Article Courtesy of: Inman News
By: Jim Dalrymple

Today's crazy market conditions are forcing agents to have sometimes-challenging conversations about what a bubble is and what might happen in a correction

Tom Bailey became a real estate agent in 2008 — as the housing market was going from really good to really bad. It wasn’t easy.
 
“I did everything,” Bailey, a broker with Margaret Rudd & Associates in Southport, North Carolina, recently told Inman. “I was calling expired listings. Calling [for-sale-by-owner listings]. I’d get out and knock on doors.”

More than a decade later, Bailey’s then-fledgling career has survived and conditions are very different. Before, inventory was abundant. Now it’s tight. Before, many consumers had little equity in their homes. Now, most people put down 20 percent. And overall, despite ever-rising prices, most economists don’t currently think that the housing market is about to fall off a cliff.

Still, Bailey compared now to the bubble of 2008, explaining that he “started out in this business in another market similar to this one.”
The comment highlights that while the specifics today are very different than they were in 2008, other factors — work loads, stress levels, anxiety among consumers, among many other things — are, if not the same, at least similarly wild.

In that light, Inman recently spoke to over half a dozen agents who have been in the industry for more than a decade to see how this particular moment stacks up to the Great Recession.

The takeaway from these conversations is that much as in the past, surviving today requires a combination of grit, long-term thinking and extra work.

At the same time, there’s one big difference between now and the lead up to the last housing crash: Pretty much everyone is talking to each other about bubbles now, and agents are working extra hard to educate their clients about what a correction might look like.

How agents are having the "bubble talk"

One of the most noteworthy things that came up in Inman’s conversations with agents for this story was that every single one said they’ve had conversations with clients about whether or not the market is heading into a bubble. And that wasn’t generally the case for most consumers in 2006 and 2007, as the market continued climbing up and up seemingly with no stop.

Lorraine Baldwin, the designated broker at Nexus Realty in the Seattle area and a 22-year industry veteran, is among those who said her clients are bringing the topic up on their own.

“Everyone is like, ‘I want to wait for the foreclosures,'” she explained. “So I really explain the differences. You have people who have a large amount of equity in their homes now. And back then they didn’t. That’s just not the market we’re in right now. This is not the same scenario.”

Baldwin said the conversations — which also take place among the 80 other brokers she manages at her company — have become so common that she recently prepared a document to highlight the differences between the Great Recession and the present.

“It’s basically like a hypothetical scenario,” she said, noting that the document puts a home purchased over a decade ago side-by-side with one purchased today. “I explain what a balanced market is. We never had inventory levels this low, ever. So, there isn’t really anything you can go back to.”

Baldwin’s experience highlights a challenge many agents are currently facing, which is that while consumers are aware bubbles exist, they may not fully grasp the underlying economics that create them. Breaking down why some rising prices are a bubble and why some are most likely not, is consequently a task many agents are undertaking right now.

“It comes up,” Brent Robertson, a Douglas Elliman agent in the Palm Beach, Florida, area, told Inman. “Everyone wants to say it’s the next 2008, or compare it to 2008.”

Robertson said that his strategy has been to educate his clients on the causes of the last crash. He walks them through what the market was doing at that time and why the housing industry was on weak ground, then proceeds to highlight the differences between today’s market, pointing to things like inventory and rising material costs.

Most agents who spoke with Inman said they’re taking a similar approach, breaking down the differences between today and the 2008 bubble. But many also added that they’re having hard conversations about potential market corrections as well, telling their clients that today’s high appreciation rates are unlikely to last forever.

Traci Ratzlaff, for example, is an agent with Real Broker, in Hutchinson, Kansas. She said that like much of the country her area is seeing rapid price appreciation and multiple offers on most homes — things that are extremely unusual for the normally more docile local market.

And for Ratzlaff that has prompted her to proactively bring up the possibility of a bubble even when clients themselves don’t ask about it.

“I want to make sure we have that conversation,” she said. “I’d rather have it up front.”

The point in these conversations, Ratzlaff went on to explain, is to help her clients better understand how markets work. Though she, like others who spoke with Inman, doesn’t envision a sudden housing collapse on the horizon, she does explain to clients that corrections eventually happen and homeowners need to be prepared for the day when that comes. And so far, these discussions haven’t dissuaded anyone from actually buying.

“It hasn’t stopped them from making the purchase they want to make,” she said. “It hasn’t changed anyone’s mind.”

Stephanie Prisock Nix, who has been an agent since 1996 and is today with RE/MAX in the Jackson, Mississippi, area, also proactively brings up the possibility of a correction with her clients. She explains how prices do rise and fall over time, and that today’s conditions won’t last forever. For her, the conversation also typically involves investigating what a person’s long-term plans are for the property.

“I’ll ask them, ‘How long do you see yourself being in this property? Is it something you see yourself in long term?'” she said. “For those younger people who maybe want to move up in three to five years, there’s a potential there that if this is a bubble and it corrects, they could be hurt.”

Nix also specifically encourages clients not to buy at the absolutely limit of what they can afford. While these can be tough conversations to have, she sees them as important foundation-laying for future business.

“I don’t want them to come back and say, ‘You didn’t tell me this could happen,'” she said.

The agents who spoke with Inman for this story were ultimately evenly divided between those who bring up the possibility of a bubble, or at least a correction, and those who said their clients are mentioning the topic first. But either way, these conversations appear to be nearly ubiquitous right now, and they’re a big differentiating factor compared to the last housing crash.

In other words, while consumers are still apparently willing to pay top dollar for homes, both they and their agents are steeling themselves for a world that’s less certain than the one that appeared to exist in 2006 and 2007.

What agents learned from the last, craziest time in real estate

While today’s market bears little similarity to that of the Great Recession in terms of its financial underpinnings, the lived experience on the ground for some agents is not altogether dissimilar. For example, Ratzlaff — who joined the real estate industry in 2001 — recalled that during the collapse she adapted to work with short sellers, which meant “we worked 10 times as hard for that one transaction.”

“It was better than not having a transaction,” she noted.

Short selling isn’t especially common today. Homeowners typically have enough equity and enough demand from potential buyers that they don’t need to consider a short sale.

But Ratzlaff’s description of having to work significantly harder for each sale closely parallels the way numerous buyers’ agents have described today’s market. When there’s so little inventory, after all, agents spend more time with clients and have to hustle more than ever to close deals. The workload is greater.

Ratzlaff added that she also has seen at least one hint that the market may be leaning slightly back into bubble-like practices: “I heard about hard money lending for the first time last week since” the bubble in 2008.

“That triggered me,” she said. “That scared me. That gave me a sense of anxiety. It does give me a sense of anxiety about the future if that is something that is going to come back.”

Whether more bubble conditions return in any meaningful way remains to be seen. But other agents who spoke with Inman similarly said there are lessons to learn from the last, craziest time in the industry.

Andrew Oldham, a Bay Area agent who with his wife Jennifer Oldham runs the Oldham Group within Compass, has been in real estate for more than two decades and said that when the bubble popped last time, his brokerage at the time went from doing “120 deals a month to four or five.”

Like others who spoke with Inman, Oldham is having conversations about a potential correction with clients. But whatever happens he said that the takeaway from the last collapse is that it’s important to “keep your head about yourself.”

“Understand that markets shift and markets change,” he said. “What we saw in 2006 and 2007, really it was greed. That market was driven by greed and cheap money. This market is driven more by supply and demand. There’s a completely different aspect to it, but that doesn’t mean that the market isn’t going to shift.”

Which is to say, the universal truth that unites today and the past is that shifts do come, and agents have to prepare.

Other agents who weathered the last crisis offered similar advice, saying that they made it through hard times by sticking to fundamentals.

Nix, for instance, said that agents need to focus now on building relationships with clients because those relationships will be what gets them through leaner times in the future. And Baldwin said agents need to “save, save, save.”

“One of the things that I personally have learned is to save,” she said. “When you’ve got all these deals and it’s going really well — save. Because the market does change. I’m stacking my pennies right now.”
Managing Client Anxiety Amid ‘Bubble’ Talk
How You Can Thrive in This Challenging Market?

Go Back to Basics and Double Down on What Makes You Valuable

By: 2021 GBAR President Dino Confalone
Special to Banker & Tradesman (Appeared in April 19, 2021 Issue)

Anxiety. Confusion. Stress. These are just a few words that have been associated with the market buyers and sellers are entering into in the Greater Boston area now more than ever. What in the world is going on? And how can real estate professionals navigate these choppy waters? 

Several factors have created a vicious cycle of low inventory and high demand. This economic situation is one of the most challenging I've seen in my three decades in the business. The marketplace resembles a frozen tundra with flashes of fire rising into the sky. When a property hits the market, and if it’s priced right, we are seeing lines in the streets. Multiple offers are the norm and buyers are feeling the pressure. Sellers are definitely in the driver’s seat; however, they can still overprice a property. Educated buyers that have been living and breathing the market will not be fooled. 

Last year’s pandemic and charged political climate created a recurring theme of suburban homeowners hunkering down, with any plans of selling tossed out the window. Building material costs skyrocketed and getting on a general contractor’s schedule became a hot commodity. A lot of intended home improvements (prior to selling) came to a screeching halt. The eventual plan of downsizing and moving into the city took a backseat to shuffling rooms around to create multiple home offices. Our desperately needed inventory is just waiting to be unleashed. Still, we’ve turned the corner and we are seeing signs of thawing. With vaccinations increasing, optimism is abounding. 

Let’s Take It Old School 
How do professionals survive in this market? I suggest going old school. 

So, here is my Jerry Maguire letter. Yes, technology has increased productivity, educated our clients and provided a bit of social engagement. However, let’s not forget that Realtors are the ambassadors to the American dream. The discount–ification of our industry continues to rear its ugly head and we’ll always have to contend with it. But being that industry expert and trusted partner will never go away. First, be nicer to your fellow Realtors and other industry professionals. Competition gets the adrenaline running, but at the end of the day we are in this together. Clients come and go, but the Realtor in the office across the street will have a great listing in a few weeks. Do you really want to be the person known to be intentionally difficult? Did you have seven offers on that last listing? Guess what, it will not hurt you to call those seven buyer agents and let them down easy.  

A little kindness will go a long way. Return phone calls or texts. Smile – it will even make you feel better. Being a good person is infectious. I’ve personally had a seller ask me which buyer’s agent would be good to work with. 

Next, get educated. Let’s go back to broker open houses on Thursdays and Fridays – obviously adhering to the Center of Disease Control guidelines and incorporating a safety-first principle. Even if you do not have a buyer for a specific home, go and see it! Knowing your market will come back to help you when you’re on that next listing and the subject comes up. This will also provide a bit of camaraderie with your fellow Realtors. Oh, how I miss the broker caravan with sandwiches provided from your local lender. This needs to make a comeback. 

Buyer agents must also obtain their ABR (Accredited Buyer Representative) designation. With the National Association of Realtors and the federal Department of Justice settlement, clarification is on the way. If you don’t know what I am talking about, that is a problem. Get engaged with your local Realtor association – that is what we are here for! 

Know Your Value 
It’s also important to understand that there is a massive attempt to discount our industry. Know how to work within this constant barrage of “technology” companies trying to get rid of us. Do not forget that a buyer or seller still wants to talk with someone that knows the ins and outs of their specific neighborhood. These companies will never take that away from us. All real estate is local and we have trusted industry professionals to get it done. We are the quarterbacks and have the plays memorized, let your clients know that. Let’s look at the long game. 

We also have to constantly address the subject of fair housing and take steps to eliminate our unintended biases. Our association has provided several opportunities to understand the various housing options, take the initiative to get educated. One exposure to a fair housing violation is the buyer “love letter.” You have to stop using them, as they are only opening you up to liability. If you want to provide a differentiating factor, talk about subjects such as their financing or not having to sell a home to buy. 
And last, but not least: Stay positive. Markets fluctuate, keep your eye on the horizon as change will inevitably come. 

As the laws of supply and demand fluctuate one thing is for sure: We’re in this together. Let’s strive to be a better industry and not get caught up in all of the drama. Fundamentals are critical, be creative and work on your database. In every industry it’s the same concept: Good customer service and providing value will lead to success and longevity. The spring market is upon us, so get out there (safely) and make some connections!  We will get through this, together. 

Dino Confalone is the 2021 president of the Greater Boston Association of Realtors and a Realtor with Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty. 
How You Can Thrive in This Challenging Market
Article Courtesy of: Inman News
By: Jimmy Burgess

If your buyers lost out in a multiple-offer situation or you are looking for more listings, these tactics can tackle those problems while helping you build your database and positioning you as a go-to local expert
 
Circle prospecting is a proven process that can help us grow our business and find new customers. It allows us to build relationships with the people in a neighborhood by sharing information about the activity around them.

Circle prospecting helps us begin conversations that lead to relationships, and those relationships will ultimately lead to transactions.

What is circle prospecting?

Begin with a target house with some kind of activity that recently occurred or is about to happen: an upcoming open house, a recently listed house or a just-sold house. 

Years ago, circle prospecting got its name from the practice of using a map to draw a circle around the 20 homes closest to the target house and contacting those owners to let them know about the recent activity.

In today’s market, I would still begin with a target home, and from there, identify anyone interested in knowing what is happening or has happened with this house.

Consider how circle prospecting could help in these scenarios:
Your buyer lost a multiple-offer situation, which creates an opportunity to see if any other homeowners nearby would consider selling because you have a buyer interested in buying in their neighborhood.
Marketing a coming-soon listing to the nearby neighbors by providing them the opportunity to choose their next neighbor.
Just-sold listings where you can share the details of how the most recent sale in their neighborhood may have affected their home’s value.

To get started, consider the following steps needed to prepare for circle prospecting, and then we’ll review ideal scenarios that are working great right now.

Step 1: Find the homeowners’ information

The first step in circle prospecting is identifying the owners of the homes we will be calling. The local property appraiser’s website or a CRS Tax search in most MLS systems will provide the name and address of each homeowner. 
Once we have the owner’s name, then the next step is identifying the owner’s phone numbers. We can do that using apps, such as Forewarn, which is incredibly accurate, and TruthFinder and Cole Realty Resource.

Step 2: Gather sales information for the neighborhood

Prepare for the calls you’ll make by gathering data about the neighborhood. I always like to know and have the following information in front of me for reference while making calls. 
The houses in the neighborhood that have sold in the past six months
The price-per-square-foot information of the homes that have sold
Days-on-market details
General details (number of bedrooms and bathrooms) about each house
• Other houses that are currently for sale in the neighborhood
Homes currently under contract or in escrow in the neighborhood

Comparison of the neighborhood’s price-per-square-foot and days on market versus the overall market
This historical data can help us share details about what’s happening in the neighborhood and how that impacts their own homes.

Ideal scenarios for circle prospecting

Now that you know how to gather the needed contact info and details, here are a few scenarios that are ideal for circle prospecting. These are the scenarios that are yielding the highest results and creating the most opportunities right now. 

Scenario 1: Use circle prospecting when your buyers missed out on a multiple-offer negotiation

The first scenario involves calling owners who live near a house your buyers missed out on in a multiple-offer negotiation. Doing this provides an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your buyers by going the extra mile. The conversation with the buyers could go something like the following:
I know you are disappointed, and I will do everything in my power to find you the perfect home. I plan to reach out to the owners of homes near the one we missed out on immediately to see if they or someone they know in the neighborhood would consider selling.

This move shows the buyers you are willing to go the extra mile for them and provides the opportunity to deepen your relationship with them. Adversity like missing out on a multiple-offer negotiation creates a chance to build a client out of what was previously a potential customer.

It also provides an opportunity to call homeowners with ready, willing and able potential buyers for their home. These calls are purposeful and could sound something like this:

This is Sally Agent with ABC Realty, and I’m not sure if you know this, but the house a few doors down from you at 123 Live Oak came on the market two days ago, and the sellers received multiple offers. They’re under contract to sell their home, but I was working with one of the families who made an offer on the house that wasn’t accepted.They love this neighborhood, and I’m doing everything in my power to help them find the perfect home in your neighborhood, so I’m calling to see if you’ve heard of any of your neighbors who might consider selling.

Then, listen to what the homeowner has to say.

Notice I didn’t ask them if they were considering selling. If they are thinking of selling, they’ll tell you. If they aren’t, they’ll tell you, but they might ask about the home’s selling price. Explain that, though you won’t know that until closing, most homes have been selling for list price or higher, and let them know how that will impact the value of their own home.

Allow the conversation to flow naturally, but don’t hang up until you ask the most critical question.

Before we get off the phone, I’d be the worst Realtor in the world if I didn’t at least ask you: Is there a price at which you might consider selling your house?

Then,

I’d love to keep in touch and occasionally update you on what we are seeing with sales activity in the neighborhood. Would that be OK?
Great, I don’t want to bombard you with calls, so if it is OK, I prefer to keep in touch via email, and then if you see something you have questions about, you can give me a call. Is there an email address you prefer me to use when sending these updates
?

The notion that we should “always be closing” is a broken one that doesn’t work anymore. Instead, we should focus on building relationships. By introducing ourselves and providing information to people, we can start building a list of people who will turn to us when they need a real estate agent. When you are actively building relationships and having conversations, you will find listing opportunities.

Scenario 2: Use circle prospecting when listing a home

Call the owners in a neighborhood right before taking your listing live. This a great way to possibly find buyers for the listing through friends or family members of the current owners in the neighborhood. It also prompts conversations with homeowners who might be considering selling their homes as well. 

This is Sally Agent with ABC Realty, and we’re putting a home in your neighborhood on the market in the next few days. We love to let owners in the neighborhood know about these listings, so you have the opportunity to choose your neighbors if you have friends or family who might be considering buying in your great neighborhood.
If you know of anyone looking to move into your neighborhood, I’d be glad to share the information about this new listing with them, or I can give you the details, and you can pass the information on to them.

Doing this offers us a chance to add value to the homeowners in the neighborhood and position ourselves as the go-to resource for the area. It allows us to potentially own both sides of the sale if one of the homeowners knows of a potential buyer.

What’s more, it also allows us to begin a conversation with other homeowners who might be interested in knowing how this new listing will impact their home’s value. Always remember to ask the most critical question: 

In today’s market, we’ll likely see a lot of activity, and we might get multiple offers, meaning that someone will miss out on the house. I’d be the worst Realtor in the world if I didn’t at least ask you whether there’s a price at which you’d consider selling your house. 

Close the conversation the same way as well: 
I’d love to keep in touch and occasionally give you updates on what we are seeing with sales activity in the neighborhood. Would that be OK?
Great, I don’t want to bombard you with calls, so if it is OK, I prefer to keep in touch via email, and then if you see something you have questions about, you can give me a call. Is there an email address you prefer me to use when sending these updates?

Scenario 3: Use circle prospecting when a listing sells 

We can use circle prospecting to add value to the people in the neighborhood, even when the house that sells isn’t one of our listings. (Be careful not to imply that you sold the house, but use the transaction details to inform the homeowners.)

If the house is one that you sold, you’ll be able to share proof that you’re doing work in the neighborhood, but if you aren’t the listing or selling agent, you can still be the information source for the owners by reporting the sale details to them. 

This is Sally Agent with ABC Realty, and I wanted to let you know that we recently sold a house in your neighborhood (or, if not your listing or sale, let you know a home in your neighborhood was recently sold) after getting multiple offers. The sales price was pretty surprising, and it affected your home’s value. Would you like for me to share more details about this sale?

After providing details, say: 

Due to multiple offers on that home, several buyers missed out and might be willing to pay a premium for a house in your neighborhood right now, so we’re calling to see if you know of any of your neighbors who might consider selling.

Again, I do not ask them if they are considering selling as they will almost always bring it up if they are. Just as in the previous examples, end the phone call with the critical question about a price at which they might consider selling.

Building your database is critical for growth 

You will be gathering homeowners’ contact information through your circle prospecting efforts, and systematic communication to your database is a foundational strategy for business growth. Now, let’s put a plan together to add value to them in a way that generates business not only for you now but also into the future.

1. Have a consistent email going out to your entire database: Consistency is king, so whether you decide to email the database once a month or once a week, stay consistent. These should be a combination of market updates, community events, and blog posts or videos about local areas of interest. These are the brand-building emails that will keep us top-of-mind when the time comes for them to sell or buy a home.

2. Set them up on automated updates when a home, like theirs, comes on the market, goes under contract, or is sold in their neighborhood: This can be set up by most contact management programs or your local MLS. Again, consistency is vital, and automating this communication gives you the ability to reach more people with pertinent information about their homes.

3. Provide them a personalized unsolicited video CMA at least once a year: You can do this more often if they have stated they plan to sell in the next few years. Doing this involves recording your screen using a tool such as BombBomb or Zoom while going over the comparable sales and providing the homeowner with an updated estimation of their home’s value. This strategy, done consistently, will ensure that you will be top-of-mind when they get ready to sell. Click here for the full rundown of this personalized unsolicited CMA video.

Circle prospecting adds value to the homeowners in the neighborhood and helps deepen relationships with the people who live there. It initiates conversations, which develop into relationships, and which ultimately lead to your business growth.

Jimmy Burgess is the Chief Growth Officer for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Beach Properties of Florida in Northwest Florida. Connect with him on Facebook or Instagram.
Need Inventory? 3 Circle-Prospecting Strategies That Will Get You More Listings
Many materials and products in the home can be harmful to your health and our environment. Household hazardous waste can be generated during cleanouts, general upkeep and cleaning of your home, and during renovations. It is important to note that items such as fluorescent bulbs, thermostats, thermometers, and certain antique items may contain mercury, a toxic element that can lead to expensive environmental and health issues, if spilled. These items are an example of universal waste. Household cleaners, pesticides, and paints such as oil-based paints, paint thinners, and used motor oil, are classified as hazardous waste and also should never go into the trash. Many communities have universal waste collection at their drop off centers and/or hold hazardous waste collection days for residents to bring these items for proper disposal. Please check with your city or town to find out when upcoming days are scheduled. 

When spring cleaning, don’t forget your good recycling habits.  If you have questions about what is recyclable in Massachusetts, check out MassDEP’s RecycleSmart, Recyclopedia. Did you know that plastic bags and other tanglers are the biggest problems in our recycling stream?

The Center for EcoTechnology (CET) is partnered with Covanta to keep mercury and other difficult to manage items out of the waste stream.  CET is an environmental nonprofit that helps businesses and people save energy and reduce waste.  Covanta’s Energy-From-Waste facilities in Rochester and Haverhill generate enough electricity to power over 100,000 homes with clean renewable energy.  
 
Spring Cleaning: A Reminder About Household Hazardous Waste
Article Courtesy of: Inman News
By: Lillian Dickerson

Holding an open house has always been a bit risky and has become even more so during the pandemic. To safely continue the practice, agents should keep these factors in mind
 
The practice of using an open house to market properties has been around for more than 100 years. Although they’ve changed a lot during in the last century, the general procedure during open houses has largely remained the same. Or, at least it had, until the COVID-19 pandemic threw all norms out the window.

Most open houses were put on pause at the start of the pandemic due to public health concerns, and some agents still haven’t started them up again. Even before the public health crisis, some started to question the benefits of open houses versus their potential risks, with the ability for basically anyone to come and go unvetted. Just in June of 2020, one Keller Williams real estate agent in Huddleston, Virginia, was brutally attacked at an open house, suffering skull fractures and other head injuries.

Given these potential risks, how can agents most safely approach hosting an open house? Keep the following steps in mind.

Advance prep for open houses

As you and your seller start to discuss hosting an open house, be sure to first check all current state and local COVID-19 mandates, both with your Realtors’ association and local governments, regarding permissible activities and relevant guidelines on maximum number of persons in one space, etc., to determine if an open house is possible now in your area.

Most areas are allowing open houses to be held, but there may be some restrictions.

In some states like New York and Washington, for instance, agents need to limit the number of individuals coming into a property at the same time (Washington suggests 10 people max, New York is more vague in its guidance), stagger showings, and generally avoid congregations.

In California, open houses are still banned, all home showings require an appointment, and anyone who enters the property (including, seller, buyer and agents) must complete a Property Entry Advisory and Declaration (PEAD) form. Other places like North Carolina, however, currently only recommend that gatherings indoors be limited to 50 people while wearing face coverings.

Many of the major brokerages have also issued safe open house guidelines to agents, which are often a compilation of recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Association of Realtors (NAR), and/or state governments, as well as brokerage-specific recommendations.

Basically all top brokerages are also continuing to remind agents of virtual open house solutions offered through partners, and providing with agents resources on how to effectively conduct those for clients, so be sure to review all of these sources from your brokerage.

Also stay up to date on what iBuyers are offering now in terms of tours, in case you have clients who go this route. Opendoor, for instance, is continuing to offer self-tours of vacant homes, and ensures that only one buyer visits a property at a time. Likewise, Offerpad still allows for self-tours of vacant homes as well, ensuring homes are sanitized and that showings are limited to one person at a time. Both iBuyers also have virtual viewing options available, too.

Once up to date on all recommendations and restrictions in your region, have a detailed discussion with your sellers about what they’re comfortable with — maybe they prefer their bedroom be sequestered off, or that there be a cap on total number of visitors. Take the time to tell them all precautions you plan to take and ask about their specific requests.

One tactic many agents have found useful to minimize contact within the home during this time is to arrive to the property early to turn on all lights and open all doors, cabinets, window coverings and related items.

“We go in, turn all the lights on, all the doors open, so no one’s really touching anything and then we wear masks. We’ve actually had a few people come in and say they’re vaccinated, so we just kind of feel how the clients coming into it are,” Greg Steward, team leader of the Greg Steward Team at RE/MAX Precision near Des Moines, told Inman.

The CDC has also said that ample ventilation can help break up concentrated particles of COVID-19 and thereby decrease a person’s risk of contracting the virus. So, try to increase air flow within the property in advance by opening windows and screen doors and turning on ceiling fans.

Gather supplies and set expectations

In all of your marketing communication for open houses, it’s important to be clear about how things will go. A lot will depend on restrictions or guidelines specific to your region, but let people know if there will be a limit on the number of people in the house at a time; if you expect them to wear face coverings, gloves and/or booties; how waiting and lines will be arranged; etc.

Tiffany Hahne, an agent at Savvy + Co. in Charlotte, told Inman that her brokerage also puts an explanatory sign outside of homes during open houses stating that the number of entrants will be limited, so that people know what to expect.

“It just basically says, ‘Welcome to our open houses. Per the CDC guidelines, we’re limiting the number of individuals.’ We used to have a number on there — we don’t have a number on there anymore because it’s constantly changing.”

Hand sanitizer has become a staple for most people today, but be sure to have some available in different, accessible areas of the house you’re showing. “I look to put it in the very front of the home when you enter, if there’s a place to do it, and then I like to have another one in the area where there’s brochures and sign-in sheets and that sort of thing,” Hahne said.

Hahne brings a big plastic baggie of pens for people to use to sign in to the open house on a sign-in sheet. Then, she brings an empty baggie for dirty pens and labels it, so no one is using the same pen.

It’s also a good idea to be armed with extra face masks that you can place near the entrance of the home, especially in the case of passersby who just want to pop in but didn’t bring a mask on their walk. Depending on your seller’s wishes, you might also opt to bring a box of gloves and foot coverings to the property for visitors to wear inside.

Best practices during open houses


Agents need to be ready to hit the ground running when hosting open houses during this hot market. Having a partner to help co-host will help keep crowds in check and ensure that everyone is following the proper safety protocols.

But, COVID-19 issues aside, having another member of your team help you is smart in terms of any crime or other safety concerns that sometimes come with hosting open houses. Choose caution, and remember there’s safety in numbers.

A few agents Inman spoke with mentioned that they like to keep one person at or outside of the entrance to the property to direct traffic flow. Others said they’ve been locking the front door to the home and letting people in as space is available.

“[My assistant is] slowing down the flow of people going in and out. They make sure they’re not all over each other,” Jason Soto, a broker at Spyglass Realty in Austin, told Inman. (Texas Governor Greg Abbott recently lifted the state’s mask mandate. Private businesses may still require patrons to wear masks, however.) “[We’re] kind of staging everybody outside and letting them in at a controlled pace.”

As guests enter the property, per recommendations from NAR, have them record their names on a sign-in sheet and their contact information to enable contact tracing in the event that you later learn that someone who was positive for COVID-19 visited the property.

It’s also a good idea to ask people how they’re feeling as they approach the house, and if they’re exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19. It is completely acceptable to ask people to leave if they appear visibly ill, for everyone’s safety.

Unless you require visitors to wear gloves inside the property, it’s best to ask them to not touch anything. Bring a pair of gloves for yourself, if nothing else, so that you can turn on faucets or other similar items if someone wants to see how well the plumbing functions.

If traffic really starts mounting as it has for some of Hahne’s open houses recently (sometimes up to about 70 people within two hours), she also likes to greet parties as they come onto the property, explain to them how long they may have to wait to get inside, and encourage them to explore the backyard or other areas of the property outside of the home while they wait to be let inside.

Agents should also be prepared to question parties of more than two that show up to an open house. At this point, it’s still safest for everyone if no more than the necessary number of people come into contact with one another indoors.

NAR recommends agents limit the number of people in an open house at one time to 10 persons, per CDC recommendations. However, NAR also suggests agents consider conducting showings by appointment instead of holding open houses.

“When I’m out with clients showing them homes, I encourage them to leave all non-decision makers at home,” Holly Connaker, an agent with the Steadman Team at Coldwell Banker, told Inman. “If you’re not a decision maker, you really should not be going into a property and looking at it.”

What to clean and how often

The CDC recently updated its guidelines for how frequently and thoroughly surfaces need to be disinfected, given what the agency has learned about the virus and its transmission over the last year.

Under the new guidelines, the CDC says that merely cleaning surface areas, rather than disinfecting them (this involves using stronger cleaning agents that typically must sit on a surface for a specified amount of time, or using Clorox or Lysol wipes), will be sufficient to help prevent spread of the virus in most cases.

Generally, the CDC says that the risk of individuals contracting the virus from touching a surface is low. Therefore, if individuals regularly wash their hands with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer, and use masks in a shared space, they can greatly reduce their risk of infection.

The exceptions to this are if a sick individual has been in a space within the last 24 hours, if there are high transmission rates of COVID-19 within your community, people not wearing masks have been in the space within 24 hours, and individuals who have poor or infrequent hand hygiene have been in the space within 24 hours.

Assessing these risk factors in your specific situation can, therefore, help determine how much cleaning or disinfecting needs to be done before or after an open house.

If your sellers have only been out of the house for a few hours before your open house is about to start, you should probably do a quick wipe down of any high-touch surfaces (door knobs,light switches, counters, handles, stair rails, faucets, sinks, etc.) with a Clorox or similar wipe just to be extra cautious in case visitors touch anything.

When the open house has ended, cleaning any and all high-touch surfaces with a sanitizing wipe again is a nice courtesy to the seller, and recommended by NAR. The CDC notes that cleaning high-touch surfaces once a day should be sufficient to remove virus that may be on surfaces.

However, if there’s reason to believe that children or “others who may not consistently wear masks, wash hands, or cover coughs and sneezes” have been circulating in the space during the open house, you should disinfect those high-touch surfaces afterwards, according to CDC guidance.

Reference the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) List N, which details different products that serve as disinfectants for COVID-19. (Remember to read all product instructions, as some need to sit on a surface area for several minutes in order to fully disinfect an area.)

Also, don’t forget to give the key and lockbox a wipe with a sanitizing product as you leave the house.

Of course, for a busy agent who anticipates a lot of traffic at these events and has the budget for it, it may be worth it to hire a cleaning service to come through a home after an open house and be sure to tackle all those high-contact areas. It could potentially save you time, and may give the seller some extra peace of mind.

Be aware of the risks in your area

A lot of the guidance outlined in this handbook thus far has been contingent upon the circumstances in any one agent’s specific location. More than one year after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, the situation continues to vary widely from state to state, and sometimes even city to city. And things could continue to change swiftly in upcoming months.

So, it’s as important now as ever that agents stay up to date on local government and Realtors association guidance and regulations. Additionally, stay abreast of what COVID-19 case rates are in your city and state — as well as the presence of COVID-19 variants, which vaccines have varying effectiveness on — so that you can better assess how risky an open house is in your area.

On the crime and safety side of things, stay on top of local news and updates from your Realtors association so that you’re aware if there’s an incident at an open house in your market. Stay connected with other agents in your area as well so that you can be on guard if there are any strange happenings in the neighborhood.

Make the seller’s experience a good one

The emphasis on this year’s market so far has been how tough buyers have it, duking it out among other buyers, scrambling just to get a sliver of the pie. But don’t forget that this time is stressful for sellers, too.

Continue to reassure sellers and take all the precautions they ask for. It can still feel like a big step for some people to spend an extended amount of time outside of their home right now. Connaker takes time to have those discussions with her sellers and tries to set them up for a positive experience that will hopefully have a rewarding outcome.

“A lot of times what I’m suggesting is that we have an open house on the weekend and that they head out of town for the weekend so they’re not in the house. That way it allows us to do the open houses, do the showings [and] they don’t have to be in and out of the house worrying about that,” she said. “We’re typically getting multiple offers before the end of the weekend, and then they can come home and life is kind of back to normal.”

At this point into the pandemic, sellers’ comfort level with holding open houses can run the gamut, so just continue to have those conversations with them and meet them wherever they’re at.

“I think that a lot of the [question of holding an] open house just comes down to the style of the agent and the needs and wants of the seller,” Hahne said. “Some sellers are like, ‘Bring on the people, I want all the offers,’ and other people are like, ‘I don’t want people in my house. I’ll take sight unseen because I would rather not have people in my space.'”

Tech alternatives

The pandemic forced many agents to become at least acquainted with, if not downright savvy, at holding virtual home tours or providing 3D walkthroughs for buyers. Even as people become more comfortable doing in-person activities, virtual tour solutions continue to be a great way to access homebuyers and draw them into a property.

Many brokerages also partner with virtual tour providers like BoxBrownie, Matterport or RICOH Tours, and have training resources for agents with tips for how to make a virtual tour shine.

Property showing apps like ShowingTime and up-and-coming Instashowing also make virtual showing solutions simple for agents.

If nothing else, it’s pretty easy for an agent to just use their smartphone to stream a walkthrough of a property using options like Facebook Live or Periscope. Video tours aren’t at risk of going out of style anytime soon, and the convenience factor they provide buyers make it worthwhile to provide them for any listing.

Even a brief window of time for a virtual showing can be worth it. “I FaceTime with clients, and we also have an app through our showing program called ShowingTime and that allows us to do a virtual showing as well,” Connaker told Inman. “I’ve done some virtual showings, I’ve done virtual open houses, where I have it open for like a 30-minute period where people can kind of tune in.”

Virtual staging solutions have also become more robust over the last year. For a vacant home, virtual staging can really help make a property pop out to buyers. And it’s often more cost-effective than other staging options. Padstyler, VHT Studios and BoxBrownie are just a few solutions recently recommended on Inman by Megan Eskey, founder and CEO of real estate digital marketing company Reloquence.

Ask Yourself: Is an Open House Worth It?

Agents that Inman spoke with for this story were split as far as whether or not they were opting to hold open houses during this time. For many, the combined safety factors surrounding the pandemic, as well as the rapid-fire pace of the market, made open houses pretty unnecessary right now.

“Between the COVID issue [and the fact that] our market is so hot, anybody interested comes roaring in the first day it comes on the market,” John Farrell, associate broker at Exit Realty Homeward Bound near Binghamton, New York, told Inman.

In Detroit, Ta’Nia Thomas, broker and team leader of Trinity Realty at Keller Williams, said that just by pre-marketing her “Coming Soon” status listings, properties were flying off the market.

“The market is so hot right now we just do a lot of pre-marketing so that we don’t have to do open houses,” Thomas said. “Instead of having multiple people in at one time, we just elected to stop doing open houses during the pandemic.”

Soto said that if he doesn’t do open houses on the first or second day of the listing, “there’s not really a need to do it” because homes are getting offers so quickly in Austin.

Farrell, who has been in the industry for nearly 40 years, said that prior to the current hot market, he hosted open houses regularly, even though he was very much aware that data has shown that open houses alone don’t often result in a sale.

A report released in 2019 by NAR showed that just 4 percent of homebuyers visited open houses as their first step in the homebuying process. Furthermore, only 14 percent of buyers frequently used open houses as a source of information.

“It’s typically been for the agent’s benefit more than the seller’s benefit,” Farrell said. “Two years ago, we as a company, we would do like 25 open houses a Sunday because it gives the agents something to do. But nowadays, between the video tours and the intensity of the market, what’s the point?”

Hahne also said she felt that open houses benefit agents in many ways, aside from just marketing a property for one particular client.

“I do think they’re very beneficial for a lot of reasons — being out and about and talking to people, and staying up to date on the things they’re interested in. Because things change as the world changes, and different neighborhoods have different clientele and they want to know different things. I just think it’s smart to get out there and be in front of people, be in front of buyers.”

“But I would say, particularly right now with inventory being so low, sometimes open houses are the only opportunities that buyers have to come see the home because all the showing times are booked,” she added.

How to Safely Handle an Open House
Article Courtesy of: Inman News
By: Lillian Dickerson

Holding an open house has always been a bit risky and has become even more so during the pandemic. To safely continue the practice, agents should keep these factors in mind
 
The practice of using an open house to market properties has been around for more than 100 years. Although they’ve changed a lot during in the last century, the general procedure during open houses has largely remained the same. Or, at least it had, until the COVID-19 pandemic threw all norms out the window.

Most open houses were put on pause at the start of the pandemic due to public health concerns, and some agents still haven’t started them up again. Even before the public health crisis, some started to question the benefits of open houses versus their potential risks, with the ability for basically anyone to come and go unvetted. Just in June of 2020, one Keller Williams real estate agent in Huddleston, Virginia, was brutally attacked at an open house, suffering skull fractures and other head injuries.

Given these potential risks, how can agents most safely approach hosting an open house? Keep the following steps in mind.

Advance prep for open houses

As you and your seller start to discuss hosting an open house, be sure to first check all current state and local COVID-19 mandates, both with your Realtors’ association and local governments, regarding permissible activities and relevant guidelines on maximum number of persons in one space, etc., to determine if an open house is possible now in your area.

Most areas are allowing open houses to be held, but there may be some restrictions.

In some states like New York and Washington, for instance, agents need to limit the number of individuals coming into a property at the same time (Washington suggests 10 people max, New York is more vague in its guidance), stagger showings, and generally avoid congregations.

In California, open houses are still banned, all home showings require an appointment, and anyone who enters the property (including, seller, buyer and agents) must complete a Property Entry Advisory and Declaration (PEAD) form. Other places like North Carolina, however, currently only recommend that gatherings indoors be limited to 50 people while wearing face coverings.

Many of the major brokerages have also issued safe open house guidelines to agents, which are often a compilation of recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Association of Realtors (NAR), and/or state governments, as well as brokerage-specific recommendations.

Basically all top brokerages are also continuing to remind agents of virtual open house solutions offered through partners, and providing with agents resources on how to effectively conduct those for clients, so be sure to review all of these sources from your brokerage.

Also stay up to date on what iBuyers are offering now in terms of tours, in case you have clients who go this route. Opendoor, for instance, is continuing to offer self-tours of vacant homes, and ensures that only one buyer visits a property at a time. Likewise, Offerpad still allows for self-tours of vacant homes as well, ensuring homes are sanitized and that showings are limited to one person at a time. Both iBuyers also have virtual viewing options available, too.

Once up to date on all recommendations and restrictions in your region, have a detailed discussion with your sellers about what they’re comfortable with — maybe they prefer their bedroom be sequestered off, or that there be a cap on total number of visitors. Take the time to tell them all precautions you plan to take and ask about their specific requests.

One tactic many agents have found useful to minimize contact within the home during this time is to arrive to the property early to turn on all lights and open all doors, cabinets, window coverings and related items.

“We go in, turn all the lights on, all the doors open, so no one’s really touching anything and then we wear masks. We’ve actually had a few people come in and say they’re vaccinated, so we just kind of feel how the clients coming into it are,” Greg Steward, team leader of the Greg Steward Team at RE/MAX Precision near Des Moines, told Inman.

The CDC has also said that ample ventilation can help break up concentrated particles of COVID-19 and thereby decrease a person’s risk of contracting the virus. So, try to increase air flow within the property in advance by opening windows and screen doors and turning on ceiling fans.

Gather supplies and set expectations

In all of your marketing communication for open houses, it’s important to be clear about how things will go. A lot will depend on restrictions or guidelines specific to your region, but let people know if there will be a limit on the number of people in the house at a time; if you expect them to wear face coverings, gloves and/or booties; how waiting and lines will be arranged; etc.

Tiffany Hahne, an agent at Savvy + Co. in Charlotte, told Inman that her brokerage also puts an explanatory sign outside of homes during open houses stating that the number of entrants will be limited, so that people know what to expect.

“It just basically says, ‘Welcome to our open houses. Per the CDC guidelines, we’re limiting the number of individuals.’ We used to have a number on there — we don’t have a number on there anymore because it’s constantly changing.”

Hand sanitizer has become a staple for most people today, but be sure to have some available in different, accessible areas of the house you’re showing. “I look to put it in the very front of the home when you enter, if there’s a place to do it, and then I like to have another one in the area where there’s brochures and sign-in sheets and that sort of thing,” Hahne said.

Hahne brings a big plastic baggie of pens for people to use to sign in to the open house on a sign-in sheet. Then, she brings an empty baggie for dirty pens and labels it, so no one is using the same pen.

It’s also a good idea to be armed with extra face masks that you can place near the entrance of the home, especially in the case of passersby who just want to pop in but didn’t bring a mask on their walk. Depending on your seller’s wishes, you might also opt to bring a box of gloves and foot coverings to the property for visitors to wear inside.

Best practices during open houses


Agents need to be ready to hit the ground running when hosting open houses during this hot market. Having a partner to help co-host will help keep crowds in check and ensure that everyone is following the proper safety protocols.

But, COVID-19 issues aside, having another member of your team help you is smart in terms of any crime or other safety concerns that sometimes come with hosting open houses. Choose caution, and remember there’s safety in numbers.

A few agents Inman spoke with mentioned that they like to keep one person at or outside of the entrance to the property to direct traffic flow. Others said they’ve been locking the front door to the home and letting people in as space is available.

“[My assistant is] slowing down the flow of people going in and out. They make sure they’re not all over each other,” Jason Soto, a broker at Spyglass Realty in Austin, told Inman. (Texas Governor Greg Abbott recently lifted the state’s mask mandate. Private businesses may still require patrons to wear masks, however.) “[We’re] kind of staging everybody outside and letting them in at a controlled pace.”

As guests enter the property, per recommendations from NAR, have them record their names on a sign-in sheet and their contact information to enable contact tracing in the event that you later learn that someone who was positive for COVID-19 visited the property.

It’s also a good idea to ask people how they’re feeling as they approach the house, and if they’re exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19. It is completely acceptable to ask people to leave if they appear visibly ill, for everyone’s safety.

Unless you require visitors to wear gloves inside the property, it’s best to ask them to not touch anything. Bring a pair of gloves for yourself, if nothing else, so that you can turn on faucets or other similar items if someone wants to see how well the plumbing functions.

If traffic really starts mounting as it has for some of Hahne’s open houses recently (sometimes up to about 70 people within two hours), she also likes to greet parties as they come onto the property, explain to them how long they may have to wait to get inside, and encourage them to explore the backyard or other areas of the property outside of the home while they wait to be let inside.

Agents should also be prepared to question parties of more than two that show up to an open house. At this point, it’s still safest for everyone if no more than the necessary number of people come into contact with one another indoors.

NAR recommends agents limit the number of people in an open house at one time to 10 persons, per CDC recommendations. However, NAR also suggests agents consider conducting showings by appointment instead of holding open houses.

“When I’m out with clients showing them homes, I encourage them to leave all non-decision makers at home,” Holly Connaker, an agent with the Steadman Team at Coldwell Banker, told Inman. “If you’re not a decision maker, you really should not be going into a property and looking at it.”

What to clean and how often

The CDC recently updated its guidelines for how frequently and thoroughly surfaces need to be disinfected, given what the agency has learned about the virus and its transmission over the last year.

Under the new guidelines, the CDC says that merely cleaning surface areas, rather than disinfecting them (this involves using stronger cleaning agents that typically must sit on a surface for a specified amount of time, or using Clorox or Lysol wipes), will be sufficient to help prevent spread of the virus in most cases.

Generally, the CDC says that the risk of individuals contracting the virus from touching a surface is low. Therefore, if individuals regularly wash their hands with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer, and use masks in a shared space, they can greatly reduce their risk of infection.

The exceptions to this are if a sick individual has been in a space within the last 24 hours, if there are high transmission rates of COVID-19 within your community, people not wearing masks have been in the space within 24 hours, and individuals who have poor or infrequent hand hygiene have been in the space within 24 hours.

Assessing these risk factors in your specific situation can, therefore, help determine how much cleaning or disinfecting needs to be done before or after an open house.

If your sellers have only been out of the house for a few hours before your open house is about to start, you should probably do a quick wipe down of any high-touch surfaces (door knobs,light switches, counters, handles, stair rails, faucets, sinks, etc.) with a Clorox or similar wipe just to be extra cautious in case visitors touch anything.

When the open house has ended, cleaning any and all high-touch surfaces with a sanitizing wipe again is a nice courtesy to the seller, and recommended by NAR. The CDC notes that cleaning high-touch surfaces once a day should be sufficient to remove virus that may be on surfaces.

However, if there’s reason to believe that children or “others who may not consistently wear masks, wash hands, or cover coughs and sneezes” have been circulating in the space during the open house, you should disinfect those high-touch surfaces afterwards, according to CDC guidance.

Reference the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) List N, which details different products that serve as disinfectants for COVID-19. (Remember to read all product instructions, as some need to sit on a surface area for several minutes in order to fully disinfect an area.)

Also, don’t forget to give the key and lockbox a wipe with a sanitizing product as you leave the house.

Of course, for a busy agent who anticipates a lot of traffic at these events and has the budget for it, it may be worth it to hire a cleaning service to come through a home after an open house and be sure to tackle all those high-contact areas. It could potentially save you time, and may give the seller some extra peace of mind.

Be aware of the risks in your area

A lot of the guidance outlined in this handbook thus far has been contingent upon the circumstances in any one agent’s specific location. More than one year after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, the situation continues to vary widely from state to state, and sometimes even city to city. And things could continue to change swiftly in upcoming months.

So, it’s as important now as ever that agents stay up to date on local government and Realtors association guidance and regulations. Additionally, stay abreast of what COVID-19 case rates are in your city and state — as well as the presence of COVID-19 variants, which vaccines have varying effectiveness on — so that you can better assess how risky an open house is in your area.

On the crime and safety side of things, stay on top of local news and updates from your Realtors association so that you’re aware if there’s an incident at an open house in your market. Stay connected with other agents in your area as well so that you can be on guard if there are any strange happenings in the neighborhood.

Make the seller’s experience a good one

The emphasis on this year’s market so far has been how tough buyers have it, duking it out among other buyers, scrambling just to get a sliver of the pie. But don’t forget that this time is stressful for sellers, too.

Continue to reassure sellers and take all the precautions they ask for. It can still feel like a big step for some people to spend an extended amount of time outside of their home right now. Connaker takes time to have those discussions with her sellers and tries to set them up for a positive experience that will hopefully have a rewarding outcome.

“A lot of times what I’m suggesting is that we have an open house on the weekend and that they head out of town for the weekend so they’re not in the house. That way it allows us to do the open houses, do the showings [and] they don’t have to be in and out of the house worrying about that,” she said. “We’re typically getting multiple offers before the end of the weekend, and then they can come home and life is kind of back to normal.”

At this point into the pandemic, sellers’ comfort level with holding open houses can run the gamut, so just continue to have those conversations with them and meet them wherever they’re at.

“I think that a lot of the [question of holding an] open house just comes down to the style of the agent and the needs and wants of the seller,” Hahne said. “Some sellers are like, ‘Bring on the people, I want all the offers,’ and other people are like, ‘I don’t want people in my house. I’ll take sight unseen because I would rather not have people in my space.'”

Tech alternatives

The pandemic forced many agents to become at least acquainted with, if not downright savvy, at holding virtual home tours or providing 3D walkthroughs for buyers. Even as people become more comfortable doing in-person activities, virtual tour solutions continue to be a great way to access homebuyers and draw them into a property.

Many brokerages also partner with virtual tour providers like BoxBrownie, Matterport or RICOH Tours, and have training resources for agents with tips for how to make a virtual tour shine.

Property showing apps like ShowingTime and up-and-coming Instashowing also make virtual showing solutions simple for agents.

If nothing else, it’s pretty easy for an agent to just use their smartphone to stream a walkthrough of a property using options like Facebook Live or Periscope. Video tours aren’t at risk of going out of style anytime soon, and the convenience factor they provide buyers make it worthwhile to provide them for any listing.

Even a brief window of time for a virtual showing can be worth it. “I FaceTime with clients, and we also have an app through our showing program called ShowingTime and that allows us to do a virtual showing as well,” Connaker told Inman. “I’ve done some virtual showings, I’ve done virtual open houses, where I have it open for like a 30-minute period where people can kind of tune in.”

Virtual staging solutions have also become more robust over the last year. For a vacant home, virtual staging can really help make a property pop out to buyers. And it’s often more cost-effective than other staging options. Padstyler, VHT Studios and BoxBrownie are just a few solutions recently recommended on Inman by Megan Eskey, founder and CEO of real estate digital marketing company Reloquence.

Ask Yourself: Is an Open House Worth It?

Agents that Inman spoke with for this story were split as far as whether or not they were opting to hold open houses during this time. For many, the combined safety factors surrounding the pandemic, as well as the rapid-fire pace of the market, made open houses pretty unnecessary right now.

“Between the COVID issue [and the fact that] our market is so hot, anybody interested comes roaring in the first day it comes on the market,” John Farrell, associate broker at Exit Realty Homeward Bound near Binghamton, New York, told Inman.

In Detroit, Ta’Nia Thomas, broker and team leader of Trinity Realty at Keller Williams, said that just by pre-marketing her “Coming Soon” status listings, properties were flying off the market.

“The market is so hot right now we just do a lot of pre-marketing so that we don’t have to do open houses,” Thomas said. “Instead of having multiple people in at one time, we just elected to stop doing open houses during the pandemic.”

Soto said that if he doesn’t do open houses on the first or second day of the listing, “there’s not really a need to do it” because homes are getting offers so quickly in Austin.

Farrell, who has been in the industry for nearly 40 years, said that prior to the current hot market, he hosted open houses regularly, even though he was very much aware that data has shown that open houses alone don’t often result in a sale.

A report released in 2019 by NAR showed that just 4 percent of homebuyers visited open houses as their first step in the homebuying process. Furthermore, only 14 percent of buyers frequently used open houses as a source of information.

“It’s typically been for the agent’s benefit more than the seller’s benefit,” Farrell said. “Two years ago, we as a company, we would do like 25 open houses a Sunday because it gives the agents something to do. But nowadays, between the video tours and the intensity of the market, what’s the point?”

Hahne also said she felt that open houses benefit agents in many ways, aside from just marketing a property for one particular client.

“I do think they’re very beneficial for a lot of reasons — being out and about and talking to people, and staying up to date on the things they’re interested in. Because things change as the world changes, and different neighborhoods have different clientele and they want to know different things. I just think it’s smart to get out there and be in front of people, be in front of buyers.”

“But I would say, particularly right now with inventory being so low, sometimes open houses are the only opportunities that buyers have to come see the home because all the showing times are booked,” she added.

How to Safely Handle an Open House
As the height of the spring selling season approaches, you are reminded to schedule smoke and carbon monoxide detector inspections early to avoid any impact on closings. Please be mindful that the Boston Fire Department has limited resources, and due to the speed and volume with which transactions can occur at this time of year, plus the challenges inherent in navigating city traffic there are only so many inspections that can performed daily. Currently, inspectors can complete and issue, on average, just 12 certifications a day. 
  
For this reason, Boston Deputy Fire Chief Brian Tully Sr. encourages brokerages and agents to apply for a smoke and CO detector inspection appointment immediately upon securing a property listing. Simply put, attempts to apply for a certification just a few days or even a week or two in advance of a scheduled closing date will not be able to be accommodated. In Boston, certifications are valid for 90 days. Apply for smoke and carbon monoxide detector inspection online here
  
For more information, visit the Boston Fire Dept.’s Office of Fire Prevention website. For questions or concerns, you may contact Deputy Chief Tully at brian.tully@boston.gov.
 
Scheduling Smoke & CO Detector Inspections in Boston

 

Article Courtesy of: Inman News
By: Adam Hergenrother 
 
There comes a time in many real estate professionals’ lives when they begin to weigh whether or not they want to build a team. As the owner of a team currently in 30 states, I, of course, am a big supporter of building a real estate team. But whether you have a team in every state or are just starting to build your first team, there are some fundamental principles that I believe every leader should know and implement.

I have not been perfect with these over the years, which is why I’m sharing them with you now. Learn from the mistakes I’ve made in the past 10 years. The basics are the basics for a reason. They work. Here are 10 team-building basics every leader should know.

1. Know your model, and stick to it 

My real estate business has always been rooted in the concept of personal growth through business and building other leaders. 

About five years ago, we got away from this model and started focusing on quantity over quality. It worked for a while — until it didn’t. Moving away from a model we knew worked started to erode our culture and our profits. 

So we stopped and went back to the basics — building real estate teams by building other leaders. It’s much easier to build a business based on what you genuinely believe in rather than chasing the latest idea you think you can make work. Find what model works for you, one that aligns with your vision and your culture, and stick to that.

2. Attract, don’t recruit 

There’s a time and a place for recruiting, for sure. It’s an essential part of building a real estate team. However, there is a fine line between casting your vision and selling your vision. 

Ideally, you want agents to come to you. You do this by building your brand, providing an insane amount of free value to your fellow agents and leaders, and making an impact on someone else’s life. The key here is to do that clearly and consistently over time. 

When you create a compelling vision and culture, you will attract agents to your company. And those are the agents with whom you’ll want to get into business.  

3. Talk net income, not splits 

As you engage in conversations with real estate professionals and decide who might be the right fit for your team, focus on net income, not splits. 

A big part of consulting with agents is talking about their income goals, which is fantastic. Focus on that! 

If you start talking about splits from the first conversation, you’ll be talking about it forever. If an agent is earning the income they want, does it matter what split they are getting? I think not. 

Splits can change over time, but the value your team brings (and with it the potential income opportunities for agents) should only increase. Those are the conversations I recommend you lead with when building a team. 

4. 51% culture — it’s about the ‘who’  

When you’re building a real estate team, it really is all about the “who.” Several years ago, we would add 20 agents, and 20 would leave within the same month — retention rate: zero. Yes, there is a high attrition rate in real estate, but I wanted to build something different, something that lasted. Something that our real estate agents could build thriving lives and careers around. 

It took a shift in our thinking and a commitment to building an organization focused on culture first to get us where we are today. It might have taken us several years to get there, but it worked. The first thing we had to do was let go of the outcome. 

What we were doing — focusing on adding as many agents as possible, regardless of how many left — didn’t work for us. The top line number looked great, but it wasn’t telling the whole story of our business. Our shift to focusing on retention led us to track our retention rate weekly and sharing it with our agents across the organization. 

Now, our retention rate averages around 95 percent. We are very clear when recruiting and hiring real estate agents or looking to partner with a new team that we are looking at those individuals against our scale of 51 percent culture and 49 percent profit. The right cultural fit is always going to tip the scale against profit. 

Sure, perhaps a high-producing agent could bring a significant amount of production and profit to the team. But if they do not fit into our culture and could potentially be an emotional and cultural drain on the team, then it’s a non-starter. 

Profit is essential, and culture is 1 percent more critical when it comes down to our team’s integrity and vitality.

5. Make your agents’ lives easier with an administrative and operational foundation 

Agents generally join a team because they want to fast-track their success by letting someone else take the financial risk of building an organization and allowing someone else to deal with building a viable and scalable administrative and operational foundation. 

As the team leader, you better deliver. As you are building out your operational systems and models, constantly ask yourself, “Will this make my agents’ lives easier?” If the answer is no, move on!  

You want to create systems around marketing, lead generation, listing management, transaction coordination, client relationship management, and technology that our agents can easily plug into and start succeeding. By creating a better experience for your agents and clients, you will build a sustainable team. 

6. Time on task produces results 

As we built our team, a significant focus was always on productivity. We are a culture of productive agents. What does that mean? We create administrative and operational systems that make our agents’ lives easier so they can spend time on what they do best — prospecting for clients, building relationships with clients, and serving our clients during the home buying, selling, and investing process. 

The only way to do that effectively is time on task (and again, making it as easy for agents to succeed as possible). We call our system 15-3-1: 15 minutes of script practice, followed by three hours of lead generation and one appointment set per day. And if they don’t set an appointment, keep prospecting. Time on task (with a system in place) is a team-building basic. 

7. Listen 

As you are building your team, it’s essential to ask for feedback from your agents and clients regularly. What’s working? What isn’t? Is there a more effective process you could implement to support your agents? Would your clients like more, less or different communication? 

Client surveys and check-in calls can give you a lot of information here. 

So can the five daily accountability questions with your agents and employees. These systems can be very effective if used regularly. Yet, it’s just as important to be “listening” between the lines. 

What isn’t being said? Has one of your top agents missed sending in their questions four days in a row? Is your preferred lender sending less business your way than in previous months? Are your clients spending more time on Instagram than Facebook (where you keep posting updates)?  

As a leader, it’s essential to keep your head up and your eyes, ears and heart open. You need to be looking months (even years) ahead, gathering data from industry experts, books, podcasts, clients, agents and colleagues to be making the best decisions for your team’s growth and success. Make it a habit to be listening to your team, your clients and reputable sources so that you stay one step ahead. 

8. Share a roadmap for success 

Don’t keep your team-building plans a secret! Your vision and the roadmap you lay out for how agents can continue to grow will attract the right agents for your team and organization. 

Talented agents already on your team will want to know how they grow and succeed within your world. We have created a roadmap for our staff members, individual contributor agents and agent leaders. 

No matter what path they choose to take, there is a path forward for them. When building a team, you have to think long-term. This isn’t just a team — this is a company. Your people are your greatest asset. Show them the path forward, and then see who steps up to the challenge. 

9. Cast the vision for future growth 

A clear vision is essential for building a team. If you are not clear on the vision for your company — start there. 

Take the time to write this out, and start communicating it to everyone you come into contact with. You will inevitably begin to get clear on your vision and be able to articulate it to various stakeholders.

Like the roadmap for each agent’s or team member’s career growth, you will want to share the overall vision for the organization over and over and over again. The vision for your company is everything. It’s what attracts agents to your team. It’s what makes clients choose your company over a competitor. 

It’s what retains staff and agents over time. It’s what helps third-party vendors decide to partner with you year after year. It’s what will ultimately help your company grow, scale and succeed.  

10. Find joy in the success of others 

Without great administrative and operational staff, and talented real estate agents around you, you will not successfully build a team. A considerable part of this is learning to remove your need for individual recognition and success. 

In its place, you need to cultivate a true understanding and desire to lead others, and find the ultimate joy in their success, rather than your own gain. The beauty of this is that the more you lean into helping others succeed as you build your team, you will see more success and fulfillment than you ever did before on your own. 

That’s what drives me to build company after company. The joy of others succeeding is pretty incredible, and it’s something I hope you all experience as you get down to business and build your teams.  

No one said building a business was easy. But if you tap into these 10 team-building basics, you’ll be on your way toward sustainable and scalable growth in no time. 

Adam Hergenrother is the founder and CEO of Adam Hergenrother Companies, the author of The Founder & The Force Multiplier, and the host of the podcast, Business Meets Spirituality
10 Team-Building Basics Every Leader Should Know
GBREB NEWS

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The Massachusetts Landlord Survival Guide  is an invaluable tool to help new and longtime owners succeed. Simple, fast and an informative legal resource, the Landlord Survival Guide is the source for owners to navigate the common pitfalls of being in the rental business. Covering topics from fair housing, discrimination, evictions, owners duties, tenant rights, and more, this book is the ultimate resource with all the information you need in one place.
 
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Article Courtesy of:  Inman News
By: Carl Medford


With multiple offers being the order of the day, buyers are overbidding to outgun their competitors. What happens if an appraisal comes back low? Here are a few important steps to take before writing an over-asking offer.

I had a disturbing call recently. We put one of our listings into contract with a buyer who had submitted a fully non-contingent offer $100,000 over list price. That is not unusual in our market. In this current overheated madness, a significant percentage of offers are written non-contingent, and we can easily see homes go a few hundred thousand dollars over realistically set asking prices.

The call was from the buyer’s agent, who cut right to the chase. “I just talked to my lender,” the agent said. “She let me know that if the property only appraises at list price, our deal will not work. They don’t have enough to make up the difference.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I replied, “but I’m not sure what you want me to do — we are in a binding non-contingent offer.”

Their response? “We did not discuss our offer with the lender before writing.” Bad move.

No matter who you talk to anywhere in the country, inventory is at unprecedented lows. The result is buyers scrambling to find homes and fighting tooth-and-nail to get a contract accepted on one of the few properties available.

In this unprecedented environment with multiple offers on almost every listing, buyers will do almost anything to land a contract. A prevalent tactic in our market is to submit offers with all contingencies removed.

Most sellers in our region, priming the pump for non-contingent offers, provide full disclosures and inspection reports upfront, and as a result, many buyers feel comfortable removing their inspection contingency. Additionally, with lenders going to extra lengths to preapprove their buyers, many homeowner wannabes do not hesitate in removing loan contingencies as well.

The real rub comes with the appraisal contingency for properties on which a buyer needs to procure a loan. Even with properties that are priced correctly based on past closed sales, it is not uncommon to see multiple offers driving offer prices to dramatic new heights.

In many cases, the offered prices are significantly above comparable sales, which in turn makes the requisite appraiser’s task incredibly difficult. While some appraisers understand the increasing market and try to justify soaring prices, others are not comfortable with the new reality and provide valuations more in line with previous sales.

This difference in appraisal styles adds confusion to the market and increases the difficulty for buyers determining how high they might go for any given property. As an example, if a property is listed at $500,000 but buyers offer $600,000, they are $100,000 over the asking price.

If they have an 80 percent loan approval and are putting 20 percent down, their loan will be $480,000 with a down payment of $120,000. If the property appraises at $500,000, then the lender will only provide 80 percent of the appraised value: $400,000. This means that a buyer needs to be able to provide a down payment of $200,000 to make the deal work.

If the buyers have the extra cash, the deal can proceed. If, eager to score a deal, they write a non-contingent offer and do not have the extra cash, the deal may collapse, and they could forfeit their deposit. These are tough times indeed, and it once again underscores the age-old saying, “Buyer beware.”

As real estate agents, our job is to look out for the best interests of our clients. With this in mind, here are three steps we take before writing an over-asking price offer:

1. Compile a comprehensive picture of a buyer’s true financial capabilities

In addition to a preapproval, we ask for verification of funds on deposit that can be liquid within 30 days. We are sometimes shown fund balances that are in long-term CDs, retirement vehicles or other funds that cannot be readily accessed — these cannot be used.

We also check to see if funds are available from family members, friends and the like. If they are, we gather the details and make sure we have gift letters. With the preapproval and fund totals in hand, we can then set a limit on the buyer’s capabilities.

2. Run a comprehensive comparative market analysis (CMA) to determine a fair market value for any home they wish to purchase

We have discovered that in the heat of the battle, many buyer’s agents fail to determine a fair market value for a listing and, therefore, have no idea what a realistic offer might actually be.

Even though we will most often be offering more than the list price, we run the CMA because we have to know what valuation an appraiser might end up with. The actual market value provides the foundation upon which we base the calculations needed to determine how high a buyer can actually go over list price.

3. Plug the numbers into an appraisal calculator

We start with the following:
• Offer price.
• Percentage of loan to purchase price.
• Loan amount.
• Down payment amount.
• Projected closing costs.

By adding the closing costs to the offer price and subtracting the loan amount, we end up with the amount of cash required to close. If an offer is being made for $600,000 with an 80 percent loan and $10,000 in closing costs, we will need $130,000 to close the transaction if the property appraises at $600,000.

We then factor in the following:
• The price at which we believe the home might actually appraise (taken from the CMA).
• The new loan amount based on the projected appraisal price.
• The desired offer price minus the new loan amount.

As an example, if your offer is $600,000, but you believe it will appraise for $500,000, and your loan-to-purchase ratio is 80 percent, then the lender will only lend 80 percent of the actual appraised value, which results in a loan amount of $400,000.

If your offer is $600,000, but the lender will only lend $400,000, then you add the projected closing costs to the offer price and subtract the revised loan number ($600,000 plus $10,000 for a total of $610,000 minus $400,000 for a balance of $210,000).

In this scenario, if the home appraises at $500,000, but the contract price is $600,000, instead of needing $130,000, the buyer must bring in a total of $210,000 to make the deal work.

Once we have run this calculation, we go back to the buyer’s available cash — if they have in excess of the amount required if it appraises low, we know we can remove the appraisal contingency. If they are short, then it is a no-go.

Because these calculations can be a bit clunky, we built an excel spreadsheet that quickly does the calculations for us. It takes about 20 seconds to plug in the numbers. We even set it up so it gives us the maximum amount they could offer based on the amount of cash on hand.

At the end of the day, the goal is to get a property for the buyer and protect them at the same time. The worst thing that can happen is getting into contract and then discovering that your clients do not have what is needed to actually get it closed.

Carl Medford is the CEO of The Medford Team.
How to Protect Your Buyers From Appraisal Catastrophes
Article Courtesy of: Inman News
By: Jimmy Burgess

Real estate farming is a foundational activity for any sustainable real estate sales business. With inventory at all-time lows, the need to generate listings has never been more pressing. Whether you’ve never built a farm before, or it has been a while since you have, these steps will help you create and grow a thriving geographic real estate farm.

Step 1: How do I find the right neighborhood?

Success in farming hinges on choosing the right neighborhood. Agents should base this decision on two factors: The first is whether there is a dominant agent in the neighborhood already, and the second is seeing whether there are enough sales in the area for the numbers to make sense. 

If more than 25 percent of the homes listed in the neighborhood over the past 12 months have gone to one agent, then I would consider that neighborhood to have a dominant agent.
We aren’t afraid of competition, but why attempt to take market share when another agent already has a foothold in the neighborhood? The ideal farm does not have a single agent with more than 15 percent of the previous 12-month listings taken. We would consider this a segmented market and ripe with opportunity.

The next step is to evaluate the numbers. We want to make sure there are enough listing opportunities over the next 12 months to merit our investment of time and effort. Here is the formula I use for an example neighborhood of 300 homes with an average sales price of $400,000.

We anticipate in normal market conditions that at least 10 percent of the homes in a neighborhood will sell in a typical year. For this example, we would estimate 30 listings available to agents for the year. Based on an average sales price of $400,000 and 30 listings anticipated in the coming year, there is $12 million worth of listing-side sales volume expected in the coming year.

For this example, let’s use an average listing-side commission rate of 2.5 percent, meaning an average gross commission of $10,000 per average $400,000 sale. For this example, let’s use an agent’s split of 75 percent, meaning each listing-side net commission would be $7,500 on a $400,000 sale.

Because we chose a segmented market, we anticipate with the marketing plan (to follow) that we should be able to take at least 10 percent market share, so in this case, three listing sides sold for a net commission to the agent for the year of $22,500. We should take more market share and pick up a buyer or two from having the listings, but we want to be conservative for this example

What are our expenses to farm this neighborhood? It might not be on the front of the marketing, but I like to use $2 per month per house. This will be a combination of marketing expenses to be discussed in the next section. So, in this case, that would be $600 per month or $7,200 for the year.

Based on this evaluation, the breakeven point is selling one listing for the year. With our plan of action and understanding that we should be able to take at least 10 percent market share in 12 months, the numbers for this neighborhood appear to make enough sense to proceed.

Step 2: Become the most knowledgeable agent of your farm

This marketing plan will yield listing appointments and conversations with sellers. To take advantage of those opportunities, you must have an in-depth understanding of this neighborhood. 

Having in-depth knowledge means you should:

• Study historical sales data to be able to speak intelligently with owners about the last 10 sales in the neighborhood.
• Know the average days on market and the average price-per-square-foot of those sales.
• Have seen every home currently for sale in the neighborhood.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Make sure you know every detail of home sales in the neighborhood. This will give you the confidence to speak boldly and with clarity when a potential seller calls to ask your opinion about their home.

Step 3: Gather contact information for the homeowners

The next step is harvesting the contact info for all owners in the neighborhood. The mailing lists should be easily available through your local county’s property appraiser’s website. To effectively market to a neighborhood, however, we need phone numbers as well.

To obtain phone numbers, you can use a service such as Cole Realty Resource or an app such as ForeWarn. An accurate database will help maximize marketing effectiveness. 

If you are going to farm a neighborhood you personally own a home in, you may be able to obtain an owners list from the HOA. These lists can be golden because they often include email addresses, phone numbers and accurate mailing addresses.

Step 4: Develop a marketing plan of action

In marketing, “the seven-times factor” says that people have to see an ad seven times before they notice it on average. The key to effective farming is consistency. Your marketing repetition will build your reputation as the trusted source for real estate information in the neighborhood. 

The marketing to the neighborhood not only needs to be consistent but of value. Ask yourself, “What would I find valuable as a homeowner?” Also, ask, “What form of communication would I prefer?” Our plan of action will include direct mail, email if you have addresses, phone calls and special events.

The core marketing principle for farming is direct mail. We want to send one direct mail piece to each owner at a minimum of one per month. These should be a mixture of sales activity pieces, just-listed/just-sold cards, open house announcements, trend explanation pieces for the neighborhood, and special events announcements.

Always include a call-to-action of free CMA or automated email every time a home comes on the market, goes under contract or sells in the neighborhood.

The next core piece of farming marketing is phone calls. Meaningful real estate-related conversations drive our business. These calls should not be sales pitches but rather informational.

For instance, call to let the neighbors know when a house is sold for a record price in the neighborhood. Simply say:

“This is Sally Agent with ABC Realty. The house at 123 Oak Street just sold, and it has really moved the home prices for the neighborhood. We are just calling to let you know your home’s value has gone up. Also, the sale had multiple offers, and we have other buyers who are wanting to buy in the neighborhood. Would you happen to know whether any of your neighbors might consider selling?” 

Other calls include letting the neighbors know about new listings, open houses or special events planned for the neighborhood. 

Although personal calls are best, you can use a tool such as Slydial to record a single message and send it to all neighbors’ voicemails. Slydial allows you to upload a group of phone numbers and record one voicemail to drop in the owner’s voicemail box for around 10 cents per number. This is a great way to leverage your time in a large farm area. 

The last way to increase your recognition and influence in the farm area is through hosting or coordinating special neighborhood events. 

Here are a few of the best examples I’ve heard of special neighborhood events:
• Coordinating a food truck night in the neighborhood and providing free desserts with branding.
• Host a movie night in an area park.
• Schedule an ice cream truck at the pool or some other amenity area in the neighborhood for adults and kids on a Saturday.
• Hire a photographer to provide free family photos to families who schedule an appointment in a neighborhood park.
• Molly Slagle in Houston, Texas, used an exciting spin to provide pet photography for the neighborhood.

The bottom line is that real estate is a contact sport. The more you contact and connect with your targeted farm, the more relationships you will build and the more business you will ultimately do. Take action! Develop a farm! Nurture your farm, and you will reap a harvest of listings.

Jimmy Burgess is the Chief Growth Officer for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Beach Properties of Florida in Northwest Florida. Connect with him on Facebook or Instagram.
Looking For Listings? How to Build a Real Estate Farm Step-by-Step
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced today that it is extending its nationwide eviction moratorium through June 30, 2021. 

The order was put into place Sept. 4, 2020, but has been challenged in court across numerous states and localities in the months since. In addition to the court challenges, the National Association of REALTORS® has fought successfully for federal rental assistance—and will continue to advocate to ensure the moratorium doesn’t lead to a spiraling crisis for housing providers and tenants.

“NAR helped secured $25 billion in 2020 and another $21.55 billion earlier this month in federal rental assistance funding, which can be paid directly to property owners,” says Shannon McGahn, chief advocacy officer of NAR. “This was critical to averting a multifamily real estate crisis, as many of our nation’s housing providers are mom-and-pop operations. Our focus now turns to ensuring there is not just enough funding but also a smooth implementation of rental assistance while the various challenges to eviction bans work their way through the courts.”

Under the terms of the CDC order, residents must declare that they have pursued all appropriate government assistance; met certain income and employment requirements; and are using best efforts to make timely partial payments, among other qualifications. Today’s announcement expands the order to include people “who are confirmed to have, who have been exposed to, or who might have been exposed to COVID-19 and take reasonable precautions to spread the disease.”

Covered persons must now provide their housing provider with a copy of a signed declaration form stating that they meet the requirements to be a “covered person.”
 
As with previous CDC orders, property owners may still evict tenants due to criminal activity, damaging property, or for violating other contractual obligations.

“Rental assistance averted two crises—one for mom-and-pop property owners who did not have a reprieve from their bills and relied on their rental income and one for tenants who would have been responsible for months of back rent when the eviction moratoriums expired,” McGahn says. “We must continue to look for ways to protect tenants and property owners from further financial turmoil while ensuring housing in America remains safe and stable for decades to come.”
 
Read the CDC order.

Read NAR’s Coronavirus: Housing Provider FAQs.
 
See all NAR resources related to COVID-19 at nar.realtor/coronavirus.


What the Eviction Moratorium Means for You

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