By Anthony Hitt, President and CEO, Engel & Völkers
I’ve always stressed how important it is for agents to own a niche or distinct market specialization but doing so becomes even more important in our current market conditions. We are facing the strong possibility of a recession and depressed markets because of the uncertain trajectory of COVID-19. However, when the market rebounds – and it will – owning a niche or specialization will be essential in helping agents revive their businesses all the more quickly.
For the immediate, foreseeable future, the best approach to take in this regard is for agents to own their local markets. This isn’t new information. It’s always been important for real estate agents to be experts in their local market. According to our research, homebuyers and sellers in North America say that local expertise is the most important factor when choosing their agent.
While in past economic downturns there was a long recovery time for residential real estate, given the unprecedented nature of the current sudden stop to business, it’s wise to expect that homebuyers and sellers will be ready to continue their searches or sales when the health crisis passes – in many cases they are waiting with us.
Agents should be preparing for that bounce back today. Don’t turn off the marketing funnel, but rather, double down on hyper local marketing efforts.
Agents can do this in a few ways:
Position themselves as a leader in their local communities.
We know that homebuyers follow local influencers on social media when they are determining where to buy. As a hyperlocal expert, agents should take on the role of informing residents and potential homebuyers about what’s happening in the community. Right now, this can include promoting local businesses that need extra help, such as restaurants that have launched a takeout business, providing updates from local government entities such as school boards or mayors, and sharing human interest stories and good news that is happening in the community.
A brokerage might consider supporting local small businesses and families in need through financial assistance, like we are seeing with our shops in Victoria and Collingwood. License partner Max Hahne from Engel & Völkers Collingwood Muskoka and his wife did a giveaway to provide help to those in need locally by offering his commission to deserving and well qualified families and seniors. On the west side, license partners Scott Piercy and James LeBlanc of Engel & Völkers Vancouver Island launched a small business grant program to help local businesses in Victoria fight through the impacts of COVID-19.
Agents can also use their personal online presence to share “digital events” happening in the community, such as a virtual children’s story hour at the local library. How real estate professionals position themselves and provide value now will impact their business in the long term.
In embracing the hyperlocal, agents are showing homebuyers why their community is great, building up good will among local homeowners and positioning themselves as a community expert or leader.
Focus marketing spend on core neighbourhoods.
It is understandable that agents will be more limited within their marketing spend now and must be prudent in choosing how to spend those resources. To get the greatest value, any marketing spend should be targeted toward an agent’s core neighbourhood(s) or speciality, whether it’s luxury high-rises, golf communities or waterfront homes. In fact, it may be most strategic for agents to direct their paid marketing efforts toward potential home sellers in these specific areas. These consumers are the easiest to geo-target, which is the most cost-effective method of marketing at this time.
Anticipate what the “new normal” will look like in their neighbourhood.
The biggest abnormality about the current situation is that each and every person has been impacted personally by the crisis. As a result, there will be a “new normal” when we do recover from the pandemic, but it will vary based on how individual communities were impacted during the crisis.
As an example, some communities may start relying on grocery delivery as a new norm, while others may return to their previous shopping habits. It’s difficult to determine the macrotrends that will develop, but agents should be looking to identify how residents of their community will change their habits and preferences when it comes to home buying. Will there be a stronger preference for homes with more yard space? Proximity to local grocery stores? Or convenience to order food online?
In implementing a hyperlocal approach to their specialization, agents who are able to identify “new norms” for their neighbourhoods will be able to service their clients better and find themselves ahead of the game when the economy recovers.