Online Survey

Here’s your competition – people will go out, if they feel safe. From Realtor Magazine:

Fifty-six percent of consumers say that despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, they would attend an open house or take a home tour without hesitation, according to the Back To Normal Barometer from research company Engagious. Additionally, nearly half of respondents to the survey say they would return to activities such as taking a cruise, attending a live sporting event, or staying at a hotel.

However, an even greater number—61%—are concerned about the overall public health crisis and the U.S. economy, a sign that consumers are more hopeful about their personal circumstances than they are about the country in general. “People are concerned about societal impacts rather than how [COVID-19] affects them personally,” said Jon Last, president of Sports & Leisure Research Group, a marketing research consultancy based in White Plains, N.Y., and a co-creator of the barometer. “And they feel the same about the economy.”

Engagious presented the findings of the Back To Normal Barometer, a biweekly survey that measures consumer interest in a variety of industries and activities during the COVID-19 pandemic, to the National Association of REALTORS® last week.

The panel also looked at the survey respondents who said they weren’t ready to go to an open house yet and what conditions it would take for them to feel safe enough to do so again. According to Rich Thau, president of Engagious and co-creator of the barometer, they would need specific assurances, including the approval of a COVID-19 vaccine (47%) and assurances from the local health department that touring open houses would be safe (45%). “Two things that are critical are a certificate stating that [an area] has been properly sanitized according to established protocols and that the certificate has been issued by a local authority,” Thau said.

The real estate–related findings come from a national online survey earlier in May of 1,040 buyers and sellers. The goal was to provide insights about how consumers want to safely navigate residential real estate transactions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gina Derickson, research director of Engagious, expanded on the precautions that are important to consumers: People want to know that cleaning has taken place before they enter an establishment; they want to see professional cleaners rather than staff (or homeowners) working on high-touch surfaces like doorknobs and elevator buttons; and the right products and right wording are important. People prefer terms like “sanitized” and “disinfected” over “cleaned” on signage.

According to Derickson, respondents also saw a difference in risk associated with open houses depending on what side of the transaction a person falls on. The selling side is viewed as having a higher risk than the buying side. Sellers, Derickson explains, are perceived as having less control over who comes into the home and the surfaces people touch. On the other hand, respondents believe that buyers can better avoid COVID-19–related dangers and have a good sense of what a clean home looks like.

But whether on the buying or selling side, survey respondents agreed on one thing: Agents are crucial in helping them navigate the open house process. “Buyers and sellers depend on agents to inform them and enforce compliance,” Derickson said. “They want the agent to tell them what to do, and they want vetting to make sure the home is safe.”

In analyzing the survey results, Thau said real estate agents matter more than ever on both sides of the transaction. Fifty-eight percent of sellers and 58% of buyers say the buying and selling of real estate is an essential service, and 62% of sellers and 54% of buyers say a real estate agent’s guidance is especially valued during the pandemic.

Don’t Rely Completely on Virtual Tours

Thau offered some intriguing insights into the characteristics of the buyers and sellers themselves. A majority of both say they are comfortable with technology and conducting business on a computer, as well as taking online tours of homes. In addition, 55% of buyers say virtual tours are great for initially vetting which homes they would seriously consider purchasing, though that number dropped quite a bit when asked if a virtual tour was an acceptable substitute for an actual tour. Despite the drop, two out of five buyers say they would consider buying a home without a visit.

Thau revealed that there are ways to enhance the value of a virtual tour, such as including a tour of the neighborhood or providing written information about home improvements the seller has made. He found that 54% of buyers and 55% of sellers believe it’s important to have a real estate professional help buyers navigate virtual homebuying options.

In terms of traditional in-person home tours, both buyers and sellers see value in precautions, such as providing sanitary wipes, limiting visitors to two to four at a time, providing hand sanitizer, and requiring masks, gloves, and shoe coverings. Thau also noted that buyers and sellers see hand sanitizer, sanitary wipes, and visitor limitations as precautions that will need to remain in place over the long term.

Thau also included a caution for agents in reference to in-person tours: Thirty-eight percent of buyers and 48% of sellers indicate that they would consider legal action if they contracted COVID-19 after a showing. And 29% of buyers and 41% of sellers indicate that they would still consider suing even if they had signed a release. However, 58% of buyers say they’re willing to waive their right to sue.

Agents Expected to Offer COVID-19 Guidance

According to Thau, what matters the most to buyers and sellers about in-person tours is the real estate agent, who is expected to know and enforce health-related safety rules. Sixty-four percent of buyers and sellers state that agents should understand state and local protocols for COVID-19 safety and provide guidance, and 63% of buyers and 64% of sellers say that if someone in the home is not following health protocols during a visit, they expect the real estate agent to address it.

Buyers and sellers also indicated that it is important for an agent to know how to close a real estate transaction electronically, and a majority of both indicated that agents add value to an online search. Helping buyers uncover valuable information about a property, helping them sift through online listings, and providing more in-depth pictures and videos of properties were among the ways agents could be of service to clients. And while 40% of buyers and 52% of sellers stated that they wouldn’t need to meet their real estate agent in person to buy or sell a home, they did place a premium on oral communication—70% of buyers and 66% of sellers said they felt more comfortable talking on the phone or talking via Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, or a similar app that allows face-to-face communication, which are much higher numbers than those who felt comfortable communicating by email or text.

What this means, Thau said, is that agents really matter during the pandemic. Forty-seven percent of buyers and 53% of sellers indicated that relying on a real estate professional for buying or selling a home was more important than before. “Agents’ value has gone up tremendously as a result of the pandemic,” he said. “People need reassurance.” And he offered this advice: “Know the protocols, follow them, and don’t be afraid to enforce them.”

San Diego Coming Soon on MLS

Our MLS is going to provide a Coming Soon feature, which will fluster the agents who say that the Coming Soons build anticipation (like a movie trailer) and test pricing, but who then use the concept to circumvent the MLS and instead advertise directly to the consumer in hopes of double-ending the commission.

Members,

The Coming Soon status launches in San Diego Paragon Tuesday, May 19th. From that day forward, when entering listings for sale in San Diego Paragon, you may choose between Active and Coming Soon.

To prepare for this launch, Paragon will undergo scheduled maintenance from 10:00 PM PT Monday, May 18th to 6:00 AM PT on Tuesday, May 19th – a total of eight hours. Paragon will be unavailable during this time.  Below is a brief video to help you understand the details of this status.

How does Coming Soon work?

Coming Soon allows listing agents to take up to 21 days to stage the property, take interior photos, prepare it for showings, and so on, without Days on Market accruing.

How is Coming Soon similar to Active?

– Marketing is allowed in both statuses, so long as Coming Soon listings are clearly marked as Coming Soon.

– Both Coming Soon and Active listings are fully displayed to other professional users of MLS systems.

– The listing agent offers a commission on both Coming Soon and Active listings.

How is Coming Soon unique?

– Coming Soon listings have limited distribution: they will not go out from the MLS to portals like Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com, or to IDX broker and agent websites.

– Showings are not permitted in Coming Soon.

– Because of these limitations, Days on Market do not count in Coming Soon.

3D Tours – The New Open House

We’ve touched on two differences that the coronavirus is causing in residential real estate sales; the cumbersome arrangements now required just to see a house for sale, and how wearing masks will help buyers hide their interest in a home.

What else is changing?

The real estate flyers are gone now, and public open houses are heading for extinction too – and the 3D tours are being heralded as a worthy substitute.  It’s too bad too, because the industry never fully grasped the biggest benefit of open houses – helping to create urgency in the buyers, especially when the home is fresh on the market.

If you haven’t seen a 3D tour, here’s an example:

https://my.matterport.com/show/?m=pznhRXGpYoS&mls=1

The 3D tours are very crafty, and buyers should love them for offering maximum convenience within minutes – or seconds.  Sellers don’t have to leave their house every Sunday afternoon, and agents won’t have to work weekends any more.

What’s wrong with that?

Have you ever seen a perfect house?  Me neither.

The 3D tour allows the viewer to scroll around the home at their own pace, which is a plus.  But it’s too easy for viewers to give up when they see something unusual or have trouble navigating.

You gotta give the house a chance.

Rather than relying on a thorough walk-around with an agent who is explaining every nuance, the home-buying decisions will be based on fancy imagery on a computer screen.

Won’t the interested parties pursue an in-home visit?  Yes, and they are the most likely real buyers.

But it’s the internet viewers who click out too quickly who will miss out – and fewer buyers relying on less information isn’t a positive for home sales.  Instead, the sales process gets dumbed down further, and those who support the 3D tours as an adequate substitute for agent advice are contributing to the downfall.

It’s all going that way anyway, but at least you can say you saw it coming!

Real Estate Masks

We noted one sales hazard caused by the virus – the increased difficulty of showing homes.

Want another?

I hate the masks……..all you see is eyeballs.

Have you noticed the differences when around masked people?  Reading facial expressions is near impossible, and we’re left with interpreting eyebrows!

Isn’t there less talking too? Which leads to people not listening as intently as well?

According to a study, 55% of any message is generated by face and body.  And when verbal and non-verbal communication contradicts, non-verbal is mostly true. You should believe in non-verbal cues.

The face masks enable home buyers to disguise their interest when touring a home, and real salespeople will notice the difference immediately.

For example, agents will attend the showings of their listings by outside agents to size up the buyers.  We’re trying to assess whether we can trust these people to make it to the finish line, and their non-verbal communication has been a big determining factor…..until now!

Get Good Help!

PEAD

We should take precautions during the coronavirus era, so let’s inform the buyers and sellers what to expect before showing a house. Here we go:

As you may know, the industry recently received guidance from the California Department of Health and Cal/OSHA (the “Guidance”) regarding the handling of real estate transactions, especially the showing of properties for sale. Pursuant to that guidance, we have created a Compass “Shown Property COVID-19 Prevention Plan,” (the “Plan”) attached below, which is to be used as follows:

1. The Plan is to be posted at the door of every property we show or enter, for each showing or entrance.
2. The Plan is to be forwarded to every person entering the property, including prospective buyers or inspectors, by email prior to the entrance. It should be emailed with the PEAD and the person entering should be required to both sign the PEAD and acknowledge the Plan, promising to comply with its requirements while at the property. Your cover email should state that entry to the property constitutes an agreement to comply with the Plan.
3. The Plan, or a link to the Plan, must be included in all online public and MLS listings of the Property.

Furthermore, the Guidance outlines certain other practices that should be followed at all showings and inspections.

1. Commonly used surfaces, like door and cabinet handles, counter tops, toilet and toilet handles, sinks / faucets, and light switches should be wiped down, preferably by the seller, before and after every visit.
2. Open doors, windows, and ventilation systems prior to each showing to introduce outside air to the property.
3. Open all interior doors and turn on all lights before showings so as to minimize the need for touching.
4. Wipe down any item you get from the seller, such as keys, after each use.
5. Schedule appointments with sufficient time in between to conduct the necessary cleaning.
6. If you provide sanitary wipes, face coverings, gloves, etc., place them at the property’s entrance so they can be used or put on prior to entry.
7. Require each person entering the property to wash their hands with soap and water at the sink closest to the property’s entry prior to touring or inspecting the property.
8. No flyers or paper are to be handed out or left at the property for circulation to prospective buyers.

I hope we don’t get so engrossed with adhering to the rules that we forget about selling the home! Here’s the form so you can read it in advance:

Coronavirus_property_entry_advisory_and_declaration

Clear Cooperation Gets Sued

It has never been made clear to realtors why the Clear Cooperation policy is needed in the first place – or agents didn’t understand or agree with its purpose.  The new way to get around the rule is for agents to advertise their coming-soon listings with no address – instead, they just include the neighborhood or tract.

From the wsj.com:

The real-estate industry’s largest trade association, the National Association of Realtors, and two of its affiliates are facing a federal antitrust lawsuit challenging a new rule that effectively bans NAR members from marketing homes privately, or “off-market.”

The lawsuit was filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California by Top Agent Network, a San Francisco-based, members-only platform for real-estate agents. The suit names as defendants the NAR, the California Association of Realtors and the San Francisco Association of Realtors. It seeks unspecified damages and to reverse NAR’s newly enacted “Clear Cooperation Policy,” which went into effect May 1. The new policy requires NAR members to share their listings through the local multiple listings service rather than shopping them privately to a few contacts, a practice increasingly preferred by wealthy and high-profile sellers. Members who violate the policy face punishment, including fines.

TAN, launched in 2010, is a members-only networking and communication platform for real-estate agents who can show that they are in the top 10% of producers in their geographic area, according to founder David Faudman. Its roughly 10,000 members, who pay between $475 and $675 in annual dues, frequently use the platform to share information about off-market listings, which are for sale but not in the MLS. That function is now against NAR rules, said Mr. Faudman. “We’re concerned that this could put a huge damper on TAN, to the point that it destroys the business,” he said.

Since the Clear Cooperation Policy was enacted, Mr. Faudman said some TAN members—most of whom are also NAR members—have told him they don’t plan to renew their TAN memberships for fear of penalties from NAR. He claims the new policy is an attempt by NAR to quash alternative marketing platforms like his. “It’s quite clear to us that they’re trying to eliminate competition,” he said.

In some markets, like the San Francisco Bay Area, off-MLS listings make up a significant portion of business, agents said. Silicon Valley real-estate agent Billy McNair of Compass said that in any given year, roughly one-third of his sales takes place off-market. Some buyers pay a premium to buy a house that hasn’t yet hit the market.

Link to WSJ Article

Clear Cooperation Policy May 1st

The new N.A.R Clear Cooperation Policy takes effect on May 1st.

Next Monday, the CRMLS will begin a Coming-Soon category in the MLS for agents only. The listings can only be in the coming-soon category for 21 days, and no showings are allowed.

But the feature won’t be part of the San Diego MLS.

Realtors in San Diego County are split between one faction that wants to join CRMLS (which is the MLS provider for most of Southern California), and the other association of realtors who wants to be on their own. The compromise was a data-sharing agreement that allows both MLS systems to facilitate agent access to the county-wide inventory.  But because the SDAR won’t cooperate, there won’t be a Coming-Soon category developed in the San Diego MLS.  But it is coming to the rest of Southern California next week – but for agents only, and no showings so I guess it’s an FYI to the realtor community.

So there won’t be much change to the casual observer in San Diego County.

Multiple agents asked the question, “How can I sell my Coming-Soons if I can’t show them?”, demonstrating how oblivious some realtors are on why the new rule was created in the first place – to stop agents from doing off-market deals, and, instead, share all their listings with every realtor.

I sell yours, and you sell mine!

But realtors do have the option to take the listing as an office exclusive and distribute it among agents within their brokerage for days or weeks before putting it on the open market.  It is inevitable that 20% to 30% of our listings will be sold off-market, and they will be the choice properties that don’t need mass exposure to find a buyer.

Why will these off-market deals persist, when NAR is trying to prevent them?

Because the industry looks the other way.

As long as the inventory is tight, agents will be motivated to keep their listings within the club – at least for the first few days or weeks while they get it ready for market. If it sells prior to going onto the MLS, then great – and no risk of getting the corona from all those strangers coming around.

California Showings Update


Showings have steadily improved – here are the percentages off the 2020 weekly average:

April 13: -60.4%

April 19: -41.1%

April 25: -21.7%

It looks like they re-adjust their graph based on the new weekly average.

The top graph shows that on March 28th (the last day of agents being considered non-essential), showings were off about 70% from the weekly 2020 average. Today’s graph only shows the bottom to be at -49% (on April 6th & 12th). So the improvement has actually been better than today’s graph portrays.

Did anyone expect that?

Buyers want to get a jump on the market – plus realtors have to eat.

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