America is on a war footing. We’ve heard that from everyone, from the President to countless pundits as it relates to the COVID-19 situation. And indeed we are, as the world faces a collective challenge that impacts us all.
The changes we have all been forced to make are compelling. As to residential real estate, we are in the throes of re-imagining the future, and courtesy of COVID-19, the future of our industry is here!
While the coronavirus situation is absolutely tragic, history does teach us that war – in this case against a virus – is a springboard for innovation. Products and ways of doing things that we now consider everyday facets of life often had their birth when the country was in a war footing.
For example, duct tape was invented during World War II to seal ammunition cases. Satellite imaging in spy planes in the early 1970’s was the forerunner to today’s digital photography. During the Cold War, fearing an inability to communicate during an invasion of our country, a group of scientists developed something called ARPNET, which is considered the precursor to the Internet. There are many others.
For our industry, and specifically for the consumer, we’ll remember this period as the time that the virtual real estate experience evolved. This process, is no small part, was led by the digitally adept millennial generation, which moved ahead of the baby boomers in 2019 as the largest home buying group in America. Millennials are now responsible for 37% of all home purchases according to a National Association of Realtors analysis. They are of course totally comfortable in the virtual space, as will be the generations coming behind them, and the one after theirs.
The residential real estate community was already embracing this concept with innovative products and offerings, but the onset of COVID-19 has now set that process into overdrive!
For example, ‘open houses,’ a staple of the residential real estate industry, has been completely disrupted for the present. To improvise, Realtors have been hosting ‘virtual’ showings, where they are physically inside the home and the potential buyer is visiting through an online platform.
Live-streaming of open houses on Facebook and Instagram, whereby thousands of potential buyers can “walk through” homes and condos for sale with a personally guided tour by the listing agent, are multiplying daily across the country.
The negotiation process is increasingly virtual also. Offers can be made and accepted online. The process to legally close a real estate virtually has also evolved. In short, home-buying, from the initial search, to negotiations, to contracts, to final signings – all because of COVID-19 – are now more and more being realized virtually.
So what happens after COVID-19? Well, the virtual residential real estate process will certainly continue to evolve, and so will the role of Realtors. One thing that will not change though, is that whether virtual or in person, the residential real estate experience will continue to involve a high level or personalization – virtual or otherwise.