Changes to Marketing Properties during SIP

I answered this question in Sound Off on Sunday, 4/12/2020. Below is an enhanced and updated version of my response that was printed in the SF Chronicle, and is online at SF Gate:

“How has the COVID-19 outbreak changed the way you market listings?”

A:  Residential real estate was defined an “essential service” in California starting 3/31 within the Shelter in Place restrictions. But open houses, staging, and normal cosmetic improvements are not allowed, nor any activities in occupied properties. Listing agents have quickly developed new, creative uses of technology for marketing Bay Area homes:

—All Digital: photos, and especially videos, drone and 3-D online tours have become increasingly essential, and widely available. 

— Virtual staging: several companies provide the appearance of a fully staged home, but the furnishings are all added digitally. Over the past year or so these services have become increasingly sophisticated! 

—Virtual Brokers’ tour debuted last week in the East Bay, with a group of 100 of us agents gathered on Zoom, sharing descriptions and photos of the newest listings; next week these tours will be expanded to a larger audience, with virtual tours both Mondays and Thursdays, replicating our previous physical tours. All that’s missing are the snacks…and the gossip!

—Scheduled weekend livestream “Open Homes” with agents using Zoom, Instagram Live or Facebook Live; social media is a key means of advertising these e-events. Only when buyers have reviewed available images and disclosures online, are pre-approved for their loan, and follow strict entry protocols should they physically view a property. That includes a limit of two members of the same household plus one agent can be in the property at any one time. And the signing and delivery in advance of entry of a rapidly-evolving hold-harmless disclosures, making sure the buyer understands that they are taking some risk of contracting the virus. They must provide their own gloves, face covering and booties, and wash hands before and upon leaving the property. About 75% of my colleagues report that they are not willing to show property during this SIP period. But we know there is interest on the part of serious buyers. 

—“Transparent Pricing” is becoming a more common part of marketing strategies during this time when physical showings are restricted. That doesn’t mean that overbidding has stopped; the average number of offers per property is around 2 now, vs. 5.5 at the beginning of the year. But more sellers are setting prices that indicate “I will sell my property at this price.” It as least makes it less likely that buyers must offer amounts wildly higher than list, at least for many properties.

Let’s hope at least some of these practices continue after SIP is lifted!

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