This month marks the second anniversary of the COVID-pandemic shutdown, and what a wild roller coaster ride it has been. So much has changed in our world—and the real estate industry—over the last two years, and 2022 doesn’t seem to be any different.
During the height of the pandemic, almost every industry had to reimagine how to keep going remotely and as we begin to lift mask mandates and capacity restrictions, many companies and people aren’t necessarily going back to the pre-COVID standards of living. From a residential real estate perspective, we are still experiencing bidding wars with record-low inventory levels, which has driven prices to new highs. With mortgage rates moving up, some home buyers may get priced out, but overall sales are predicted to keep humming.
What does this mean for brokerages? We must take a hard look at what worked and what didn’t during the pandemic and decide what we are going to keep as we move forward into this next phase. In 2021, Northrop Realty achieved the historic milestone of $2 billion in sales volume with over 4,000 transactions in 2021 and we attribute our success to these three key focuses:
Level up the digital-house-hunting experience. During the shutdown, we saw a new trend of buyers purchasing homes without ever stepping foot into them. The brokerages that were equipped with the tools to provide virtual “walk-through” home tours had a competitive edge, increasing exposure to potential buyers and improving first impressions.
With 95% of buyers using online tools in their search process, the focus on the virtual homebuying experience is here to stay. Northrop Realty already had professional 4K fusion photography sessions, 2-D floor plans, and 3-D tours in place before the pandemic, but the company has turned its focus to elevating the marketing tools and resources available to agents.
Homebuying is the largest financial purchase of most people’s lives, and we believe it requires a personal relationship and trust between the agent and client. Clients prefer a personalized experience, and that includes marketing assets. With new digital marketing platforms, like Ignite powered by Canva, agents will be able to create professionally branded content virtually and instantaneously.
Analyze and leverage buyer demands and trends. In the first year of the pandemic, we saw an influx of people reverse migrating from urban communities to the suburbs, which substantially disrupted the market. Currently, we are experiencing “The Great Resignation,” and one of the driving forces fueling this movement is that workers do not want to go back into the office full-time and are opting for positions that offer more flexible and remote options.
Homebuyers are not only asking themselves, “Where do I want to quarantine next?” but also, “Where do I want to work remotely?” This is creating an increased demand for homes with outdoor spaces and pools, homes on the water or the beach, and a significant uptick in the luxury market.
Brokerages need to keep agents up to date with national market trends as well as the hyperlocal trends in the areas they serve. Understanding buyer trends not only sets agents apart from their competitors but can also help focus and direct their marketing efforts.
Evaluate physical brokerage office locations. Buyer demands and remote working have also impacted brokerages’ approach to brick and mortar locations. Northrop Realty has felt a higher demand for clients and agents to have a space to come together outside of their homes. Thus, the brokerage doubled down on physical offices, opening three new locations in 2021 including additional locations in our coastal region due to increased buyer demand there. The company also has plans to open three new offices during the second quarter of 2022.
Many brokerages are transitioning to a more permanent remote workplace model, but others are finding they might need more offices and less square footage, more communal spaces for client engagements and signing days, etc. The key is understanding the needs of your agents and clients and making sure you’re working towards putting an infrastructure in place to support them.
As we navigate the next phase of the pandemic, it is critical that agents are provided with the flexibility, training, tools, and market information they need to be successful. After all, real estate is a relationship business built on trust and transparency—anything else will not make the grade.
Creig Northrop is the founder and CEO of Northrop Realty, covering Delaware and Maryland real estate. For more information visit www.northroprealty.com.