The year 2020 started in its typical fashion: Cold weather, the real estate market moving at its typical January pace, and me looking forward to a winter vacation to get some sun. Not long thereafter, we started hearing rumblings about a disease effecting parts of China, and soon we heard that this disease was spreading around the world and had even made it into the US. Then, in the middle of March, life seemed to change forever.
While we have all gone through our own personal journeys, I thought it might be interesting to share how 2020 and the COVID pandemic unfolded from the perspective of a real estate agent.
My first reaction was near panic. I had lived and worked through the 2008 market crash, so flashbacks of a dark period instantly clouded my mind. Emails started filling my inbox, and the predictions were dire. The market seemed to shut down almost completely. I looked at my lifestyle and the staff that I employed, and then I took a look at the balance of my savings account. How long could I wait this out? Was the market going into a free fall? What about all of the builders whom I represent — were they going to survive this? I had a million questions, and absolutely no one had any real answers.
In the middle of the doubt, with guidance from my team and from my wife, I started to find my strength. I knew that this was going to be tough, but I also knew that I was in as good a position as anyone to survive it. I had been through a market downturn before, I was surrounded by smart people, and I am a fighter. This was a puzzle that I was going to solve. I looked at my young children at home and was reminded that I had no choice but to get through this.
My immediate goal was to close the deals that were currently under contract. We did great with this in March, closing nine transactions. Looking into April, I closed all but one of the pending sales and ended with seven closings for the month. The trouble was that showings, open houses, and activity in general had come to a near total stop. May was really the bottom of it for me, with only three small closings and, along with it, the realization that this was an unsustainable pace.
I needed to figure out how the pandemic and surrounding turmoil was going to change the industry and how to be in a place to succeed based upon that change. My team and I came up with the concept of walkthrough videos for our listings, something that could be an effective tool even if people were not yet comfortable leaving their houses. We invested in these videos and started creating them for many of our listings. By late spring, there was a glimmer of hope as we started to see some traction building back up in the market. The theory was that because people were stuck at home, they were taking a hard look at their environments, and some qualified buyers decided they wanted to upgrade their situation. Many people realized that they wanted more space, and fortunately I had a long list of single family homes coming to market.
Looking back, things didn’t take long to turn around. By the middle of May, we were getting good traction on listings, and contracts were being signed. We had seven closings in June, and then 17 in July, making it one of my biggest months ever. I was breathing smoothly again, comfortable to have my builders buying new land, confident that we would get through this.
Success continued through the rest of the year, and, to my surprise, 2020 ended up as a record year for me. I am still pinching myself. I never would have imagined the ways things unfolded. I feel so grateful to be in this position. I woke up and worked hard through every single day of this past tumultuous year, and somehow it all worked out.
As 2021 begins, I am seeing a strong start to the market. The election put a pause on some decision-making, and I already see the buyers who were in a holding pattern out in the market, ready to follow through on their plans. Super-low interest rates and the increasing importance of “home” will make this a great year in real estate. It marks my 20th in the business. What a journey it has been.