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Is a Contactless World the Future of Real Estate?
Dated: October 15 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the way that people do business. Concerns about physical distancing have forced many companies and businesses to find new and different ways to stay in business and address consumer worries about health and safety. Restaurants have increased patio seating, while brick and mortar stores have implemented online ordering systems. So, how has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the real estate industry?
Recently, a three-story Toronto home was listed for sale. Visitors to the open house were asked to follow precautions like mask-wearing, physical distancing, and providing contact information. Area resident Jeffery Wood, who toured the home, observed a sign on a second-floor door that read “Sorry, I’m sick.”
Three days later, the agency contacted Wood to tell him that the person inside the home had tested positive for COVID-19. “I thought it was incredibly irresponsible for that person, first of all, to be even hosting an open house knowing that there was a sick person inside,” he told CTV News. The listing was quickly removed, but the damage was already done.
A situation like this could have been avoided if a virtual open house had taken place. While many agents and property managers have responded to COVID-19 by offering more virtual showings and open houses, there are many other reasons to embrace developments in technology.
Consider how many renters want instant replies to their rental queries and how difficult it can be for agents to be available 24/7. Utilizing chatbots can make all the difference. Prospective renters can immediately find out details about your property, schedule a tour, and even apply online.
Virtual showings may soon be the standard, instead of the exception, for reasons that benefit the consumers as well as property managers and real estate agents. They allow prospective tenants or buyers to view the property from the comfort of their laptop or phone and at their own pace. For agents, this also removes concerns about foot traffic soiling the floors or carpets, and it even saves the time and expense of travelling to showings.
Property managers can make the application process simpler by switching to a digital, contactless method. Renters can receive notices about their application status via chatbots, automated emails, or SMS. This improves communication between managers and prospects and streamlines document storage, especially when things can be stored in the cloud.
Making online payments is now easier than ever. Many property management companies work with banks to ensure secure transactions for rental payments. Adding automated payment notification allows renters to stay on top of due dates and avoid missing payments.
Thanks to new technology, renters and buyers can now travel through the entire process of renting a home remotely: from looking at listings and participating in showings to submitting applications, signing leases, and making payments. These changes can benefit the agents as well, they can now use the time and effort previously spent in-person towards advancing their knowledge in further research into the market and societal needs.
Embracing technology that offers a contactless option also coincides with current consumer demands. While many renters used to read the classified ads in newspapers or drive around neighbourhoods looking for signs, now they browse through online listings. Virtual showings are preferred by 32% of renters because of concerns about physical distancing, but overall 11% would prefer this approach. Sixty-five percent of renters are Gen Z and millennials, two groups who choose online services by default. Add to these numbers the 75% of consumers who insist that companies improve customer experience through technology and it’s not hard to imagine that contactless real estate might be here to stay.
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