When it comes to business lessons, COVID-19 is the gift that keeps on giving. The pandemic’s sudden and often drastic mandates forced companies to learn and adapt quickly if they wanted to succeed.
Over the past several months, NEXT’s exclusive executive interview series has revealed insights gained by top industry executives as they adapted to the pandemic’s work-from-home and shelter-in-place mandates.
Today, we’re examining three lessons COVID-19 taught the real estate industry with Chelsea Goyer, Chief of Staff at Remine, the tech real estate platform that connects agents with lenders and homebuyers.
Here’s what Chelsea has to say:
COVID deeply impacted real estate transactions forever
Real estate was deemed an essential business from the very beginning of the COVID-19 shelter in place recommendation. Despite this declaration, it wasn’t business as usual. In fact, the real estate business is likely changed forever. For example, before the pandemic, all of our meetings, all of our met-ups, were all in-person relationships. Overnight those all went into a virtual world. It was a dramatic change!
What was pleasantly surprising, is the real estate agents were not as deeply impacted as we feared. They actually adjusted to the new normal fairly quickly. There was this big hoopla that you couldn’t tour homes, but that was a media scare. My husband is a real estate agent, here in Seattle, and this is the busiest he’s ever been. The homebuyer adjusted to the virtual relationships rather quickly as well. So that’s what’s different; sometimes the first meet up is not in-person.
We launched Remine Live to deliver a truly live home tour, while others still used Zoom, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, etc., but its usage did not fully replace the home tour. Towards the end, at some point, the homebuyer wants to step in the house before committing. The real estate agent need not be there, but we now know that nothing will completely replace the in-person home tour.
Real Estate won’t go into panic mode so quickly again
While real estate survived and in some markets, thrived, during the lockdown, that isn’t to say COVID-19 didn’t freak people out a little. Companies were super quick to do layoffs, cut expenses a little too quickly, considering they ended up hiring all those people back in many cases.
And it wasn’t just staff. You saw a wholesale exit from the iBuyer market just to see those companies restart their business shortly thereafter. So, I think this was a big test for real estate, and we panicked at the start, and rightfully so – there was no handbook or how-to on navigating a pandemic. However, I don’t think real estate companies will go into panic mode so quickly if there is another infectious outbreak.
We learned to love each other a little more
Remine’s footprint and operations are already spread across several states and we have a presence in Canada now, so the remote work culture was already a thing for us. However, everyone definitely felt the pressure of this massive change where suddenly you need to be present on Zoom calls all the time. Without anyone seeing anybody, we learned an added respect to everyone’s mental health. Zoom burnout is a thing and it needs to be avoided. We can’t tell if our coworkers need a break as easily as when we see them every day. So we learned those breaks need to be offered as an option as a best practice going forward.
Case in point, we actually canceled a town hall recently, so our people could be given a little break – to get outside and get some vitamin D. We actively look to identify certain employees who are struggling more than others to adjust. We have this renewed recognition that it gets lonely when we are apart.
At Remine, we’ve made the choice to give everyone a Friday off, once a month, outside of the company observed holidays. These days are so that “you can be you” with the idea folks can self-check themselves. We just need to show everyone a little extra love and care, and that can never be a bad thing.