How to Maintain Transaction Traction Through COVID-19

Side's Chief Broker Officer, Hilary Saunders, moderated a panel featuring three massively successful Side partner agents, who all do north of $50M in production volume each year. Over the course of an hour, these top producers shared how they’re maintaining transaction traction as we navigate COVID-19. Panelists shared how they’re communicating with (sometimes hesitant) buyers and sellers, what kind of marketing they’re spending money on during shelter-in-place, what trends they’re seeing in their local markets, and more.

Key Takeaways

● Momentum achieved during this challenging time needs to be maintained:
All three partners saw a new spark in their teams, and they’ve managed to rally to pull together and be insanely productive. As we slowly adjust to a new normal, each echoed sentiments that they plan to maintain this higher productivity level to achieve even bigger production numbers moving forward. 

● Community outreach can help drum up new business - especially now:
Both Robinson and Silva have come up with creative ways to connect with potential buyer and seller leads. Robinson has delivered baked goods to locals along with a short note and has held coloring contests kids can get involved in.

He says, “We had over 100 [people] reply, so I felt like that was a big win. A couple of those conversations turned into, hey, my brother's thinking of buying… [We also did] a coloring contest for kids. We're just trying to be creative, set ourselves apart, and stay in touch with all of our clients.”

Silva had an Easter picnic planned and had purchased 5,000 pre-filled eggs to use in an egg hunt. He says, “My office packaged 200 bags of eggs and put a message out to the neighborhood. We had 170-something households respond, saying yes, please bring us eggs. We put a little card in there. We also put together a quarantine package for our clients. It had popcorn, a bottle of wine, and stuff geared towards moving. Everything was super well-received.” 

● Traditional buyer and seller activity timelines are expected to shift by a season:
Spring is typically the busiest real estate season, but that’s not the case this year. Michael Silva predicts,”We're going to have a big pool of spring buyers and sellers turn into summer buyers and sellers. If this is true and there’s a lot of buyer and seller activity in late June, July, or August, we might [encourage sellers to] list 30 days prior to that window to beat out additional inventory [they’d be] competing with.” 

Seller Insights

● Creative marketing helps reach an at-home audience:
Keeping listing activity up has become more difficult with shelter in place orders - but Michael Silva accepted this challenge and came up with an effective marketing campaign to reach potential buyers spending more time outdoors with their families. 

Silva explains, “There's a lot of foot traffic [in the neighborhood I live in, where we do a lot of business]. Lots of families, joggers, babies, moms, and nannies. We knew foot traffic was likely going to increase, so we called our sign company and asked for new, nicely branded signs that say ‘Virtual Open House’ really big, so people see it. We ordered like 80 of them and peppered the neighborhood.

[Those signs] had a blank white box with the single property website URL we created through Side. People visit, we take them to the single property website, and we activate a retargeting campaign. The buzz it generated - we started to see it on Instagram, people were posting it to Facebook, saying ‘this is adapting at its finest.’”

● Consistent communication is key:
Some sellers are wary as to how COVID-19 will impact their transaction, so it’s more important than ever to communicate early and often. Michael Silva developed a weekly cadence. He explains, “We blocked Tuesday afternoon to look at each active client. Sometimes it’s good news, sometimes it’s bad. but the clients were super appreciative of the fact that we’re shooting it straight.” 

● More outreach is required to bump up offers:
Madani says, “We have multiple offers. We were getting offers, and we're procuring other offers. A lot came in low, and we call everybody to let them know we had an offer. Then we got more offers and bid them all up.”

Buyer Insights

● It’s a great time to focus on rent-to-buy leads:
Renters in high-density housing are moving to less crowded neighborhoods and bigger homes. Silva says, “First-time home buyers coming out of apartment complexes is an area of our business that hasn’t lost any momentum. The contracts we've been putting together are probably over 95% buyers coming from apartment complex style living.”

● A suburban migration and general buyer desire for more space is coming:Robinson, Silva, and Madani have all seen this trend and would ‘bet money’ on it continuing. It appears that being stuck at home has had a lot of people evaluating where they live through a new lens. Robinson says, “[People] want to get into a place that they really love and enjoy - whether they're in an apartment, or they just need more space.”

● Illustrating the value of low interest rates helps overcome buyer hesitancy:Madani gives a great example. He said, “I was trying to close the deal. It fell apart right at the beginning COVID-19. The buyer called and said, ‘the real estate markets are going to toast, I'm worried about losing my job.’ He's a numbers guy, so I did the math, and he was going to save $100,000 by getting a 3% interest rate. I told him, you're probably never going to see a rate like that again.”

Full Webinar Q&A

Q: What was your business like before COVID-19 became a factor impacting day-to-day life, and what has changed for you

Tyson Robinson (SoCal): 

“We had a lot of momentum going into the beginning of the year, [and we] had some high goals in terms of what we wanted to achieve. In March, I closed eleven transactions, and April, I closed seven or eight. Next month, we're still on track to do another seven or eight. 

[Now], things are slowing a little bit, but we're continuing to work -- to prospect, and to market. We're still getting a decent amount of business, and we're not seeing a huge effect in terms of the number of listings and sold properties.”

Michael Silva (Houston, Texas):

[Now], things are slowing a little bit, but we're continuing to work -- to prospect, and to market. We're still getting a decent amount of business, and we're not seeing a huge effect in terms of the number of listings and sold properties.”

I started waking up earlier [to listen to] the daily dispatch, local economists, podcasts, and news. Collecting information, organizing it, and going over it with the team. We blocked out Tuesday afternoon to go through and look at each active client. [I also] get with our lender [and] create a state of the market [report[ every Monday morning. He’s getting us really good information from the lending side that we can plug into those updates. That’s what we[‘ve been] sending out

Sometimes it’s good news, sometimes it’s bad. but the clients were super appreciative of the fact that we’re shooting it straight.”

Q: Have you had any major disruptions? Have buyers or sellers slowed down or pulled out of transactions?

Michael Silva (Houston, Texas): 

“We had a few deals bust because unfortunately, people had lost their job or were furloughed... but that's a side note. For the most part, it's been pretty smooth. What's been really interesting, at least for the inner city, is we've got a lot of new construction that caters to first time homebuyers, and that sector of our business hasn't slowed down.

We did [have] to adjust prices on some of the new construction. For everyone else, each client is case-by-case. There are a couple different ways to look at it. First, we let the data dictate the majority of the decision. Some need to move up and list now, and some [can wait]. The overall consensus is, we're going to have this big pool of springtime buyers and sellers that are going to turn into summertime buyers and sellers. If this is true and there’s a lot of buyer and seller activity in late June, July, or August, we might say, let's list 30 days prior to that window to beat out additional inventory to compete with. 

We've got an amazing Medical Center in Houston, and we had developments near the[re that have] completely come to a halt. A lot of doctors and nurses buy those homes. [It’s] like trying to get a CPA to buy a property at the tax deadline. $500,000 plus was completely frozen. But it's been really cool, because the past 10 days, we’ve started to see showings, new listings, and pending contracts tick up in all price ranges.”

Jayson Madani (Northern California):

“We've had 39 closing so far this year and we were able to get 12 new listings while this was all happening -- basically two week, which is our goal. 

There's a little bit of fear. People are a little scared about stock markets, [but they] recovered a little bit so that's really helped out. We had a bunch of listings and buyers in escrow, and everybody was watching the Dow Jones go down and panicking. We kept those [deals] together, then we went and got more listings and built up the inventory.

I had a quadrupler listing [one deal that multiple other deals were contingent on] that had actually fallen out of escrow. We had four offers come in, two from my team and two from other agents. The [sellers] took the highest one, then the buyer’s agent went to Cabo and I was trying to close the deal. It fell apart right at the beginning COVID. The buyer called and said, ‘the real estate markets are going to toast, I'm worried about losing my job.’ He's a numbers guy, so I did the math, and he was going to save $100,000 by getting a 3% interest rate. I told him, you're probably never going to see a rate like that again. We pushed him through it.

We’re lucky to have buyers that we sold their homes and they're looking to buy different houses. We've also had buyers that are moving to Silicon Valley for tech job relocations, so that's been great. We put eight deals into escrow in a week. We have multiple offers. We were getting offers, and we're procuring other offers. A lot came in low, and we called everybody to let them know we had an offer. Then we got more offers and bid them all up.”

Tyson Robinson (SoCal):

“We've been selling multiple properties on a weekly basis. There are a number of buyers that need to buy and a number of sellers that need to sell. Homes are selling quicker now than they did last year [during] the same time period in our market, and they're still selling within 1% of list price. [When talking to sellers], I'm just using stats. 

The reality is, there are clients who are not going to want to sell or buy right now, and that's fine. We just continue forward and those guys are on hold. Each one is a different situation, and we respect where they’re at. We’re messaging 2-3 times a week to touch base and check in.”

Q: How are you handling showings during shelter-in-place?

Jayson Madani (Northern California):

“We're only allowed to show vacant houses in Santa Cruz County, so we've been having our listing clients move into VRBO's, or stay with family. We had huge inventory at the beginning of the year and a lot of them were already vacant, so we were lucky.

We're [also] using a lot of Zoom calls. We've been doing Facebook live open houses to promote our listings and we're doing Facebook ads. We stagger showings and let people know how many shows we're having that day, then fit them into a certain slot. They're mostly coming from the city, which is interesting.

If we meet in person, we wear masks and gloves, and we have [potential buyers] turn all the lights on. We give listing presentations outside at a distance. We sell properties with acreage, so it's not a big deal to sit outside and keep a really good distance.”

Michael Silva (Houston, Texas):

“There's a lot of foot traffic [in the neighborhood I live in, where we do a lot of business]. Lots of families, joggers, babies, moms, and nannies. We knew foot traffic was likely going to increase, so we called our sign company and asked for new, nicely branded signs that say virtual open house really big so people see it. We ordered like 80 of them and peppered the neighborhood.

For every active listing, we have the typical generic virtual open house sign, and each property has a sign in front of it that says virtual open house. [Those signs] had a blank white box with the single property website URL we created through Side. People visit, we take them to the single property website, and we activate a retargeting campaign. The buzz it generated - people were like, this is awesome. We started to see it on Instagram, people were posting it to Facebook, saying ‘this is adapting at its finest.’”

Q: Any changes to what you’re spending marketing dollars on? What are some unique ways you’re engaging with your community during shelter-in-place?

Tyson Robinson (SoCal):

“I love great harvest cinnamon burst bread, so we delivered a loaf of bread to [our prospects] doorsteps. We had over 100 [people] reply, so I felt like that was a big win. A couple of those conversations turned into, hey, my brother's thinking of buying… [We also did] a coloring contest for kids - a custom coloring contest page with a picture of me and a house in the back. The prize was an Amazon gift card. We're just trying to be creative, set ourselves apart, and stay in touch with all of our clients.”

Michael Silva (Houston, Texas): 

“We do photos with the Easter bunny every year - so we ordered 5000 pre packaged eggs for an Easter egg hunt. We had to cancel, so we got stuck with 5000 eggs. The girls in my office ended up packaging like, 200 bags of Easter eggs and put a message out to the neighborhood. We had 170-something households respond, saying yes, please bring us eggs. We put a little card in there, and they put together a really cool quarantine package for all of our clients. It had popcorn, a bottle of wine, stuff geared towards moving, and they probably dropped that off to 30-40 homes. Everything was super well-received.” 

Jayson Madani (NorCal):

“I canceled postcards to save money right now. Instead, I hit the database and hit the phones really hard. I've been informing our clients on all the changes with the COVID.”

Q: Do you think we’ll see people looking to get away from high-density housing, seeking out more land and space?

Jayson Madani (Northern California):

“I'm betting my money on it. I've been seeing it right now so I think you'll get more. People kind of, socially isolate here in the Santa Cruz Mountains anyways, and even in the little towns. There's a lot more space; less crowded, and very low traffic. I think companies will also let people work from home more often.”

Michael Silva (Houston, Texas): 

“Yeah. First-time home buyers coming out of apartment complexes is an area of our business that hasn’t lost any momentum. The contracts we've been putting together are probably over 95% buyers coming from apartment complex style living. There are really low interest rates, and we've heard a couple times already that buyers don't want to share elevators with anyone anymore... they don't want to share common spaces. We can only assume that [COVID-19] has something to do with it. But, even on the higher end, we're hearing that people are looking for more space. And I think a lot of the major search portals are reporting too, the criteria and priorities are changing. So, like Jayson said, I would bet my money on it.”

Tyson Robinson (SoCal):

“Oh, for sure. I want to be able to work more effectively from my home so I actually just broke ground yesterday and am building a backyard office. It affected me, and I'm sure it's affected many other people who are going to want to get into a place that they really love and enjoy - whether they're in an apartment, or they just need more space.

Q: Once we’re back to a new normal, what will be a big change in how you do things?

Tyson Robinson (SoCal):

“Online presence is huge, especially coming through this. My strategy is really just continuing to build my online presence. I have a lot of Yelp [reviews], but I need more. I have some Google reviews, but I need more. [The industry] is going to continue to shift and we need to shift with it. If our online presence is big, we're going to get a good amount of business from buyers and sellers who have done their homework. If we're positioned properly, [we’ll have] buyers and sellers call us, and want to work with us. We won’t even be competing with other realtors.”

Michael Silva (Houston, Texas): 

“We've been going really strong and we've worked harder and more in the past six weeks than we ever have before. We're going to keep that momentum and everybody at the brokerage is on the same page. We've gotten more aggressive in how we’re educating the client, how we're keeping in touch, and how we're marketing. We’re experimenting with different lead generation pillars and things that I've never done. We're also looking into training and accountability programs. Also, I hope we don't have to shake hands anymore - I'll be happy if that changes.”

Jayson Madani (NorCal):

“It's terrible this happened but it’s a good reminder to be really proactive. We're going to see a lot more virtual stuff - more Zoom calls. We've always done 3D tours, we've always done single property websites; I'm glad that all of our listings had that from the get-go. We're going to keep doing that, and more social media. We've seen a 400% increase on social media. We've been doing videos; market updates, new rule overviews, and highlighting our success. It's also been a good wake-up call for me to make more phone calls.”

As always, huge thanks to our partners - Jayson Madani, Michael Silva, and Tyson Robinson - for taking the time to sit down with us and share what you’re doing to thrive through this pandemic. We appreciate you and can’t wait to see you knock it out of the park again this year!

About the Panelists

Jayson Madani, Founder of Room Real Estate
Serves Northern California (Santa Cruz County)

Madani, who has been in the business for sixteen years,  leads a team made up of seven buyers agents and a listing manager in Santa Cruz County, California. He also has a business partner that he’s worked with for fifteen years who serves as his Operations Manager. Room Real Estate facilitated 178 transactions in 2019 and did $131M in production volume. 

Tyson Robinson, Founder of Trillion Real Estate 
Serves Southern California (Temecula Valley)

A ten year industry veteran and broker, Robinson owns Trillion Real Estate in Temecula Valley, which is just north of San Diego in Southwest Riverside County. He has a hybrid business model that combines property management and real estate services, and he leads a team of seven. Five of his employees work for the property management business, which supports 260 residential properties. He also has an Executive Assistant, and a Marketing Manager. Robinson focuses on the real estate side, and he facilitated just over 80 [transactions] himself last year. This year he’s aiming for 100. He also has 14 independent agents working on his team.

Michael Silva - Founder of Happen Houston
Serving Houston, Texas (inner city)

Silva leads an agent team of eleven, including himself. Together, they facilitated 220 transactions and did $120M in production in 2019 - and things are still looking good this year. Today, the team is at  $50M in pending and sold production value and approximately 93 transactions. His business focuses a lot within the builder and new construction space, and he and his wife own a construction company in one of his key farming areas. His team is highly integrated into new construction representation and building themselves.

Request a
Consultation