Editor’s note: All of HomeLight’s coronavirus information for buyers, sellers, and agents is available on our COVID-19 hub.
Selling during coronavirus is next-level complicated — you need to find a real estate agent well equipped for the challenge.
Yes, real estate agents are still selling homes even in the markets most affected by COVID-19. In HomeLight’s May 13 Flash Poll, 44% of agents described their business as steady or growing. However, evolving government regulations, shifting market conditions, and looming contagion are putting even the most skilled agents to the test.
“We really had to pivot as an industry and as individual real estate agents to adapt,” shares Kris Shook, a top real estate agent in Tacoma, WA, who sells 77% more single-family homes than the average agent. “How are we going to showcase a house in probably one of the toughest environments that we have ever had? How do we sell a house that nobody has a chance to walk through? That’s very challenging.”
Now more than ever, you need to hire a real estate agent who is experienced, adaptable, and steadfast to secure your best sale.
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To help you find your home sale hero, we spoke with Shook and top Las Vegas real estate agent Billy Alt to narrow in on the essential qualities agents need to sell your home today:
- Proven ability to sell in a down market
- Exceptional digital marketing tactics
- Move Safe certified
- Specializes in your property type or circumstance
- Goes the extra mile to close a sale
We’ll break down how these qualities will help sell your home and how you can determine if the agents you’re interviewing are fit for the challenge.
Choose an agent who knows how to sell in a down market
In HomeLight’s May 13 pulse survey, 97% of agents said prices were holding steady or on the rise thanks to low inventory and high buyer demand. However, real estate analysts predict prices may decline in the near future as collateral in a post-coronavirus recession where job losses shift buyer and seller behaviors.
Your best defense for navigating a shifting market is to partner with an agent who has significant experience and an intimate understanding of your market’s history.
“There are plenty of real estate agents to go around, but only a select handful are professionals who can sustain through a hard time,” shares Alt, who sells 65% more single-family homes than the average agent. “If I was looking for a Realtor on the listing side, I would look for somebody that’s been through it before, through the ’08 crisis. That’s not to say that a newer agent couldn’t do it, but more experienced agents are tried and tested.”
You can view and compare agents’ stats on HomeLight’s agent profiles. Those with the best numbers will have proven strategies to help you net the highest sale in an environment where prices are on the cusp of declining.
Questions to ask about selling in a challenging market:
- Have you sold in a down market?
- Where do your buyer leads come from?
- Did any of your transactions require extensions? What happened?
Look for a digital marketing savant
In a world of social distancing where open houses and showings are taboo, buyers are narrowing down homes online, reserving in-person showings for the final candidates. Your real estate agent should know how to reach and engage buyers with the latest digital marketing tactics.
Scroll through your prospective real estate agents’ websites and social media accounts and compare the quality of their:
- Virtual open houses
- Promoted social media posts
- Professional listing photographs
- Facebook and Instagram live videos
- Matterport 3D home models
Most importantly, compare the number of likes, views, and shares their content receives. The most beautiful, perfectly narrated video tour can’t sell your home if buyers don’t watch it. For a deep dive into engagement numbers, Alt recommends requesting to see an agent’s marketing reports:
“The proof is in the pudding. We send clients a weekly report on stats from the backend of social media, the single property listing website, and other listing sites. We pull as much information as we can and we send them weekly updates of buyer activity. “
Questions to ask about digital marketing:
- How much web traffic does your average listing receive?
- How many virtual houses have you done? Are you finding them effective?
- How many people are looking at your properties online?
- How many impressions do your social media posts get?
- How do you target prospective buyers online?
Protect your health with a Move Safe Certified agent
COVID-19 doesn’t disappear when shelter-in-place regulations do. Partner with a real estate agent who uses the best practices, tools, and technology to keep clients safe. Agents with HomeLight’s Move Safe Certification have adapted their business practices to help limit the spread of COVID-19 with measures including:
- Providing clients with the option to meet virtually
- Ensuring the house is clean and disinfected for showings
- Limiting in-person showings to pre-approved buyers
- Using e-signatures for contracts and closing documents
Move Safe Certified agents’ HomeLight profiles include detailed information on the measures they take to keep clients safe.
Questions to ask about health and safety:
- Can you accommodate my personal social distancing preferences?
- What methods of communication do you use to stay in touch?
- Do you provide hand sanitizer and masks at showings?
- How do you limit touching when buyers are viewing my home?
Specialized agents know how COVID-19 impacts your situation
COVID-19 impacts some industry sectors more than others. For instance, seniors downsizing to retire should take extra precautions to reduce face-to-face contact since they are at higher risk for complications from the virus. Owners of tenant occupied properties, on the other hand, may face the challenge of selling a property ‘offer subject to interior inspection’ due to local restrictions and tenant health.
Alt, who specializes in several industry niches, describes COVID-19’s impact on military relocations:
“I work with military clients up here and am a veteran myself. There are two air force bases here and, with the shutdown, the government froze the military relocation process. So there are things that may be backed up due to that, but they’re still great buyers and sellers. As an agent, you have to adapt to the timeframes the government is giving them. So [if you’re military] you need to hire an experienced agent who knows how to handle that.”
Real estate agents who specialize in your property type or circumstance will have up to date information on restrictions, market changes, and special accommodations to help win the best sale possible.
Some real estate specialists have completed additional training programs and will carry an official title:
- Military Relocation Professionals (MRP)
- Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES)
- Resort and Second-Home Property Specialists (RSPS)
Other agents gain specialties through years of selling a particular property type:
- Luxury specialist
- Rural homes specialist
- Investment properties specialist
Questions to ask about specialties:
- How is COVID-19 affecting home sales for properties like mine?
- What do you anticipate the greatest challenge will be selling my home? What’s your plan to overcome this?
- Have you completed any training or certification programs for this specialty?
- How many properties similar to mine have you sold?
Find an agent who will go the extra mile to close your sale
Shook’s number one tip for choosing a real estate agent at this time is to find an agent who has a track record of closing deals. Shook’s team boasts a stellar closing record with 96% of listings sold; that’s 23% more sales closed than the average Tacoma agent:
“I call the lender of the pre-approved buyer who’s making an offer on my client’s property and ask specific questions about the strength of that buyer. I’ve had to ask some tougher questions lately and those are basically, is the buyer safe with her job? Does the buyer have an essential job?” he shares.
This diligence is essential in today’s environment where 43% of U.S. adults report a household member has “lost a job or taken a cut in pay due to the outbreak,” according to PEW Research Center.
Additionally, some buyers are advocating for the inclusion of a coronavirus clause in their contract which can jeopardize the sale in the final hour. This clause permits deadline extensions and contract cancellation without penalty in the instance either party is affected by COVID-19 related complications (i.e. income loss due to furlough or lay off).
Questions to ask about completed transactions:
- How many of your transactions closed last month?
- How are you going to protect my home from going back on the market?
Start your agent search online, then pick up the phone
Interview at least three real estate agents before you commit to a contract. This will help you compare agents’ soft and hard skills so you can hire the best agent for your sale.
The easiest way to kick off the selection process is with HomeLight’s Agent Finder. Our tool crunches real estate agents’ transaction stats and reviews to match you with the three best matches for selling your home. These agents prove to out-perform the other agents in your area when comparing:
- Volume of home sales in your price range
- Sale-to-list price ratio
- Average days on market
- Top-rated client reviews
Matches made, call the candidates for a 15-minute phone interview. Start the conversation with your property details and selling objective so the agent understands your needs. Then ask the questions outlined above, as well as some of these general questions so you can get a full picture of the agent’s approach to selling.
Above all, choose a real estate agent you trust
When it’s time to make a hiring decision, go with your gut. At the end of the day, you want an agent you’re compatible with on a personal level — they’ll be by your side through the thick and thin of your home sale.
Header Image Source: (Minh Pham / Unsplash)