Join a Tribe: What Brokers Can Do to Create a Digital Transformation in a Recession

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As the Philippines continues to mitigate the problems brought on by the coronavirus outbreak, real estate professionals gather to discuss how the industry can survive and thrive in the fourth installment of Lamudi’s webinar series, Surviving Broker Business in the Time of COVID.

In this episode, industry experts proceeded with Answering Real Estate Questions of Our Broker Community in the Time of COVID. The guests were RJ Ledesma, Board Governor, Subdivision and Housing Developers Association and Masters in Real Estate Development, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Gerald Evangelista, Realtor and Director for Projects at RE/MAX Capital; and Dr. Samuel Lao, National President, PAREB Realtor, and President and CEO of Realty OPTiONS Marketing and Consultancy Inc (ROI). 

Nadine Pacis, Lamudi Academy’s Training and Development Coach, comes back in this episode to raise the questions the real estate industry has been floating around while the country deals with the novel coronavirus health crisis. 

How Broker Business Owners with Agents are Handling the Situation

Though the COVID-19 outbreak hit Metro Manila the hardest, regions outside Luzon were also placed in an enhanced community quarantine to further curb the spread of the virus. Lao mentioned that in Cebu, due to the quarantine, there has been a focus on homebased activities. “Restricted ‘yung ikot namin, so we are doing more online,” Lao shared. 

In the last two weeks, in particular, PAREB has been practicing Zoom webinars, which they are trying to replicate for nationwide PAREB brokers. The goal is to touch ground with salespersons, educate members, and teach them what to do in this time of crisis

Evangelista, meanwhile, talked on behalf of broker-owners to highlight a struggle brought on by COVID’s effect in our economy: “We cannot do much nowadays. We cannot do showing, we cannot close deals as much as we like.” Knowing what their current limitations are, Evangelista shared, “We monitor these things because we need to do measures to be more productive.” 

Evangelista highlighted that broker-owners need to monitor their finances well. “The expenses are monthly, but your income is not coming in as regularly as you want it to be, so you need to have measures to adapt and battle these challenges along the way,” he recommended.  

He also added that they continue to look after their associates amid the crisis, conducting training sessions almost daily, and webinars for agents and fellow broker-owners. 

Ledesma also mentioned the importance of having an entrepreneurial perspective in this time of crisis. Saying that the Chinese character for crisis is the same as that for opportunity, he stated, “Look at it as an opportunity during a crisis.” 

This entrepreneurial mindset allows Ledesma and his team to have a sharper focus and look at pain points or “irritations.” “Business opportunities emerge from pain points,” Ledesma noted. “Our job as entrepreneurs is to solve the pain points.” This, according to him, is how entrepreneurs can create income. 

On educating property seekers

Ledesma also noted that the crisis has given entrepreneurs and businessowners a time to look at their structure and think of creating a digital transformation. “Since we can’t be speaking to our clients right now, we’ve got to learn to pivot online things.”

Broker businesses also have a chance to educate not just their brokers and agents, but also their clients, Ledesma shared. In a time like this, they can share resources on how to invest in property during a recession, and show clients how recession-proof real estate properties are. Brokerages can also help clients distinguish the types of real estate to invest in for commercial, residential, or office segments.  

Genuine concern is yet another advice mentioned, echoing past episodes of the broker webinar series. Ledesma recommended sending clients a care pack, to which Lao added, “May puso ka bilang broker. You’ll be with them through the good times but also the bad times.” 

On investing in your people

Ledesma urged broker businesses to also consider incentives for their brokers and agents during this time, on top of providing them with tools to help generate leads and continue communicating effectively with clients. 

“They’re going to be your most important resource,” he said. “After this crisis is all done, the only thing that you get to keep, your most important resource, will be your people.”

Lao also mentioned areas that can be improved to take the broker business online. “Walang problema on the marketing, but on the electronic forms and reservation, masyadong laid back pa. Downloadable, [but] they need to fill up the form, and scan.” 

Where Brokers should Focus Their Attention

With a more optimistic view, the real estate thought leaders agree that during a crisis, there’s opportunity. Lao also mentioned, “Hindi naman lahat is affected. Yung iba, they have liquidity. Always, they have extra money to invest.” 

This is a niche market brokers can tap into during a recession or health crisis such as what the country is facing today.

Madaming gustong mag-liquidate ngayon,” added Lao. “Cash is king.”

According to Lao, they are receiving a lot of calls from owners who want to sell their property. In fact, this has made it tempting for them to go out and check some properties. But because it is not advisable, Lao considers it an important part of a broker’s COVID strategy to source from an existing network of brokers. “With our PAREB network, we can always network our listings,” he shared.  

Evangelista also added that brokers need to be relevant in the time of lockdown. “There will always be activity. Siguro the activity right now might be limited given the lockdown, but right after, when things normalize, it will pick up.” 

Where, then, can brokers turn to? The experts suggest tapping into high-end clients with much cash to spend. “There will be opportunities for them to get into the market and get good deals,” said Evangelista. 

Ledesma agreed, “It’s really time to look for clients who have the opportunity to take these low-lying deals.”

How Brokers Can Tap into this Niche Market 

Ledesma reiterated the importance of doing business digital-first. He talked about the importance of content marketing, search engine optimization, and digital marketing to get these clients. In particular, he mentioned OFWs who are based all over the world, and who are coming through them digitally. 

Being tech-savvy is a trait Ledesma encouraged in brokers, especially the younger millennials coming into the industry. If they can utilize the tools available to them, they can get the savvy clients. 

As for specific tools, Ledesma suggested that brokers and broker businesses should learn how to use Facebook Analytics and Google Analytics, and know how to profile clients. According to him, it will also help brokers if they set up their own blogs, seminars, or online sessions to build up their name as an authority. 

“Can you build Facebook? Can you build a Youtube channel? Can you build something where people are coming to you from over there?” This can also be turned into an income stream, added Ledesma. 

Lao also suggested creating a five-year roadmap when starting out in the broker business. And for independent or smaller broker firms, Lao has important advice: “Join the tribe.”

A small broker business will need three Ls to succeed, according to Lao: Listings, which they can get from their network; Leads, which can be generated organically or through a broker’s own efforts; and Leverage, through online platforms such as Lamudi. 

Evangelista also mentioned three things brokers need when they are starting out: collab, network, and mentors. Talking to young brokers, Evangelista said, “We control our own time. We do everything by ourselves but in this time of crisis, you need the support of many. You need to network with fellow brokers to ride the tide.” 

“You need mentors during this time of crisis, and also mentors for your business to grow.”

Techniques Brokers can Use to Connect with the Right Clients

The real estate experts shared insightful tools and techniques brokers can use to grow their business amid these challenges:

  • Use Analytical Tools – Ledesma emphasized the need to customize the tools at your disposal to identify a target market. For instance, you can be as specific as targeting “clients who want to put up BPO in the Philippines” and get them to come to you with the right tools. 
  • Practice Mirroring – Now that cash is king, brokers can focus on high-liquidity clients, who have the financial freedom to invest in real estate at this time. The goal is to mirror the profile of high-liquidity clients and get your algorithm to find more of them for you. 
  • Leverage Subscriptions – New brokers can also reach a more varied set of property seekers by showcasing their listings on Lamudi. According to Evangelista, “Right now, you cannot do actual showing, given the lockdown, [so] you find a way. Lamudi and similar platforms can help you in this aspect.”
  • Focus on Project Selling – Lao added that brokers need to know themselves and focus on a developer “na hiyang sa’yo.” With project selling, brokers get a huge inventory so brokers can continue their marketing, and listing is not a problem. 

Real Estate Opportunities for Property Seekers During COVID-19 

Evangelista mentioned that right now, the rental industry is a good market to tap into for property seekers. Niche clients will not need the money and will therefore not sell at a loss, but they will rent out their properties to generate cashflow. “You might even get good rates for property you want to rent,” he mentioned.  

Lao also said that prices in project selling remain stable. Meanwhile, property seekers can also go into the resale market to find good deals from those who want to liquidate their assets. This could come from sellers who lost their job due to the health crisis, who now need cash and are willing to let go of their assets. 

For Ledesma, one of the most valuable assets a property seeker can buy during a crisis is the home they will live in.

“That’s the last purchase people will let go of,” he remarked. “If you’re liquid enough, try to find properties which are already in high-density residential areas.”

Where can property seekers find these properties? Lao suggested going online, on commercial websites such as Lamudi, or hiring an expert. Property seekers can tell brokers their objectives for buying, as well as their budget, and brokers can tap into their network to get seekers the property that fit their objectives. To this end, Lao reminded seekers to transact only with PRC-licensed brokers to avoid scams. 

The real estate professionals were also asked questions from the viewers: 

Given the economic downturn, what do you think will be the effects on the real estate industry? 

Evangelista mentioned that prior to the disturbance, the Philippines was a “seller’s market.” We are experiencing a bit of a slowdown right now, which can lead to a correction. Then, Evangelista said, “When everything goes back to normal, I expect a strong rebound in the real estate industry.” 

Lao also added that because prices are bound to go down, “dito papasok later on yung mga local buyers.” 

Ledesma also said, “Real estate property is always a recession-proof purchase whatever happens.” Given that property is “not movable,” Ledesma also recommended buyers should choose wisely the properties they buy during this recession. 

Could you recommend some useful resource materials to ‘sharpen the saw’ of brokers or entrepreneurs? 

While Ledesma said that self-improvement for the period of the lockdown is good, he also suggested that brokers and entrepreneurs “retweak” their strategy. Those who haven’t gone digital yet can use this time to do so. “You can only do so much sharpening,” he mentioned, adding that it’s time to go on the offensive and create opportunities for yourself. 

Lao agreed, “After sharpening the saw, you can focus on reviewing the long-term goal of your business.” He mentioned re-aligning and reviewing brokers’ strategy. Think of ways to make it more crisis-proof. Learn how to be equipped in the digital platform, and know how to leverage digital tools. 

For Evangelista, the best strategy is to “equip yourself” by watching a lot of training videos. “When everything goes back to normal, you are well-equipped to do the work.”


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