Urban Turf Highlights McWilliams|Ballard’s Virtual Shift Post-COVID

By Nena Perry-Brown | March 30th, 2020

Post-COVID data clearly demonstrates a drop in showings of active real estate listings in the DC area, but part of that drop is intentional as brokerages in the region adapt to physical distancing recommendations.

“We are following CDC guidelines,” TTR Sotheby’s International Realty CEO Mark Lowham explained to UrbanTurf. “We have stopped open houses and now offer houses open by FaceTime tour or by appointment only. Our brokerage administrative staff is operating from home. We have asked our associates to use our offices only by appointment so that the brokerage manager can be on-site to ensure the office is cleaned before and after any visit.”

Lowham wrote a blog post last week about how the DC-area market could shift in response to the pandemic. “We continue to monitor everything in real time, and we expect to make further revisions to our operating policies in the days and weeks ahead.”

Things are operating similarly at Compass. Principal broker Holly Worthington shared that Compass employees have been working from home for two weeks and that the brokerage is holding daily calls with agents to check in and compare notes. Agents have also stopped holding open houses, and while unoccupied properties can be shown (with sanitizer and soap at hand), Compass is recommending that no in-person showings be conducted of occupied properties.

“Our biggest focus is on keeping our agents and our clients healthy by holding virtual meetings and showings,” Worthington shared. The virtual tour option has become such a point of emphasis that, twice per week, agents upload virtual tours they take to a spreadsheet where the videos are shared among smaller groups to compare feedback on condition and pricing.

“This is especially helpful in this market since things are changing day by day,” Worthington explains. “Properties are still selling, but we expect that to slow down significantly if we are asked to shelter in place.”

McWilliams|Ballard Vice President Robbie Cook shares the outlook that there are still home purchases to be made.

“Based on our traffic and sales data from last week and weekend, we know that there are still buyers in the Washington, DC market, so we’re working on ways to make sure potential prospects are engaged, even if they’re stuck inside their homes.”

One-on-one tours are available at each of the McWilliams|Ballard’s active projects, and each also has a tour option that uses software to virtually walk prospective buyers through the units. The brokerage also just unrolled a “Virtual Open House” that uses video conferencing, allowing agents to accept walk-in tours similarly to how they would be conducted in person. A unit sold yesterday solely with a virtual walk-through.