While 2020 will be recorded as one of the most trying years of the 21st Century, for those of us in the real estate industry, these challenges have forced us to adapt. The days of holding a weekend "open house" in California are long gone. The risk and fear of COVID-19 is simply too great for the property owner, the agents involved, and the public.
Enter the agent who has the ability and fortitude to host virtual home tours.
Since the governor modified the restrictions around real estate, a few agents have jumped on the virtual tour bandwagon to show individuals and couples homes in Palm Springs. I've been doing this well before the pandemic hit, largely because I have clients dispersed across the US and Canada.
With today's technology, the process is easy. What's hard for some is getting over being on camera.
The key thing is that we all know what you look like; it's you that's not sure. Most video call applications have a smaller window with your image, which you can ignore. Zoom and similar platforms allow you to hid your image completely. So while the agent on the other end can see you during the virtual home tour, that's no different than being with him or her on the showing.
And while FaceTime is useful in one-on-one showings, Zoom, Google Meetings, and Facebook Messenger allow for multiple parties to participate. This is different from the "real world" showings we do today.
In the real world, only the buyers are to be in the property along with the respective agent representatives. Each entrant must sign an affidavit stating they do not have COVID-19, COVID-19-like symptoms, or been exposed to someone with either. Children are asked to remain outside with a guardian as the buyer(s) go(es) through the home. The buyer's friends and parents are not permitted inside to see the property.
Each entrant must wear a mask. Hands must be covered with gloves or hand sanitizer must be used prior to entering.
All of this is for the protection of the property owner and occupants, the agents, and all the buyers that enter the home.
And while I'm successfully engaging my buyers in virtual home tours, I'm also doing virtual listing presentations with those that want to sell their home. It's efficient and safe.
For some, the worry lands on the impersonal nature of the video calls. I can say from experience this hasn't been the case. In some ways, there's equal or greater connection in these calls. After all, you're basically engaged in face-to-face communication that closer than in person meetings.
I encourage everyone to jump in head first to this new world of communication and home buying and selling. It's fun, informative, and far less scary than you think.
Jason Allen is a Palm Springs REALTOR® primarily serving the desert cities of Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, Cathedral City, Palm Desert, and Desert Hot Springs. He started his real estate career in San Francisco, California in 2007 and lives year-round in Palm Springs, California.