By David Paciello, Broker/Owner One Realty Partners
Uncertainty is the word of the day. Uncertainty regarding COVID19, uncertainty regarding the economy, and uncertainty regarding how we go about doing business in a state overrun with active cases. So, what does a small independent broker do? PLAN! The consensus is that the pandemic will eventually end; the housing market, along with every other industry, will rebound. Planning is vital. Of course, we recommended the normal stuff to our agents to occupy their downtime. Catch up on CE, call and mail your database, beef up your social media etc. etc. But the most important thing we did was implement a plan to protect their business.
The Disaster Plan (The First 72 hours)
That’s right, a step-by-step timeline along with action items for the critical first few days of an industry-wide shut down. In New York, we had approximately 72 hours before our government mandated Stay Home order took effect. We knew we had 72 hours to get our team ready to work-from-home but what did would that mean for REALTORS® who for the most part work nose-to-nose with their clients?
While information was scarce, we know one thing: Agents wouldn’t be permitted to show houses. So, to occupy their time (and the time of our paid staff) we produced content that was flexible enough to be distributed either electronically via email, direct mail or over social media. We designed each piece so that the agent could self-promote themselves on the content, as a matter of fact we produced 26 versions (one for each agent in the firm). It only took a few minutes to place their likeness on the flyers, so it was time well spent considering it saved them a step. We also created a COVID19 “Health & Safety” and “Financial Protection” infographic that had no real estate info on it, just a “Hey, this is what you can do to protect you and your family, both health-wise and financially” It was a big hit.
Next we produced thousands, and I mean thousands of mailers. Some were generic follow-up letters & envelops for our client-base, others were specific to investors. We generated so many because we wanted to do our best to keep our Transaction Manager, who is salary, busy at home when some of our competition furloughed their office staff.
Day 1 – Post Shutdown
Communication is vital, so the first thing we did Monday after the mandated shutdown was a Live Zoom meeting with every agent in the firm. We walked them through the contingency plans, explained the do’s and don’ts of their operations, and showed them the marketing content that they could use. We also contacted EVERY closing attorney that we had an email address. We basically asked, who’s in and who’s out when it comes to transactions. We had to know who would be able to get us to the closing table versus who was not operational. They responded and we shared the list internally.
Day 3 – Post Shutdown
Even with all the planning, there were still many questions. We had very little direction at this time from our State and Local Associations at no fault of their own, so our leadership decided to go right to others in our Real Estate Supply Chain. We had a mortgage broker on our 2nd “All Hands” Zoom meeting on the Wednesday after the shutdown. He walked our agents through what could be done if there were deals that were falling apart and provided recommendations if they ran into issues with other financing companies. It was extremely helpful.
Day 5 – Post Shutdown
Around this time, there was still a lot of nebulous information floating around among other brokerages in our association. We were fortunate to have an action plan in place, but we witnessed lots of floundering from competitors. We brought in a seasoned real estate attorney for our 3rd “All Hands” Zoom meeting of the week. The best part of this was the Q&A session.
Looking back, the planning was great but the single most important reason it was successful was our focus. Our goal was simple, get our agents paid. This meant ensuring they had continuity of business, which meant we had to maintain the chain of stakeholders in a time when it was deteriorating. This plan ultimately placed us way ahead of the curve during the period of uncertainty an industry where staying ahead of the curve defines your success.