
Fortunately, Murdock Manwaring Company has been paying attention to consumer demands for quite some time now and knew that there was an increasing shift towards social media marketing.
“A lot of agents have had to try to shift how they do business, to become more virtual based,” says Jessica Cardon, Chief Marketing Officer and REALTOR for Murdock Manwaring Company. “Almost all of our marketing was video-based — we were already moving towards this because we know the power of virtual and social media marketing.”
They have been providing home tours (or home movies) via video and communicating with their customers on social media long before the coronavirus forced them to dive all in, which made the adaptation that much easier.
Now, most of their customer communication takes place via social media. Their real estate agents will even send personalized video messages to clients on their birthdays.
Initial consultations are performed online, and only when a home buyer is ready to make an offer will the realtor set an in-person appointment to see the home.
Did Murdock Manwaring Company apply for a PPP loan?
Even with business remaining strong for the time being, it’s difficult to tell what the future may hold for the real estate market.
Murdock Manwaring Company applied for the emergency relief loan through the Paycheck Protection Program. They haven’t received a loan since the initial round of funding ran out, but this loan could be helpful for the future should they face any lapses in the market.
“The idea is that we don’t want to deplete our reserves,” says Jessica. “I think we’ll be hit a little further down the road. As it shifts the market, we would be able to use the PPP loan for our reserves so we don’t have to lay people off.”
What adaptations has Murdock Manwaring Company made that they will take with them moving forward?
It’s a large possibility that Murdock Manwaring Company will continue working in their new remote environment long after the effects of COVID-19 have faded. But perhaps the largest change they’ve seen has been in their real estate agents.
Prior to the pandemic, this company was already doing video walkthroughs of their homes and a few of their agents were quite savvy with social media. But with the change, almost every agent (if not all of them) has had to adapt to using social media as their new norm, and creating live videos has been a huge emphasis for them.
“Only certain agents would volunteer to do this (video walkthroughs),” Jessica told us. “Now more people are comfortable with this after Zoom meetings, and more agents are volunteering to do the home movies and virtual open houses.”
Video calls and online meetings have made the workday quicker and more convenient for all parties involved in the home-buying process, from the administrative work to gathering families together for a walkthrough.
“I think we’ll probably see a continuation,” Jessica noted. “It is faster. It’s more convenient. It’s hard to get a family together to look at houses, and now they can stay home and throw their video up on the TV and look at the house together without the difficulty of coordinating schedules.”
If you had one thing to tell America’s small businesses struggling through this crisis, what would it be?
Jessica has offered some wonderful advice for small businesses that are facing the challenges of this economic crisis.
“You cannot resist change. You cannot be the one waiting for things to go back to the way they were before. That is the biggest challenge in small businesses. Change is so hard to implement. But if we resist change, that is the death of small businesses. We have to be able to adapt and change with whatever shifting market comes up to give the customer what they need.”
Murdock Manwaring Website: https://www.viewidahofallshouses.com/
Murdock Manwaring Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/murdockmanwaringco/
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