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  • Chelsea Donovan

New Normal, New Expectations: 9 Real Estate Experts Weigh In on Customer Experience in 2021

This year the real estate industry has been shaken, stirred, and served with a twist of surprising resilience and success. As we say “Cheers,” to the new year, we’re reflecting on the good times and turning toward the future.

We asked a panel of seven top producers—including a few ace coaches—to share their predictions for growing consumer trends, creative customer experience strategies, and what they hope to see more of from agents in 2021.

David Breckheimer

Coach, Consultant, and Trainer – Cultivate Wins

Top Takeaways

  • New Year Predictions: Going digital, delivering more value, and engaging with customers at a higher level

  • Most Creative Strategies: Reducing overhead while delivering better service

  • In 2021, Focus On: Learning and creativity

  • Get Crazy Purposeful and Intentional

Accommodating buyers and sellers digitally has been growing in popularity over the last few years, but 2020 definitely shortened the timeline. Perhaps more importantly, client expectations are evolving: people expect more value from their brokers and agents.

When David Breckheimer reflects on how the real estate industry has changed and adapted in response, he gets pumped.

“This year sped up the need to engage in and get creative with answering customer expectations,” he says. “And personally, I LOVE IT!”

Challenging the typical broker value proposition will be big in the coming year:

“Brokers and agents need to take their levels of service, knowledge, professionalism, communication, and pricing structures to a whole ‘nother level to remain as relevant as they once were, or accept less market share.”

By making these types of adjustments, “Every broker, agent, team, and team lead will have an amazing opportunity to separate themselves from the rest, but they will need to be crazy purposeful and intentional to do so,” he explains.

Smarter Customer Service

“Teams have really been thinking out-of-the-box and questioning their overhead while at the same time finding better ways to communicate and serve their clients,” David says.

“It’s been encouraging to see teams determined to truly make this approach a reality for their clients, all while running an incredibly efficient and profitable business model. I just love to see teams both interested in and achieving these kinds of results for themselves and their customers.”

Be a Student of the Business

In David’s eyes, the real estate industry is “ripe for real and impactful change.”

To deliver that, team leaders will have to “engage their teams to become students of the business again.” Communicating and creatively working with clients, team members, and vendors will be crucial for team leaders to provide “REAL and CRAZY value.”

When it all comes down to it, “I do not believe that ‘business as usual’ will meet customer expectations for much longer,” he explains. “But again, I LOVE THAT!!”

Matt Vigh

Real Estate Coach and Co-Owner – Prospect Boomerang Coaching

Top Takeaways

  • New Year Predictions: More migration with remote work, growth of “niche” communities

  • Most Creative Strategies: Really showing up and looking out for others

  • In 2021, Focus On: Serving the needs of people

Finding Your Niche

Continuing with the theme of migration, Matt Vigh shares, “There will be a continued migration as a remote workforce becomes more prevalent. Very localized communities that are smaller and more niche will take the place of what has historically been a ‘close to everything’ mentality.”

A Year to Be Proud Of

“As an industry, I am proud of us,” Matt says. “We really rolled up our sleeves and dug into being part of our neighbors’ lives. We embraced looking out for others without sacrificing the importance of our own safety. Agents have gone shopping for people who are at higher risk, they’ve utilized tech to allow customers to do transactions virtually.”

“Most importantly, they didn’t forget that it’s not about transactions people are doing, it’s about the people that are doing transactions.”

Keep Innovating

The implementation of tech in the real estate industry has been impressive since the pandemic started—but it’s far from finished. “I hope the industry continues to explore how to leverage technology,” Matt says. “I want us as an industry to use tech to help with transaction details so that as agents, we can truly focus on the needs of the people! Now we can stop being trapped in the whirlwind of transaction and get caught up in the relationship with the people who are doing the transaction.”

Tim & Julie Harris

Real Estate Coaches –

Top Takeaways

  • New Year Predictions: A top-performing year for most agents, continued migration away from big cities (it’s just getting started!)

  • Most Creative Strategies: Being proactive with lead gen and client relationships

  • In 2021, Focus On: Doing the hard work to get the results you want

Gotta Wear Shades

Ask Tim and Julie Harris, and they’ll tell you—the future is looking BRIGHT: “2021 is going to be one of the best years in most agents’ careers.”

Through their careful analysis, they’ve noticed a few factors in place to set up a historic housing boom over the next 5 years, including:

  • Incredibly low interest rates with mortgages available for less than 3%

  • Inflation of real assets—and no indication that the Federal interest rate policy will change

  • An historic change of the economic guard as younger people are buying homes and older people are buying and selling (based on sheer numbers, housing will be hot for a while)

  • Owning a home remains “part and parcel” of the American Dream (and don’t discount the influence of FOMO)

  • Lifestyle shifts as a result of Covid—and booming “B” and “C” markets as part of the megatrend of people moving out of densely populated areas in favor of rural and semi-rural locations

  • A massive shift in the real estate brokerage industry as consumers rush to whichever agent (and broker) meets their needs the quickest with the least hassle

Hard Work and Fundamentals

Even with the shifting landscape, the tried-and-true rules of great real estate service are holding steady.

“More than anything, COVID has proven the importance of knowing how to have real conversations and sharing real information quickly,” they say. “There is a whole generation of agents who have never learned how to proactively lead generate, prequalify, and present.”

Tim and Julie know that getting the results you want requires hard work, commitment, and willingness to develop new skills. When asked to share their advice for agents in 2021, they replied: “Accept the fact that everything you want in life comes from doing what you don’t want to do, when you don’t want to do it, at the highest level.”

Joshua Smith

Realtor, Coach, Mentor, Entrepreneur, and Host – GSD Mode Podcast

Top Takeaways

  • New Year Predictions: More educated buyers, and no market correction… yet

  • Most Creative Strategies: Quick adaptation to tech-enabled customer service

  • In 2021, Focus On: Fully committing to be the best version of yourself!

Ready to Play Ball

Even before clients become, well, clients, they’re getting savvy on the market. “Our clients are coming to us and they know what’s going on in the market and have much more realistic explanations,” says Joshua Smith.

It’s a good thing too, because his market — the Phoenix metro area — is extremely competitive right now for home buyers.

“We have extremely low inventory, and it’s not uncommon to have 20+ buyers competing for the same home,” he explains. “If a buyer really wants to buy a home right now, they have to be ready to make moves.”

These unique conditions have changed the way that Joshua and his team work with clients: “We are spending a ton of time upfront to educate them on the process, what to expect, making sure they are prepared, and also making sure this is the path they want to take,” he says.

But all that prep is worth it.

“We are having a higher percentage than I have ever seen before in past market shifts where they understand what to do, why it’s necessary, and have a strong sense of the overall market conditions — even prior to us meeting and taking them on as a client.”

Leveraging Tech to Get “Stuff” Done

“I have been very impressed at how well and how quickly our industry has adapted in 2020 with the changes we all needed to make due to COVID-19,” Joshua says. “Historically, the real estate industry has lagged in technology and how we do business, but we were forced to adapt.”

From what he’s seen, levelling up with tech has paid off: “I’ve seen show up rates and close rates increase from using virtual consultations, as well as virtual live showings, open houses, and connection-building activities with clients and team members like happy hours, etc.”

Start by Leading Yourself

For team leaders and brokerage owners, Joshua’s best advice is to fully commit to being the best version of yourself in 2021.

“Leadership starts within, and how you grow as a leader is by first leading yourself,” he says. “Become the leader that others want to follow and work every day at personifying your core values at the highest level.”

To accomplish these goals, Joshua argues in favor of daily habits and rituals that allow you to grow into the person you must become.

“If your business isn’t where you want it to be at right now, it’s due to the fact that you haven’t become the leader capable of achieving those results,” he says.

Paisley Vartanian

Founder and Managing Member – Assistant.RealEstate

Top Takeaways

  • New Year Predictions: Advanced tech, more versatile service offerings, and higher expectations for Realtors

  • Most Creative Strategies: It involves pizza … and dogs

  • In 2021, Focus On: Proactive risk prevention and upfront disclosures

More Tech, More Versatility

Like many of our other top performers, Paisley Vartanian is taking note of how the real estate industry is advancing with technology: “This has allowed businesses to stay the course through the pandemic and provide more versatile service offerings,” she says.

But with great power comes great responsibility.

“I think this will further increase the expectations on the Realtors’ wide-spread industry knowledge, while also providing a wealth of data analytics and Errors & Omissions support to them,” she explains.

Dogs and Pizza (as Promised)

Paisley had some truly wild stories to share when we asked her about creative or out-of-the-box ways that brokers and team leaders are connecting with customers.

“In one agent advertisement, I saw move-in day pizza delivery, but the one that takes the cake was a rescue dog adoption at close of escrow.”

Be Proactive to Protect Yourself and Your Clients

“I hope more team leaders emphasize proactive risk prevention and upfront disclosures,” Paisley says. “2021 will likely be tumultuous as we come out of the pandemic, with more jobs projected to furlough and mortgage relief lifted, a lot still has to be seen.”

If these things happen during or shortly after a contract has been established, it could throw a wrench into the deal. But brokers and agents can step in to help protect their clients.

“It’s responsible for brokerages and their agents to anticipate and plan for files to go into some sort of conflict,” she explains. “This is the time to ensure all dates and empty boxes are completed. That not only required practices are completed, but best practices.”

To serve and protect both real estate professionals and the clients involved, “Ensure that a transaction file’s intentions and obligations are clear to anyone who opens it, whether they be a client, auditor, or attorney,” she advises.

Jan O’Brien

Trainer, Speaker and Coach / Co-Founder – WBNL Coaching and Podcast

Top Takeaways

  • New Year Predictions: Leveraging tech, more migration out of big cities

  • Most Creative Strategies: Virtual events and COVID-19 travel kits

  • In 2021, Focus On: Having a client-first philosophy

Go the Extra Mile

“I truly feel that COVID-19 has been an accelerator of many consumer trends that were already happening, like having access to available listings and market information,” says Jan O’Brien. “Real estate agents who are going the extra mile in marketing and leveraging technology have the advantage.”

Providing professional photos, 3D tours, and video walkthroughs are crucial to earning consumer interest.

“Real estate agents must also stay on top of trends,” she says — particularly as people are migrating from larger cities to the suburbs, or even different states, to accommodate their wants and needs.

Client Appreciation — But Make It Sanitary

In addition to adapting technology in day-to-day work, Jan has seen clever agents and teams find new ways to connect with clients throughout the pandemic:

“I’ve seen virtual client appreciation events and parties using Zoom,” she shares. “Others have delivered COVID-19 travel kits that have extra masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes.”

People First, Technology Second

When it comes to success in 2021, Jan hopes that more agents focus on clients first, as well as leveraging the right technology.

“Our business is about being the trusted advisor and building enduring relationships with customers and clients,” she says.

“We must constantly ask ourselves, Does this thing I am doing create, connect with, and provide value to the customer?

But that’s not all. “We must provide exceptional service and communication in a manner that the consumer expects—and, frankly, demands—now.”

Dale Archdekin

Founder – Smart Inside Sales

Top Takeaways

  • New Year Predictions: Increase in virtual touchpoints across the sales cycle

  • Most Creative Strategies: Jumping in to help with third parties and get the deal done

  • In 2021, Focus On: Improving scripts and communications

More Virtual Touchpoints in the Sales Cycle

Master cold caller and lead conversion expert Dale Archdekin agrees that the world of real estate post-2020 is all about showing up for your clients.

“Based on this year's unprecedented shift from in person work, worship, celebration and purchasing to virtual in all of these categories I believe that consumers are now much more disposed to conducting their home search or home sale in a lot more virtual ways than they ever have before.”

“Agents, teams and brokers will need to continue to innovate in the ways that they support more virtual based touchpoints along the sales cycle for their leads,” he explains.

And according to Dale, the call to show up for clients won’t stop after a deal is under contract.

Go Above and Beyond to Get the Deal Done

“I've seen agents spending more time and energy in the initial searching phase to go out and do virtual tours of properties before they even know whether or not they have a legit buyer,” says Dale.

“We've also seen agents handling much more of the sale process from inspections to managing contractors and service providers to help get the deal done than we've seen before.”

In the past, it might’ve been easier to let your clients cross the finish line with a little less hand-holding. Not anymore.

Take Your Communication Up a Notch

“If consumers are going to get face to face with agents much less in 2021 due to being conditioned that way for 2020, agents' verbal sales skills are going to become even more critical than they have been in the past. Agents often fall back on the idea that ‘I'm better in person than over the phone’ as an excuse for not having strong sales dialog skills.

Unfortunately they will have less and less opportunities for those ‘in person’ meetings and so I would like to see team leaders put more emphasis on increasing their agents scripting and dialog skills,” Dale explains.

Audit your sales and transaction coordination process to make sure your clients feel supported at every stage of the process.

Dr. Lee Davenport

Real Estate Coach and Consultant – Learn with Dr. Lee

Top Takeaways

Be Sincere

In times like these, personal connections are everything. But hitting up your network to try to drum up new business or referrals might not be the best move in the midst of a global pandemic, according to Dr. Lee Davenport. “Warm calling … can be the final push in a relationship (or acquaintanceship) that was already on the edge of failing,” she says.

That said, “Challenging times are the times that people need to hear from their trusted real estate professional the most.” Since challenging times are often tied to finances, many people actually could use the help and support of a trusted real estate professional.

The difference between “caring” and “crass”? Sincerely checking in and offering genuine support — whether it has anything to do with real estate or not.

Get Involved in Causes That Matter

When asked about why they love their jobs, many real estate professionals reference the opportunity to help people achieve their dreams. But are there more meaningful ways that you can contribute?

If you’re “itching to do something positive and impactful… to promote justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion—but aren’t sure what,” Dr. Lee has a suggestion for you: join the J.E.D.I. Defender Challenge to kickstart 2021. J.E.D.I. stands for Justice, Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion. This 4-week challenge aims to champion fair housing for all.

2020 opened our eyes and showed us how important it is to care for the people around us, however we can. Whether you join Dr. Lee or find another cause that inspires you, take time in 2021 to get involved and give back to your community.