Fairfield County real estate market uses digital tools to adapt to coronavirus era

GREENWICH – There are no more open houses, buyers are reluctant to visit homes and sellers are reluctant to open their doors.

Face-to-face businesses are struggling in the coronavirus era, and the real estate industry has been hit hard. But the crisis can be the mother of invention, and real estate professionals are inventing new ways to buy and sell in a hands-off world. New skills and technological tools are emerging in the market, which also serve as experience on how much consumers will buy in e-commerce and digital tools as a means of buying and selling major assets like the immovable.

Sheryl Morrison, a Greenwich real estate agent who works in Greenwich, Stamford, Norwalk and Westchester County, NY, recently took two virtual tours of properties.

“There is a big impact on the industry, a lot of unknowns, a lot of uncertainties,” she said of the ongoing public health emergency. “There are clients who are reluctant to see properties, sellers who are reluctant to let people into their properties. There is a debate as to whether to keep your home on the market or take it down. Very difficult. One of the ways we adapt is learning to use technology better.

Morrison said the health crisis is forcing real estate folks to work in a way that is still being tested – by professionals and the public. “It’s new to most of us. We all adapt, ”she noted.

There are certainly more tools in the kit than ever before, with new ones being rolled out on a regular basis.

Virtual tours, with a high degree of visual and three-dimensional detail, are offered by companies like Matterport and OpenFrame, giving potential buyers and sellers a way to take a close look at a home. There are Facebook Live sessions to replace open houses. And a new website is also gaining traction in the Greenwich area, allowing bidding or trading via laptop or smartphone.

SparkOffer, a platform that allows buyers and sellers to complete transactions without leaving their homes, has seen a number of recent sales made through the company online.

“It’s like a digital trading room, for lack of a better term – that’s what we’ve been working towards,” said Mike Russo, founder and CEO of Boston-based SparkOffer. “We have built a product that allows for remoteness.”

SparkOffer allows its site to be used for free during the coronavirus outbreak – it normally takes a percentage of the transaction.

“The big challenge right now, in Fairfield and Westcheser counties, houses are not being shown,” Russo said in a recent telephone interview. “More and more agents are putting their properties on the platform, both as additional marketing exposure and to have the tool – making and receiving offers.

“We started building it almost two years ago – with the idea that people want more of an e-commerce experience, but building a virtual marketplace for real estate was a tough sell,” did he declare.

“A year ago, when I presented this, and I presented it to some pretty important people in the industry, that a buyer can bid on a property from their phone, nobody wanted hear it. “

But that resistance has changed, he said, especially after it was made clear that this would not exclude brokers from the activity. “The agents are afraid that this will exclude them from the process, but I designed it as a tool at their disposal. It’s supposed to be a streamlined experience, ”Russo said.

SparkOffer reports some success in Greenwich, such as a property on Beechcroft Road that had been on the market for 648 days before being listed on the website at the end of 2019. It was subsequently contracted. Another house on Sumner Road had been on the market for just over 400 days, the company said, and has now been contracted.

The coronavirus has hit an already declining real estate market in the region. The Greenwich market has been sluggish in several areas – with 592 homes priced over $ 1 million that have been on the market for 161 days on average, according to recent surveys by Zillo and Redfin.

Likewise in Stamford, properties are selling 48 days slower than last year, according to Morrison of Keller Williams Realty.

The viral epidemic certainly opens up new business opportunities and new businesses during the crisis. “The doors are opening, and the pandemic has only contributed to that,” said Russo, of SparkOffer.

How much will consumers pay for real estate e-commerce, and other new digital tools, remains an open question.

“Is the job done?” Partially. Nothing replaces a live visit, for a prospective buyer or tenant, through a space. However, that said, I bought three Teslas on my iPhone. And there was no explanation for it, ”said Ken Edwards, real estate broker and commentator from Greenwich.

As the viral outbreak continues, Edwards said, there are still ways to do business the traditional way. “If there are people who need a home – they’re under pressure, they’re under pressure, time is running out – we’ve got a way to get there. I’m going to show a client around – give him a face mask, give him gloves. I am going to do the same thing. I’m ready to do it, ”the broker said.

But new technological tools can be useful, especially in the age of coronaviruses, he said.

Edwards has developed new skills as a broker over the years – he has trained to photograph homes with a special lens, for images that give a wider visual presentation. It also uses software developed by PlanOmatic to give potential buyers a way to explore a floor plan with an interactive photographic experience. Edwards has also used drones, another tool he is proficient in, and professional videographers to market the homes.

“With all of the above approach, people will choose the path they prefer,” said Edwards, and these innovations can be particularly useful in times of disruption and crisis.

“If you use all the tools at your disposal, you can really do a good job,” Edwards said, “It’s called investing in your business.”

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About Debra D. Johnson

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