My perspective during this coronavirus situation has been eye-opening. I have been amazed at how many amazing women in the real estate industry have found ways to work around the challenges brought on the coronavirus pandemic and its effect on the real estate industry.
My job is to protect agents and provide training and education to help them work productively and safely. I have created a list of 5 dangerous situations that agents face during the stay at home order and the need to work virtually. I was honored to have the chance to hear from 5 outstanding agents on how they are working safely and virtually.
Agents are not missing a beat when it comes to working successfully virtually. According to Kama Burton, an agent with Pro One Investments, Moreno Valley, California. "My goal is to keep my clients up to date with what's happening with the business. I have hosted 2 Virtual Home Educational Seminars and I go LIVE on Facebook at least 3 days a week to keep them posted about the market. Every Monday, I engage my lender, and we host a "Mortgage Monday" with Kama & Marcia for a mortgage update."
I am impressed that some agents were already working virtually. EXIT Realty Quality Solutions partners Michele Calloway and Sharon Henry, conduct virtual showings and listing appointments." Our team has been using the Zoom platform for the last 18 months before the pandemic, so this is not big. Prior to the pandemic, we did 90% of our paperwork electronically, but now we do 100% of our paperwork electronically." States Henry.
Not only is working virtually a way to work safely and not have to interact with strangers, but it also forces agents to do the due diligence that I often preach during my training. Consuela Montoya, with Keller Williams Legacy Partners in Shawnee, Kansas, uses Zoom for screenings. "I use Zoom for consultations with new clients. Even better is when we have a 3-way consultation with the lender. The added benefit as a mom of two is that I don't have to worry about taking my kids out and risk exposing them." Montoya admits that most clients still prefer face-to-face meetings.
Regina P. Brown, of MBA Broker Consultants, Carlsbad, CA suggests that virtual pre-screenings levels the playing field amongst agents. "That allows us to require buyers to be qualified and serious — something we've always wanted anyway. Pop-up buyers and looky-loos are a thing of the past.”
Many agents choose to show virtually the first time and if the potential buyer is serious, at that point they meet the client at the property to show it following CDC safety recommendations; including masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer. Sellers are asked to disinfect hard surfaces and leave lights on and cabinets and doors open to reduce touching. Montoya says “I only work with buyers who are ready to go. Their financing must be 100% ready and they must be serious. I am not showing buyers who just want to look. When we do look, we are socially distant.” Montoya attributes that to the virus as well as having young children who she is charged with caring for between work appointments.
Prevent Zoom Bombing
When setting up a Zoom meeting or event, agents should require a password. That will help prevent unauthorized people from "bombing" the event and disrupting it with profanity and worse. Participants should be advised not to share passwords, and meeting ID information since it helps keeps track of who is in the meeting.
Agents should adjust the settings not to allow anyone to enter the event once it has started. They should also prevent participants from recording the presentation.
Knowing that fellow agents and consumers are using online platforms for the first time, Brown offers to be a resource and found a way to market her business. "Of course, all meetings are now held virtually on Zoom and other sources. I compiled instructions and tips for online video meetings — best business practices — and distributed them (with my company name/logo at the bottom)."
Virtual Video Dangers
"We are using any digital format that's comfortable for the client, especially Zoom and FaceTime, if the client has an iPhone. FaceTime is the easiest device to walk through the property with the consumer. WhatsApp is a good choice, as well." According to Henry, "We initially conduct a virtual walkthrough of the property to get an idea of the condition."
She conducts listing appointments by having sellers walkthrough with their camera while sharing with her live. "After the seller has agreed to move forward with the price that we have discussed, including market data stats, then we email them the paperwork electronically for signatures."
Agents need to be careful about what is visible in the virtual videos of the property. They need to avoid showing valuables that may make the property a target for thieves. Agents need to focus on the details of the house, as opposed to the expensive electronics, valuable artwork, weapon collections, jewelry, etc.
Virtual Safety Tips When Going "Live"
Many encourage agents to tape virtual tours or open houses and then post them for viewing, to make the process safer. However, I believe there is value in going "live" based on Facebook's algorithm that gives preference to live posts. The danger is showing everyone where you are, but more importantly, where you are not.
Going live could allow burglars to target an agent's home and make it easy for stalkers to find the agents. I advise agents to take proper precautions when going live by securing their homes, families, and valuables. This advice is especially helpful if they are going to be away for a while and hosting an open house. They should also be aware of their surroundings when onsite and ideally have someone accompany them, whether in person or with the help of a safety app with a GPS feature and live assistance.
Beware of Social Engineering Phishing Questions on Facebook and Social Media
People are giving criminals ammunition to guess their passwords! Trends are going around Facebook these days that are basically phishing techniques. Participants are asked to post pictures of their first cars, senior photos, and now to tell their real age. The answers to these questions are typical of the questions asked when setting up a security reminder for forgotten passwords for social media, online shopping, bank accounts, etc. Participating gives criminals the answer to those questions, combined with the other personal information most post on social media; it makes the user vulnerable.
The bottom line is that agents have been and are currently focused on working virtually now. This is safer than meeting strangers for showings or in open houses. Consumers are accustomed to working virtually now and should understand if agents decide to continue virtually on some level. At the minimum, agents should consider continuing to screen virtually and including the lender to qualify buyers as well as vetting them for the agent by preapproving them.
I have created a free video that agents can share with consumers explain ways they are working safely during:
Real Estate Consumer Safety During COVID-19: What Your Agent Wants You to Know Get it here: www.safetyandsecuritysource.com
Watch the replay of our chat with Tracey:
About the Author:
“Tracey, the Safety Lady” Hawkins is a former real estate agent who has taught thousands of agents across the country to live and work safely for over 25 years. She has also created the country’s only real estate agent safety designation, the Consumer Safety and Security Specialist (CSSS), designed to teach agents to make more money working safely and protecting the consumer.
She is regularly quoted in Inman and has been featured in other real estate industry publications, as well as featured on The Today Show, the Boston Globe, Quicken Loans’ Rocket Homes, the Washington Post, cnn.com, abcnews.com, Des Moines Register, the Kansas City Star, ABC. She appears on television to discuss and review safety and security products and topics on CBS, NBC and FOX news affiliates and MORE!