By York Baur, CEO MoxiWorks
As we close out the second quarter of 2020, there remains a lot of uncertainty in the still very prevalent COVID-19 world. Looking back on the last few months though, the real estate industry has pivoted more rapidly than most expected.
We’ve been analyzing the market data closely, waiting to see if there’s another shoe to drop. But, through this whole experience, even when we were at the peak of new COVID-19 cases, we continued to see agents staying in touch with their spheres and people buying and selling homes across the country. This gave us confidence that no matter what happens, homes will continue to transact.
And, while we’re not out of the woods yet, with several cities and states beginning to see another rise in cases, I’m still bullish about the recovery of our industry as we enter the second half of 2020.
The current landscape
We believe in being transparent and honest with our fellow Moxians and have been reviewing market data with the company every week during our company-wide town hall meetings. We want to make sure our entire company has insight into how the real estate market is doing, and what we can be doing to help. While we still believe that no one can truly predict the outcome of this pandemic, there is a lot of data trending into the recovery, some of which is even surpassing data from the same time last year.
Pending Home Sales
In NAR’s most recent report (June 29, 2020) pending home sales spiked 44.3% in May compared to April. This is the highest month-over-month gain since NAR started their Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI) series in January 2001.
Our own data shows this same trend. We have over 95% of the US home sale footprint in our systems, allowing us to do additional analysis. For instance, inventory continues to be highly constrained – just take a look at what’s happened over the last year in the chart below – the normal Spring listing season was skipped this year due to the pandemic, and national inventory has been compressed substantially.
Given this low inventory combined with surprisingly good closings, the result is steady prices with even some upward pressure in certain markets. This is particularly true in tech-driven housing markets like San Francisco (grey line in the chart below) and Seattle (blue line), where pricing has been pushed up substantially due to lack of inventory.
Listings & Solds
We’re seeing a continued trend up and to the right for new listings and solds in a given week, which is a great sign of the beginning of recovery. Overall, the year-over-year gap has narrowed, which is a hopeful sign of recovery. It’s also worth noting that following the massive dip at the start of the pandemic, the shape of both curves is following last years – another sign of some return to normalcy in the market.
National vs. Regional Data
One quick note on the data we’ve been reviewing. Because we are a national SaaS company, we tend to focus in on the national housing data, but I know it’s not always enough to just look at the national data, often it’s more pressing to pay close attention to the regional data on listings, pricing and solds. Mike DelPrete has created The Real Estate Market Tracker so you can do a deeper analysis of your regional data. I’m a big fan of Mike’s work – he’s worth following for his insights and analysis.
Leading Indicator: Agent Activity Remains Strong
Everything I’ve shown you in the paragraphs above are lagging indicators, in other words, stuff that’s already happened. It’s easy to fall into the trap of looking at lagging indicators like these and trying to predict the future, but that’s a mistake. Instead, we need to find leading indicators – activities that precede and lead to the outcomes shown above.
For us at MoxiWorks, the leading indicator we look at most closely is agent activity in our products. Our technology has always been about sphere-centricity, helping agents be good with the people they already know and to help them stay in flow with their sphere of influence. In spite of the industry’s obsession with leads, the reality is that the agents that command the vast majority of the transactions have their sphere of influence to thank as their primary source of business. Therefore, when agents use our CRM, presentation tool, and other products to interact with their sphere of influence, it’s a very accurate predictor of future business.
One of the best of these leading indicators for us comes from MoxiPresent, MoxiWorks’ presentation product. While it’s a general-purpose tool for presenting to consumers in many different ways, a primary use is for presenting seller presentations, or CMAs. Our historical analysis of this data shows that it’s a great predictor of new listing inventory 60 days from when the listing presentation is delivered to the homeowner.
At the end of June, the volume of MoxiPresent listing presentations created is almost the same as last year. So, while total inventory will take a while to even out, we’ve historically been able to predict the highs and lows of future transactions based on the number of MoxiPresent presentations being created. As you can see in the pink line in the chart below, seller presentations have recovered to last year’s levels after a severe dip at the beginning of the pandemic. This implies that there will be a rebound in new listing inventory in the coming 60 days – a great sign that there’s some relief for the tight inventory situation coming soon.
Additionally, when we look at product usage across all of our products year over year almost everything is increasing week over week and year over year even as we embark on month four of this global pandemic and uncertainty. All positive signs.
Where we go from here
When this all started at the beginning of March, we shared the three principles we planned to live by which were to: be optimistic, be supportive, be productive.
We’ve seen so much creativity, ingenuity, and positivity from the real estate industry and we are looking forward to seeing how the industry continues to hold steady, push forward and help our economy recovery in the months to come.
Good Investments Prepare You for Disruption
Hoby Hanna, President of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, brings his passion and insights to the REAL with MoxiWorks podcast discussing how we can turn fear into action. This episode highlights the value of investing in your technology stack to be prepared for any sort of disruption (not just COVID-19), and why it’s important to streamline processes in a legacy industry and at a legacy company.
Earning an income from the comfort of your couch sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? I personally have friends who have applied for remote-only positions, hoping to get the opportunity to do that very thing. Ask any of my real estate friends why they chose a career in real estate, and almost all of them will likely tell you they wanted to obtain a flexible schedule and they wanted the ability to work from home. What they quickly find out, though, is that the job requires them to be out and about more often than they originally anticipated due to meet and greets, buyer tours, listing appointments, staging days, open houses, and a plethora of other things that require them to be customer facing all the time.
So… what happens when working from home is no longer a luxurious option, but a requirement mandated by our government? What happens when real estate agents and brokers aren’t deemed as essential, so they are told to stop working immediately to slow the risk of COVID-19? Here are seven tips and tricks to real estate from home, for real.
Tip #1: Use Video Communication
With stay-at-home orders in place across our nation, it is now more important than ever that you and your team familiarize yourselves with video communication sources such as Facetime, Facebook video, or GoogleDuo. Being able to continue to meet your clients “face to face” will help them feel more comfortable with the idea of having you as an agent because not only will they be able to put a face to the name, but video communication gives a more personal feel than a basic email. For those of you who are using MoxiPresent, did you know that you can embed video elements into your created presentations? Try adding rich media to your bio or neighborhood news and see what kind of response you get!
Tip #2: Virtual tours & video walkthroughs
The housing market has been affected by COVID-19 as a result of a variety of factors, but more so because buyers are scared of meeting their agents at a home for a tour due to the risk of potential spread of COVID-19. How do you show them a home without actually being there to open the door for them? Easy! Matterport, Zillow, and other 3rd party sources now offer you a way to create a 3D tour for your buyers. You can also use your cell phone to record a walkthrough of the property to give the customer a realistic sense of how the home feels. Both of these avenues allow your buyer to see the home, while still being able to social distance. You can then easily embed videos or create your own buyer tour within MoxiPresent.
Tip #3: Stick to individual home showings
The Center of Disease Control (CDC) recommends that people don’t have gatherings of six people or more to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Instead of hosting a large open house for potential buyers, try video communication (tip #1) or virtual tours (tip #2) to help. Some states consider real estate to be an essential business, while others don’t, which means you may or may not be able to conduct in-person showings. If your buyer is determined to see the property in person, don’t feel obligated to risk your health to show them a house this week. Try to reschedule as best as possible. That being said, if you decide to, you can schedule a time to do an individual showing. Just remember to keep your distance and take the necessary precautions to keep you, and your clients safe.
Tip #4: Your CRM is your friend
Regardless of whether or not you are working from home or in an office, one of the biggest mistakes that an agent/broker can make is forgetting about their CRM. For those of you who don’t know what that is, CRM stands for Customer Relationship Manager, which is a fancy term for a software system that allows you to manage client relationships and track data. We’ve seen first-hand how MoxiEngage helps real estate professionals stay organized even in the midst of all this chaos. Since it’s designed specifically for real estate, it allows agents to follow their sales flow and communication cadences set for each client in order to stay engaged with their sphere and maintain productivity, even in times of uncertainty. It’s all about keeping your book of business organized and to help fill your pipeline.
Tip #5: Visual and Online Marketing
As we know, leaving the house isn’t really an option these days due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sellers are wondering if putting their house on the market is even a good idea if nobody will be able to see it. As an agent, it is your job to guide them in the right direction and help them understand there are other ways people can see the home. Marketing that home in ways that can highlight the property visually, is key. For example, MoxiWorks provides you with marketing materials that you can use the moment your listing hits the market. These materials are focused on providing real time property data and are highly visual, creating an engaging experience for recipients. If your buyer is more traditional, feel free to print out the PDF and send them a flyer. If your clientele is younger and more tech savvy, leverage email templates and pre-populated posts for different social media platforms to ensure maximized exposure.
Tip #6: Utilize your Seller
Most of us are stuck in our houses with kids, pets, and chaos, so finding a time where your seller is not home is very unlikely right now. Instead of hiring a staging company or scheduling a time where the owners can take a walk with their dog so you can show the property, use your seller and their “free time” to your advantage. Ask them to capture videos of certain rooms for you. I’m sure they would be happy to help if it allows them to sell quicker!
Tip #7: Provide a personal touch
Have you ever walked through a store in the mall, just to browse and get a feel of what was there, or to waste time while you’re waiting for your watch to be engraved? Most of the time we get that sales associate who comes up, asking if we are searching for something specific and won’t leave us alone, even though we tell them we’re “just looking.” As consumers, we don’t like to be sold, especially in times of uncertainty. Reach out to your prospects and clients with a simple goal: To ensure they are safe and healthy, and to let them know you’re thinking of them and wishing them the best. Too many people want to force a sale, not enough of them want to take the time to connect on a human level. Don’t forget that sometimes just a simple smile or hello can go a long way.
Real estate leaders, what do we do now?
It’s a wave we have to ride out, but we don’t have to do it alone. Every industry is being driven into mass-tech-adoption at a rapid speed due to social distancing and isolation. Real estate is no exception, but the key difference is we’re already able to handle this.
I had the pleasure of wrapping up the LeadingRE Annual Conference in Las Vegas last week with a presentation on why every real estate brokerage is a tech-enabled brokerage — a claim that some companies are trying to use as differentiation and value-position to compete for talent. But honestly, do you have a cell phone, perhaps you’re even reading this article on your phone right now? You, as a human, are tech-enabled and therefore so is your business.
And if you’re tech-enabled, you’re also a virtual brokerage. Perhaps you won’t want to operate as a virtual brokerage forever, but you are capable of pivoting temporarily to best serve your agents and their clients. Fear in the face of disruption can cause us to fall back into old habits, ruts of non-productivity, or drive us to seek control in the minutia around us.
“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.
Now is the time to understand more so that we may fear less.”
– Marie Curie
A strong woman with wise words, Marie Curie’s quote can remind us that by focusing on the truth we will get through this and recover. As I always say, data tells the truth and data sets you free. In this article, I want to focus on a quick look at our industry’s economic history, what industry leaders need to be doing right now, and my 3 B’s for the time-being: Be Optimistic, Be Supportive, Be Productive.
Going Virtual Brings Us Together
On a ship over rough water, a captain can’t stay silent. At no point during this situation is it possible for brokers to over-communicate with their agents. No one has all the answers but talking it through always helps build confidence and trust.
Everyone is leaning into video communication. We still get to see each other’s smiling faces while preserving our goal of safety. Brokers, leaders, reach out to your sphere with one-on-one video calls. It’s 2020, we’re all capable of having a video chat, and it bridges one more gap that a standard phone call can’t provide. We’re telling agents to keep in contact with their clients, their sphere, their community. Practice what you preach, right? Call your agents, call your staff, call your partners.
Remote work employees have been facing the hurdle of building camaraderie without physical closeness in the workplace for years. At MoxiWorks, we have moxians and partners across the country bridging the gap. Now, we all have gotten a taste of that world — sitting in your house trying to have a meeting as the dog howls at a bird or your children forget their inside voices. The silver lining is this gives us all an opportunity to be sympathetic and supportive of each other.
We’re living this at MoxiWorks for several weeks now, with the entire company working remotely without any service interruption. We have the obvious advantage of being a technology company which helps, but we face the same cultural challenges that you. That’s why I’m saying that over-communication is so important. It’s human nature to fill in a void with the worst possible scenario and without communication, that’s exactly what your stakeholders will do. Don’t let there be a communication void – fill it with honest, transparent, supportive but optimistic communication. It’s not about having all the answers because none of us have them right now, it’s about being present as a leader.
Real Estate’s Response in Bear Markets
While the United States hasn’t entered a bear market due to viral outbreak before, it can be comforting to look at how we’ve bounced back from drops in the past. The good news? Event-driven drops (like our current situation around COVID-19) in the market are typically acute and recover much faster than structural drops (think 2007 Great Recession).
Goldman Sachs sent out a report on looking at severe declines, length in a down market, and time to recover/stabilize.
Make no mistake, this is an unprecedented time in history for everyone, but this is a storm we can weather in the real estate industry. MoxiWorks is proud to work with the strongest partners and clients, companies that survived through the housing bubble bursting and are going to pivot, survive and thrive again.
Real Estate Leaders, here’s what we do.
With that said, this isn’t a time to sit still. This is the time to link arms and lift each other up. In our MoxiWorks Town Hall we held virtually this week, I told all of our moxians: Be Optimistic, Be Supportive, and Be Productive. I’ll give you that very same advice.
- Be optimistic that local markets will bounce back, that your pipeline clients will still be ready when bans and restrictions lift. Be optimistic that your agents are solvent and with time, will help your business flourish again.
- Be supportive of each other, we are all humans in this together. Everyone needs time to reflect, to understand, to acclimate — but the speed we are moving at is going to be fast, so we need to help each other. This is a great time for fostering collaboration.
- Be productive no matter what. Give yourself a few seconds to catch your breath, then get back to work. Work on your sphere, evaluate your data, clean up your business and keep moving forward. We’ve got this. We’ve got moxie.
Competition, new players, technology — every disruptor you’ve faced before has trained you for this whether you knew it or not. Don’t let fear bring you to a crushing halt. Business has always been about inertia: an object in motion stays in motion. Like Marie Curie said, now is the time to learn more so we can fear less.
Let’s do this together,
P.S. On that note, at Moxi we’re going to go above-and-beyond to bring continued content for our clients and the industry. We’re kicking this content release off with a guide on how to host an ‘open house’ virtually using our MoxiPresent / M Present product. Check it out.