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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
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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
GBAR
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
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MAA Insider - May 2021
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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
GBAR

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