Moving forward means innovation, according to agents

by Timothy Inklebarger

It’s been about 13 years since Alix Nadi of RE/MAX Around Atlanta got into the real estate business, and keeping up with past clients to maintain a strong referral network is central to her strategy of success.

But for Nadi, maintaining relationships is not just about business — especially in these challenging times. It’s also about caring for others and doing the right thing.

“Not everyone does real estate the same way, but the way I do it is through long-term relationships. These people matter to me. The folks most at risk — if we can help, I’m trying to,” Nadi said.

Ken Covers (left) of Engel & Völkers Atlanta keeps a safe distance during a recent closing that took place in the parking lot outside the closing attorney’s office. (Photo provided)

That’s why in the era of COVID-19, she’s going that extra mile to help clients who are particularly vulnerable.

Like everyone else in the industry right now, Nadi is changing things up and figuring out a new way of doing things until shelter-in-place orders are lifted. “Something I’m doing right now is I’ve reached out to past clients who are elderly; I did some grocery shopping for one of them, and I’m in the car right now to deliver it,” she said.

Nadi sold a house about six years ago to the couple she was visiting on Monday, April 6, when Atlanta Agent magazine caught up with her by phone. “They are in their 70s and don’t have anyone else here,” she said, noting that she and the couple live in the same neighborhood.

It’s just one of the innovative ways real estate agents across the Atlanta metro area are working to move their business forward while the market cools off. Nadi said she’s also working to make sure clients know that she’s still working for them “and that I’m still here to answer their questions.”

She said that although she’s changed other things, like offering virtual tours — a service she previously reserved exclusively for high-end clients — to all of her clients, she’s not seeing a huge decline in business. “I put three homes under contract last week in Roswell, Alpharetta and Johns Creek,” she said, adding, “I think people are still out there looking, but it’s because inventory is low and there are more buyers than sellers right now.”

Ken Covers, the top-selling agent at Engel & Völkers Atlanta, tells a similar story, noting that he put a house on the market 10 days ago, showed it to two people this last Friday, two on Saturday and two on Sunday. “By Monday it was under contract,” he said. That house was unoccupied, Covers said, noting that unoccupied houses are selling much faster these days.

“In occupied houses, people don’t want to come in, and (residents) don’t want them to come in,” he said.

Folks who are out looking at houses these days don’t dawdle either, according to Covers. One couple that came to view a house recently came in separately and each spent about six minutes in the house, he recalled. He said other adjustments lie video tours and curbside closings have become the norm over the last few weeks.

Joune Clark of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Metro Brokers said she also is doing a lot of virtual tours these days using FaceTime. “I also am following up with buyers and sellers on a daily basis to check in with them to make sure I can communicate with them however they prefer, whether it is through a phone call, video chat, instant message, text or email,” she said in an email.

While not all of her clients are buying right now, some are getting ready to make a move once the pandemic is over. “I have had several of them say they will definitely use me when this coronavirus stuff passes or improves,” Clark said.

Derek Whitner, also with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Metro Brokers, said they’ve also added virtual listing presentations to their repertoire. “In short, our approach is ‘adapt and overcome,’” Whitner said in an email. “Overall, we see a great deal of positives coming out of these changes and will incorporate (or lead with) them in Team Whitner’s business practices going forward.”

Creighton Grose of Engel & Völkers Atlanta said the firm’s marketing team has been key to accommodating social distancing measures. “Our marketing team has rapidly created virtual 3D tours of properties, digital listing brochures and even the ability for buyers to schedule personal video walk-throughs of properties with our advisors,” Grose said, noting that buying and selling have continued unabated.

Grose said the challenges vary depending upon whose needs must be accommodated. “For instance, I have several clients who are in higher risk health categories, and I’ve had to find creative ways to get them through the many stages of a transaction while enabling them to stay at home — including drive-thru closings and being ‘man-on-the-street’ to conduct FaceTime interviews with service pros for renovations and repairs — as this was even before last Friday’s shelter-in-place order,” Grose said.

He acknowledged that “we can’t pretend things will go back to normal overnight,” so it behooves agents to get comfortable with new approaches and new innovations. “It will ensure ongoing success as we migrate to whatever the new normal becomes,” Grose said. “This will definitely have a lasting effect on every aspect of our business — the key is to adapt and evolve.”