Why buyers are valuing Realtors even more than before

As lockdowns end, homebuyers are starting to feel more comfortable venturing out.

That’s according to a national survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors on May 20, which showed that the majority of people – 65% – who attended an open house within the last year would do so now without hesitation.

While nearly three-quarters of respondents reported feeling more comfortable visiting a retail store, their perception of the safety of attending an open house or touring a home for sale has gone up since the NAR’s last survey, conducted on May 6, where 56% of respondents said they had no hesitation about open house safety.

An even larger share of those polled — 82% — said that, given the necessary assurances, they’d feel comfortable doing their home shopping in person again within the next three months.

“The real estate industry — and our country — has endured some very challenging times for several months, but we’re seeing signs of progress and we are earnestly hoping the worst is behind us,” said NAR President Vince Malta, broker at Malta & Co., Inc., in San Francisco, said in a press release accompanying the findings.

Although the majority of respondents are ready to house hunt in person again, they’re also okay with doing it all online — right down to the closing table. NAR found 53% of respondents said they could envision buying a home without ever actually stepping foot inside.

While 73% of active sellers and another 71% of active buyers said they’re comfortable using technology to conduct real estate business, more than half of both buyers and sellers said it was important to have a real estate agent to help them navigate the virtual homebuying and selling process, including weeding through online listings, providing in-depth information not readily available and walking them through an online closing.

But perhaps the most notable takeaway from the survey is how the pandemic has changed customer attitudes about the value of real estate agents. According to the survey, 62% of sellers and 54% of buyers said that having real estate agent’s guidance is especially valuable during the pandemic.

While buyers and sellers are leaning more heavily on agents for their digital savvy, they also put a premium on traditional communication. More than 70% of buyers and 60% of sellers said talking over the phone with their agent made them feel more comfortable and connected.

“While we celebrate homeownership month, we embrace today’s version of homeownership and the unique paths homeowners take to realize their dream,” Malta added. “For prospective buyers, the desire to own a home remains strong and the guidance, expertise and professionalism Realtors provide is more important now than ever.”

For information on further building your reputation with buyers and sellers, watch AgentEDU’s course on developing your professional real estate image.

Staging for the post coronavirus error: 3 features buyers will want

Staging for the post-coronavirus era: 3 features buyers are going to want

There are many ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our lives, but one of the most obvious is that it has contained us in our homes — maybe for months.

While life on lockdown will eventually end, a calamity of this scale means lasting, permanent changes in the way we work and live. Just as the Great Depression gave rise to a “waste not, want not” generation, the coronavirus has given rise to a “work from home” revolution that’s likely to stick around in one form or another. And that, among other factors, is likely to shape what buyers want in a home. Agent Publishing talked to agents and stagers across the country to find out what will be important moving forward.

  1. Home office

At the top of the list is a dedicated home office. Remodeling site Houzz recently polled its community of homeowners and design professionals and found that the majority of respondents (55%) have a home office, but a quarter (25%) work from their dining or kitchen table, with one in ten laboring from the sofa (11%).

According to the poll, top challenges associated with unexpectedly working from home in light of the coronavirus pandemic include: Finding a private or quiet location away from high-traffic living areas (30%), securing a computer with a strong Wi-Fi connection (25%) and creating a comfortable workspace (25%).

With that in mind, agents marketing homes without dedicated offices need to get creative, said Houston agent Amber Kuhl, with The Collection Real Estate by JLA Realty. “It’s going to be super important to fit in some sort of office space where there wasn’t one before,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be a full-fledged office, but you do need to stay at the forefront of what clients are looking for.” Kuhl and her partner Kelly Donawa, who offer staging as part of their concierge services, suggested the following home office hacks:

  • Carve out an office space in a nook or entryway.
  • Turn a hall closet into an office by adding built-ins.
  • Install a vanity cutout on the periphery of the kitchen, in a pantry or wet bar area.
  • Utilize unused space like an upstairs landing or underneath a staircase.
  • Make the dining room do double duty.
  • Reimagine the master bedroom as a multi-function room.
  1. Private outdoor space

Showcasing outdoor space has always been important, according to Ilaria Barion, owner of Arizona-based staging company Ilaria Barion Design, but thanks to social distancing, it’s now a top priority. “Outdoor space defines the kind of lifestyle you can have,” Barion said. “We normally recommend staging as many outdoor spaces as possible. If you have to cut out anything, cut out the bedroom.”

Depending on the target market, Barion recommends focusing on one of two things when it comes to outdoor space: entertaining or family time. While family-friendly outdoor spaces outfitted with pools, fire pits and outdoor kitchens tend to sell themselves, condos and townhomes with limited outdoor space require a little more imagination.

“For a condo with a small balcony, I think having two chairs and a small table with a bottle of wine is nice. If you have outdoor space off the kitchen and facing the back of the building, then add a grill and eating area.”

Keep the furniture mostly neutral, Barion said, and add pops of color with pillows or cushions and flowers. “You’re not selling the furniture, you’re selling the experience,” she said. Outdoor lighting, rugs and plants will add a sense of luxury and help create an emotional connection that’s particularly important right now. “If someone connects emotionally, they’re less price sensitive. It’s also important to change the language in a listing to highlight outdoor space.”

  1. Mudroom

Often the main point of entry between the garage and the kitchen and a depository for coats, shoes and sports gear, the mudroom has taken on new importance during the COVID-19 pandemic as a decontamination station and place to stash potentially infected packages, grocery bags and even takeout bags.

But what if there’s no mudroom? According to Rachel Cristobal, owner of Staging Sells in Chicago, an easy solution can often be found in the garage.

“I would suggest putting in some type of a bench with cubbies for boots and shoes as close to the doorway as possible along with some disinfectant wipes for door handles,” she said. Installing a pegboard wall is another cheap and easy solution. “You can hang bins to hold packages, install shelves and get as creative as you want.”

While the garage is probably one of the best places, if that’s not available, try to carve out some space on the front porch or front entryway, she said.

Throughout history, how we inhabit physical space has been a primary defense against epidemics, and this time is no different. “We’re going to see people come out of this with a much better understanding of lifestyle and awareness of what they’re looking for in a home,” Kuhl said. “Learning to rework space makes all the difference in the world. It can be a simple re-tooling. That’s what agents are going to be tasked with moving forward.”

For more information on staging homes, watch AgentEDU’s course on staging and preparing a listing for the market.