COVID-19: How property agents can gear up to approach clients

[] Are you a property consultant/broker/realtor? This is a tough time for your business. News discusses how you can reach out to your prospective clients and close a deal, while practicing social distancing

With the second wave of COVID-19 gripping the nation, several states and cities have announced local curfews and semi-lockdowns, to keep crowding at bay. Once again, the uncertainty in the job market, due to the lockdown has scared away potential investors and home buyers. While it is evident from the previous lockdown that economic growth could again come to a standstill in some time, due to the second wave of the Coronavirus pandemic, the buying and selling of properties will also be impacted, as most of the government offices have now limited the number of document registrations that could be done in a single day. However, with home loan interest rates being at their lowest and demand still present, a bargain can lure investors, who have spare money to invest, back to the market. To reach out to them, it is important for one to embrace technology at every step of the deal. Here is how you can do it.

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How to reach out to clients and track them

Since most of the people are at home, probably doing work-from-home, this is an opportunity for you to leverage their availability.

Make use of online property portals for generating leads

If you are having a tough time generating leads for your business, you can sign up with online property portals such as for customised deals, where you can list your properties and get qualified leads in your mailbox. With everybody isolating themselves at home and spending time online, people are more likely to search and browse online listings on property portals.

Reach out to potential leads that have contacted you earlier

This is an ideal time to reach out to potential leads that did not convert in the past six months, because of unforeseen circumstances. You can ask them about their plan and if they would be interested in a negotiated deal or a discounted price. Some of the builders are also accepting bookings with refundable token money. You can share with them the idea of booking a unit a cheaper price, which can be cancelled as and when required.

Use messaging apps to broadcast limited-edition deals

With prominent messaging and social media apps gaining traction from people of all age groups, you too can use it for promoting your deals across your network but diligently and without spamming anybody. Use WhatsApp, Telegram, Instagram, Facebook, etc. for reaching out to your clientele. You can use Canva to create your own attractive graphics for sharing it on your personal social media channels. You can follow like-minded audience and if you have the budget, you can also generate leads through promotional strategies which includes paid ads to increase reach. But, do remember we are amidst a pandemic and there are very limited number of people who would be interested in real estate investment right now. This also means that the lead cost will be very less as compared to usual days because of less competition in the market and not many people are running marketing campaigns these days. There might be a number of enquiries but it is actually not up to you how many of them will convert.

Use video calls to add a personal touch

Thanks to technology, you can still see people and talk to them face to face, even without being in the same place. Make use of modern messaging apps that come with video calling feature. Be it Hangout Meet, Microsoft Teams or Zoom call, all these apps are being actively used for formal meetings. If you don’t have a tech-savvy client, you can use WhatsApp or Facebook messenger, which offers an informal setting. Google Duo is another video calling app with clear voice and video quality. You can set up a meeting time on Google Calendar, so that your client also gets the notification before the call.

Try cold-calling your network

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This is an unprecedented situation and everyone is stuck at home, which means they have a little extra time on hand to talk to you. So, reach out to cold leads, as well as those who have invested with you and ask for referrals. Have a warm conversation with them and do not be direct. You can discuss about the market situation and future trends and tell them it can be a big help if they can refer someone who would be interested in investing in real estate. This can be a time for you to create a pipeline of those potential leads which you can use when everything is back to normal.

Highlight the benefits of investing now

You have to put your message across positively but not aggressively. Since we are amidst a lockdown, the job market looks patchy and income regularity is challenged, not many people would want to invest their liquidity in an asset without any ownership. Keeping all these points in mind, you have to highlight the perks of investing right now, which includes better negotiated deals, importance of having a real estate asset instead of renting, refundable booking amount, if available, and most importantly, cheaper home loans. Educate your client about the recent RBI announcement and how repo rate-linked home loans might be more affordable now.

Customise property options for your clients

Shortlist property options, projects, localities for your clients that you want to focus on. You can keep in mind the budget, location and the project that can be a good deal. You can compare the projects and localities upfront during the video call which can give them a fair idea why they should opt for it. You can also focus on builders who are negotiating the cost or the ones offering 100 per cent refund on the booking amount. It could be an easy sell for you.

This is a difficult time that has made renters realise the importance of owning a home. You can start pitching them the idea but do not expect a turnaround for a few weeks since the cash flow isn’t going to start soon.

How to replicate site visits in the digital world

Site visit is one of the major components of the home buying process and there are many things that buyers and realtors check, ask and discuss, during it. What happens when an actual site visit is replaced by a virtual tour? Social distancing rules have made it impossible for home buyers to go for site visits. Here is what you can do, to make sure your digital site tours are going to be as good as actual ones:

Create video tours

Videos are more descriptive than images. This is the reason why video tours have gained popularity. Here’s how you can create a perfect one for your client:

  1. If you are dealing in a builder’s property, you can source a video tour from the developer and share it with your clients.
  2. If you deal in resale properties, you can have a video walk-through for your client from the property location. Treat the home like you would when preparing for a regular site visit. Switch on all the lights and let the natural light come in. Decide the room sequence and flow. Also, start the call on the outside of the home and then proceed inside.
  3. If there is no possibility of a video tour, you can click 3D pictures from your smartphone camera and create a slideshow/video to put it all together. You can also upload this to YouTube and Vimeo and simply share the link with your client, instead of sending the video.
  4. If you cannot click 3D pictures, ask for professional shots from the builder and create a nice video online, by collating all of them. Do not add any effects or filters to brighten up the shots as it can make the entire video look artificial.

Take the help of experts

Online property portals like have expertise in creating digital tours, using virtual and augmented reality. The immersive technology can help the prospective buyer take a better look at the property, without actually visiting it. The biggest benefit of staging the property virtually is that you can customise it according to buyers’ wishes. If the house is unfurnished, it could be decked up with furniture and appliances, to show visitors how their dream house will look. This could certainly boost the chances of sale. Get in touch with us and understand how your virtual tour needs can be satisfied.

Think beyond the sample flat

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When you take your client for a site visit, he evaluates the neighborhood, connectivity, society and nearby amenities, apart from the actual unit. You should address all these points, when you are conducting a virtual site visit. While you may be able to convince your client that this unit is perfect for his family, you should also discuss the location advantages, facilities available in the housing society, amenities and connectivity to nearby areas. You can use Google Earth for this purpose and share your screen, to make your client understand all the nitty-gritty of the project site. Talk about the travel time from the nearest landmark, malls, shopping centres, metro stations, etc. You can include all these details in your video.

Conversion and token money

Once the virtual site visit is done, you can set expectations for the next discussion with your client. There will be negotiations for which you have to set a boundary. With demand slowdown, homebuyers are expecting a bargained deal. Not many investors are in the market right now and there is almost no competition. However, you have to make them understand that once the lockdown is over, there will be a huge flurry of millennial buyers in the market who do not want to have the bitter experience of staying in a rented flat during a pandemic.

You can also add someone from the developer’s side in the negotiation stage to add credibility during the video call. It can help you build trust and the buyer can have a direct conversation with the builder. Also, you can register the client with the builder’s office. If you are selling a resale unit, adding the owner will be a good idea as this way, there will be more transparency, especially when everything is being done online.

To add to their convenience, you can also get include a home loan agent who can help them with the formalities and check their pre-approved home loan eligibility. Since most of the bankers are also working from home, it would be easy to set up a meeting with a home loan provider to help your buyer make a decision.

If your client agrees, you can send Expression of Interest to the builder and can request for token money through any of the online channels. While NEFT and RTGS are working fine, you can consider UPI payment such as Google Pay as well if the amount is less than Rs one lakh. Once you have the token money, you have to send the acknowledgment slip as an acceptance.

Finding an interested client can be difficult right now but with looming economic crises, you have to be considerate for them as well. Many developers and builders are strategizing ahead and are soon going to launch lucrative offers for the buyers once the uncertainty ends. You should too get in touch with other people in your work community to understand the market situation and how can you make things better to help the needy ones.

Format for token payment receipt

COVID-19: How property brokers can gear up to approach clients

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Category: Lifestyle

Debora Berti

Università degli Studi di Firenze, IT

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