“Marketing when business is unusual” was one of the topic suggestions I received from my recent survey. Since real estate marketing in 2020 is definitely unusual, I did write about this earlier. That post went into the many reasons why someone might decide to sell as a result of COVID-19.
Among other things, it suggests re-writing your property descriptions to appeal to those who have decided a “change of place” is in order after living under lock-down conditions.
Today is about dealing with the fear that’s making real estate marketing in 2020 unusual.
There’s no getting around it. Business in 2020 is unusual – and yet in many ways it has to be the same. After all, many of the same life events that cause people to buy and sell houses every other year are still happening today, despite COVID. That means you have to find the perfect balance. Real estate marketing in 2020 is nothing if not a challenge!
But back to unusual…
First your showing conditions are far removed from anything you’d have dreamed of a year ago.
The masks, booties, limited number of people, etc. are cumbersome enough. But can you recall another time in history when people had to sign liability waivers before touring homes or having their homes shown?
Lack of inventory isn’t all that unusual, but this year the reason is unusual.
After all, the market fluctuates between buyers’ markets and sellers’ markets with some regularity. However, this year the lack of inventory may be primarily driven by fear.
Some people are afraid to let buyers, agents, inspectors, etc. into their homes. If they’re not there to see what people touch or check to see that they’re really wearing booties, how can they be sure their homes have not been contaminated? Fear is a debilitating emotion.
Virtual tours are easing some seller’s minds, but at some point, most buyers will want an in-person look before committing to purchase a house. That’s simply too scary for some homeowners.
However, there are and will be people who have a pressing need to sell, even if they’re afraid.
Think of couples who are divorcing, people who have inherited homes with mortgage payments due, people who have had job transfers, people who have lost a spouse and can’t maintain the payments on their own, and people who must by necessity move to assisted living facilities.
For all but the ones who will be offering vacant houses, it’s important that your marketing stresses the safety measures you’re taking.
Meanwhile, buyers don’t seem to be so fearful – and that’s understandable.
They can approach viewing homes much the same as going to the grocery store. They can wear a mask and booties. They can wear gloves or carry a sanitizer wipe in their hand. And, for the most part they can trust that they aren’t going to be invited into the residence of anyone who is suffering from an active case of COVID-19.
The result is a pent-up demand from buyers who had been under stay-at-home orders vs. homeowners who are still fearful and reluctant to list their homes, even when they want to sell.
The next unusual aspect of real estate in 2020 is that we can look ahead and see the market shift that will likely affect some neighborhoods.
This might or might not affect your community or your market share. It all depends upon who your potential listing clients are and what they did for a living before the pandemic started.
When businesses were shuttered and stay-at-home orders were issued, the unemployment rate jumped. It rose more than 10% from March to April and reached a high of 14.75%. Others had their income reduced because of a reduction in hours, etc.
Those numbers sound bad, but remember that when 14.75% are unemployed – it means 85.25% are employed – and that doesn’t count the people who are retired, self-employed, or otherwise not seeking work.
That percentage of unemployed has fallen now, but in the meantime, many who couldn’t afford their home mortgage payments applied for and got forbearance.
That sounded wonderful – until we saw the facts.
The CARES Act that President Trump signed in March mandated that homeowners with loans backed by Fannie or Freddie could have forbearance for up to 360 days – and that the missed payments would be deferred to the end of their loans – or until the house was sold or refinanced.
As long as they’re back to their previous earnings by then, they’ll be fine.
Unfortunately, less than 50% of home mortgage loans are backed by Fannie or Freddie. Some whose loans are in the private sector are in a completely different circumstance.
When their forbearance ends, they’ll be expected to either pay back the missed payments immediately, or spread them out over the next 12 months.
I don’t know what you think, but I think that sounds a bit impossible for someone who has lived through several months of severely reduced income. Who came up with such a terrible plan?
And that’s where the change will come from…
If a large percentage of homeowners decide to sell just before their forbearance ends – and/or a significant number of homeowners allow their homes to go into foreclosure – the seller’s market will become a buyer’s market.
A market flooded with homes won’t be good news for those who need to sell quickly to avoid foreclosure.
If homeowners in your territory have experienced job losses, reach out to them and let them know that right now the market is hot, but there’s no guarantee that it will stay that way. Now is the time to sell. Or, if they’re back to work – the time to refinance. You’ll be happy to introduce them to good mortgage lenders.
If homeowners in your territory aren’t struggling…
If most of your homeowners have remained employed, then it’s time to let them know how hot the market is – and what you’ll do to protect them while you find their buyer.
Remember that some of them have “normal” reasons for wanting to sell. They may also want to sell for one of the reasons I mentioned in that earlier post.
If you’re using niche prospecting letters, expand the sets with letters that outline the safety measures you’ll be taking. Give them reassurance that they won’t be coming back to a contaminated house after a showing.
IMPORTANT: If your community is using liability waivers…
Take the time to go over the form and explain it to your prospective listing clients – and to your buyers. Realize that being asked to sign such a form is a bit intimidating. Reassure them about the safety precautions again when you speak with them in person (or on the phone). Give them room to voice concerns and ask questions.
Whatever else you do, keep prospecting and stay safe!
man in face mask Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
homeowner in despair Image courtesy of FrameAngel at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
moving truck courtesy of Stuart Miles @ freedigitalphotos.net