Real estate professionals say “safety concerns due to in-person contact during home buying process” is the No. 1 concern of buyers and sellers (28% of buyers versus 33% sellers). This is one key finding from a "digital disruption" survey of 256 respondents who work as lenders, real estate agents or title agents across the real estate industry conducted by Researchscape on behalf of States Title, a company that specializes in remote closings.
“We are witnessing an unprecedented overnight shift in the structural foundation of the real estate market,” said States Title CEO Max Simkoff. “The real estate industry has gotten a long overdue wake-up call and has been forced to push the fast forward button on innovation. Ready or not, the time has come to adopt and embrace technological change. It’s the ultimate stress test for the entire industry.”
During a pandemic, every in-person interaction brings an element of risk, said the survey's conductors. Here are some other things they discovered about risk and real estate transactions:
- 39% of respondents said someone in their company has tested positive for COVID-19,
- 22% have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19, and 9% have tested positive for COVID-19 themselves.
- 79% of real estate professionals said that “wearing a mask is a necessity” and they won’t do in-person business without one, 19% said that the choice depends on the business situation, while only 2% said that they never wear a mask.
- 36% of real estate stakeholders felt like their personal safety has been compromised in order to conduct a real estate business transaction during the pandemic.
The study uncovered some other interesting sociological and psychological items about housing industry professionals.
"Real estate professionals tend to be sociable, outgoing people who like to build relationships in-person and COVID-19 has prompted them to change the way they communicate and do business," the researchers wrote. They found:
43% of respondents said that the pandemic has “somewhat” or “significantly” increased their stress levels. 33% said that loneliness due to lack of interaction with coworkers has impacted business success and productivity during the pandemic.
34% said their work relationships with other stakeholders have been strained during COVID-19 due to pandemic-related productivity issues, slow downs and process inefficiencies; however, 32% said that their work relationships have improved because “we are all in the same boat.”
The third-party researchers sponsored by State Title also noted that "COVID-19 is driving some positive changes in real estate company culture, with leaders putting a stronger emphasis on empathy, communication, diversity and inclusion, and customer care." Related to that, they say:
40% of respondents said that their company leadership has been more empathetic than ever before; more companies are offering new remote learning opportunities (38%), telehealth benefits (21%), and pay raises (14%).
Many respondents said that their companies are working on new digital services (49%), dedicated customer support options (44%), and more contactless customer interactions (46%).
More companies are even stepping up their efforts for diversity & inclusion (D&I): 40% are hiring for more diverse leadership positions, 38% have launched a D&I program, and 40% have donated money to nonprofit organizations with missions focused on diversity & inclusion.
Also, despite the pandemic, Americans are still buying homes, building homes, and refinancing mortgages," they concluded. "Real estate professionals see many causes for optimism about their industry’s present and future." Specifically:
21% said that COVID-19 has prompted their businesses to embrace innovation that was long overdue, 23% said the pandemic has caused a positive environmental impact, due to less paper and more digital processes, and 17% said their workforce is more resilient than ever before.
Looking ahead to 2021, 34% are most excited to see how WFH (work from home) can become even better; 24% are most excited about returning back to the physical office, and 22% are most excited to host and attend in-person real estate events.
Finally, with respect to jobs, real estate professionals are committed to their careers. A whopping 79% said despite the pandemic, they are committed to continuing their job/career in real estate.
This study was conducted online from August 12-26, 2020.