COVID-19 has forced almost everyone to adjust how they work and where including the realtors of 100 Mile House.
Theirs is a profession that often lives or dies on the personal face-to-face connections they make with their clients and the ability to show houses and properties off in person. For the foreseeable future, much of this is impossible which has challenged the offices of both RE/MAX 100 Mile House and 100 Mile Realty to find new ways to do business in these uncertain times.
David Jurek has been the owner of the RE/MAX office in 100 Mile House for the last four years and got into real estate 18 years ago. He enjoys being a part of one of the, if not the largest, transactions in a person’s lifetime as it can be life-changing for those he helps. Currently, in addition to himself, Jurek employs a team of 12 realtors and four staff members, both full-time and part-time.
Due to the pandemic, Jurek said he initially closed the office to the public and had his team do everything by appointment to control the flow of people. Since then, however, as the situation has evolved, he closed the office altogether and has had to lay some staff off while the rest work from home.
“Real estate wise, obviously, it’d be nice to tell everybody ‘hey let’s all just wait this out and 30 days from now reconvene.’ We know that’s that not the case and nobody really knows exactly how long all of this will take,” Jurek said.
Due to this uncertainty, many of his clients are finding themselves in mid-transaction who have sold their homes in the Lower Mainland and were beginning their search for a new home in the Cariboo. Jurek said they’re following all governmental guidelines on health and safety to do their best to assist these clients who need to buy a new home.
In that same spirit, if someone is looking to buy or sell a property, Jurek is advising them to hold off until things settle down.
While working under the conditions the pandemic has imposed has been a challenge, Jurek said it has allowed his team to enhance their use of technology in their work. One thing he said they’ve had for a while they’re now relying on more during COVID-19 is making use of virtual tours.
“We’re asking people to narrow down their search based on the tools we have. That’s been our biggest challenge, to try and encourage people to not start venturing around,” Jurek said, adding that it’s important to avoid entering people’s personal spaces right now as much as possible.
Using a Matterport camera Jurek said he is able to capture a full 3-D render of the interior of a property so that clients can remotely walkthrough them. This technology works almost as if you’re physically there, he said, and even has built-in measuring tools so clients can determine if the furniture will fit into rooms. Jurek thinks it’s really amazing tech that has become all the more relevant in the current climate.
He encourages people to use it to “narrow down” their options so, if any physical real estate needs to take place, they’re limiting property visits to only a few locations.
As far as inventory goes, over the last 30 days available properties have been cut in half, Jurek said. If you’re looking to list your house still, there are safe ways to go about doing that under the current guidelines. As there are now hundreds of people who are searching for properties online, it’s not a bad idea to get your home in front of them, in his opinion, so long as you do it safely.
“For those who do want to do something, as the weather is getting nicer it’s a good time to start working around the house and getting your property ready,” Jurek said. “Now is a good time to get projects done so when better times come, you’re ready to go.”
Jurek said that he wants the community to know that it’s not just business as usual for RE/MAX and that they’re taking this crisis as seriously as anyone else. He and his team will be using this opportunity to brush up on training and prepare for the inevitable uptick in business after COVID-19 passes.
Meanwhile at 100 Mile Realty (Royal LePage), Ron Kelly said that they also are adapting to the challenges before them. Kelly has lived in the 100 Mile area for 40 years and has worked as a realtor for 25 of those years and helps manage the 100 Mile Realty office.
“You’re always meeting different people that you wouldn’t meet necessarily in a different occupation, I’ve met some really good friends over the years,” Kelly said.
Their office has also been closed, though it’s occasionally manned by one or two realtors doing some work and, for the most part, Kelly said they’re conducting business remotely. However, he said they’ve seen around a 90 per cent decrease in business since the pandemic was declared.
Despite this, business isn’t completely dead and Kelly said it’s been more lively then he was anticipating. The closure of two mills in the 100 Mile area means there are a lot of homes still on the market and buyers from the Lower Mainland searching for a new home after selling their own.
Whenever he shows a home now, only with the permission of the current owner, Kelly said he outright asks people not to touch anything and if they have to, he’ll wipe surfaces down. While this does put a bit of crimp on their business, Kelly said it’s necessary to ensure public safety.
Recently, Kelly even conducted a tour of a mobile home via Facetime which, while not totally satisfactory, was better than nothing for his client.
“The biggest challenge is the inability to meet people face-to-face. This is a face-to-face kind of business, people meet you and in the first half-hour they’re either going to put their trust in your or move along, it’s hard to do that kind of thing on the phone,” Kelly said.
Overall while it might be inconvenient in the short term, Kelly hopes that everyone sticks to the social distancing guidelines in place. The more we do it the sooner we’ll be able to get back to some form of normalcy in business and personal life.