Real Estate

4 Ways To Embrace Real Estate’s Pandemic-Induced Digitalization

At Inman Connect, Opendoor Chief Product Officer Tom Willerer shared what the customer should expect after a year spent almost entirely online.

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Ten months into the pandemic, most of us are anxiously awaiting the day we can resume our daily lives. But some things we’ve learned and habits we’ve picked up over the last year need to be channeled rather than simply left behind — the rapid move to digital everything, from open houses to home tours has, in many cases, become a client expectation.

“Some of the things that COVID has accelerated, like virtual touring or remote closings, were things that we would hear customers were interested in [prior to the pandemic],” Opendoor Chief Product Officer Tom Willerer said at the “Digitization and the Shifting Consumer Experience” session Thursday at Inman Connect.

The Opendoor business model of iBuying has been disrupting the industry long before the pandemic. At Inman Connect, Willerer offered attendees four tips on how to take advantage of digitalization even after COVID-19 is under control.

Tom Willerer

Drill down on customers’ needs

The pandemic and additional free time at home has pushed many agents to connect more frequently with their clients  — by talking to them on the phone, listening to their worries and doing research on their markets.

Even as the pace picks up, Willerer recommends continuing to go deep and figure out what clients need without immediately expecting something in return.

“Our whole goal is to define what are the jobs to be done,” Willerer said. “Why are they hiring us? Are they hiring us for convenience? Are they hiring us to maximize their proceeds? Are they hiring us for the certainty that we can offer? What is the real that they are hiring us to do? Getting crisp about that is super important because that then helps us build out the rest of the experience.”

Adjust based on those needs

All the heart-to-heart talks in the world are not going to take you far if you fail to implement them into your business and real estate strategy.

Willerer brought up the example of how, after the pandemic began, clients told them that even the thought of accidentally running into another visitor during a self-tour gave them anxiety. To ease some of that, Opendoor started sending out notifications giving notice that tour time was coming to and end and reminding them that someone else would be coming in 15 minutes.

“Little things like that were very well-received because you gave people comfort, safety and an expectation that what they were going to get into would be a very safe experience.”

Implement a plan horizon

Many of the problems you see with the digital space now — particularly all the glitches that came when we all had to transition to doing everything online at a moment’s notice in March — could prove to be invaluable tips for where you want your business to go in the future.

Look around now, see what is and isn’t working and use that to institute a plan for the future that is more action-driven and less dependent on day-to-day uncertainty brought about by the pandemic.

“What are the things that aren’t as good as they could be or should be right now? And what could it look like 1-3 years from now?” Willerer asked. “That then becomes our guiding light or north star that we’re building towards.”

Test your hypothesis

Once an agent has identified the things they’d like to improve from research done online, the time is right to go out into your market and test it.

One way to do that is by soft-testing a new product or strategy and then asking clients online for their opinion. Depending on your goals, alternate tactical questions (“could you use this experience?”) with broad questions (“is this the right experience for us to be building?”).

“Every single week, we have a team of three or four researchers who are talking to live sellers and buyers in the market with our teams,” Willerer said. “They’re answering the questions that we have which could be very broad and can very tactical.”

Email Veronika Bondarenko

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