Chris Miller

Technology is helping Realtors like Chris Miller survive Covid-19

Long-time island real estate agent Chris Miller – as with perhaps many others in his field – is relying more heavily on technology these days to interact with clients and potentially seal deals.

The Realtor, with the Bainbridge office of Coldwell Banker Bain, says agents are increasingly relying on virtual open houses to entice customers.

Using invitations sent by email or posted on company web sites or in newspaper ads, agents are using Zoom, Web EX, Facebook and other social media platforms to showcase residential real estate.

Simply put, customers can watch a live walk-through of a house, complete with narrative provided by an agent, such as Miller.

“It takes the place of (the traditional) Sunday Open House,” he says. “It takes about 15 minutes or less. … We’re still trying it out, (but) it’s become more and more popular in the last two-to-three weeks.”

When Gov. Inslee’s shelter-in-place proclamation went into effect in mid-March, real estate agencies could no longer hold physical open houses. Technology now allows them to do so online.

“Quite frankly, a lot of this stuff we’re using, we had at our disposal before, but we hadn’t used it (as much) ‘cause it wasn’t that convenient,” says Miller, who prefers face-to-face contact with clients.

To date, Miller says Covid-19 has not had a negative impact on island real estate sales. “It’s surprisingly active,” he says.

Since the onset of restrictions six weeks or so ago, some “60 houses have come on the market and at least 30 have contracts on them,” some with price reductions, he adds. “It’s almost like nothing’s happened.”

Where Miller has seen significant changes is in the actual physical showing of a home. If serious buyers want to do a walk-through, they must answer a series of questions about Covid-19 and, if approved, then wear gloves, booties, masks and other gear to tour the residence. An agent would accompany them one at a time and then disinfect the home afterwards.

“I make sure people know this ahead of time,” says Miller.

Also confounding Miller, and perhaps other Realtors, is the need for paperless transactions. Typically, potential buyers sit across from an agent and sign, and/or initial, a slew of paperwork in contracts and listings involving financials, escrow, and local, state, and federal regulations..

“Logistically maneuvering around the (online) forms takes twice as long and causes confusion (for customers),” Miller says. And “you have to proof-read like crazy.”

Also somewhat bothersome to Miller is the lack of a physical office, no front desk support, and delayed administrative assistance. Whereas in the past, tasks that easily could be done in the office “before lunch,” now take a day or two, he says.

Even though he longs for the days of “shaking hands and looking customers in the eye,” Miller says he is impressed by how quickly his industry has adjusted to the coronavirus and sees himself and others adopting many of the new tools they’ve been using going forward.

“It’s almost like we were prepared for Covid-19,” he says with a bit of a laugh. “I guess we’re kind of the guinea pigs.” Contact information: [email protected], Office: (206) 842-1733 ext.6146. Cell: (206) 780-6146.

Kevin Dwyer
Kevin Dwyer & Associates
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