Even though we’re in the midst of dark days in terms of the continuing pandemic, I sometimes allow myself to think ahead to a day when the virus is contained or (hopefully) eradicated. There’s no doubt that, in spite of the trauma our nation is enduring, the housing industry is amazingly in the midst of a boom. A lot of that, undoubtedly, is a combination of historically low interest rates and incredibly high home values. But let’s also give credit to those businesses which, in their battle against margin compression long before we ever heard of COVID-19, managed to make their production process more efficient with technology. I suspect a big part of why we’ve managed to handle record volume in spite of the upheaval around us has been the building of a better process.
But someday, hopefully soon, we’ll be back (to some degree or another) to in-person home showings and more face-to-face contact. Or will we? I really hate the term “the new normal,” especially when this year has been little more than a drop in the sea of history. I don’t believe for a second those who think we’ll never shake hands as a society again, for example. But certainly, some of the hacks, adaptations and changes we’ve put in place during this pandemic will prove themselves to be just that—our industry’s “new normal.”
We know that “virtual” or visual home showings were already becoming a staple for REALTORS pre-pandemic. Is that the new norm even after we find a vaccine?
The obvious one, working from home, has worked out very well for our industry—an industry notoriously resistant to the concept pre-pandemic. With the exception of some difficulties on making closings happen (perhaps now the states insisting upon Byzantine closing rituals will be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century?), I’m guessing many CFOs and CEOs are delighted by the overhead expenses they’re saving when the majority of their employees don’t need an office outside of home. I don’t think the brick-and-mortar office is dead. But I do think some level of working from home is here to stay—a great tool in the fight against margin compression, by the way. I think we’ll even see a decreased physical presence on the consumer front (e.g. bank lobbies, etc.). Not a complete disappearance. Just a decrease.
At the same time, we have to remember that ours is still a complex process that will always require some level of humanity and personal touch. I believe that will change after the pandemic recedes. I believe that, as lenders finally begin to cut their fixed costs in ways they never thought possible, they’ll put more effort into modernizing (and, to a degree, automating) the consumer experience. Suddenly, the true, cradle-to-grave eMortgage isn’t just a distant dream.
Hopefully, we’ll be able to answer the question “what happens when the pandemic abates?” sooner than later. Until then, be well!
What pandemic-driven changes do you think will stick around? Ideas or suggestions for future topics? Have something you’d like to say to the readers of Deeper Thoughts? Please share with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.