COVID-19 Requires Real Estate Innovation

Essential and Adaptable – The New World of Real Estate

By Patrick Smith

There are but only a few exceptions of such bewildering and confusing times in our human collective living memory, and only those who have lived to a considerable age will be able to recall them. The three pandemic influenza outbreaks of the 20th century (1918, 1957 and 1968) are all but forgotten reflections. 70 years ago marks the end of WWII, where 30 countries collectively obliterated civil processes, destroyed societies and economies and over 75 million humans perished. Only ten years ago the great real estate recession wreaked economic havoc in all of America, which was nothing in comparison to the downturns of the 80’s.  Even worse, the great depression of the 1930’s, left countless people wandering, starving, dying and homeless. Macro scale Social Tragedies of history might be best compartmentalized in three major categories: Health, War or Economic Catastrophe (And/or a combination of the three).
The difficult global impact in which we find ourselves currently seems unprecedented to most. But amidst the noise and haste of this pandemic we can find comfort in the fortune of leadership and the several sound minds in both the political and business spectrum, who are offering us direction, hope and reorganization. This includes legislating safety in our homes and enabling essential economies.
Our species is resilient. We have weathered intense incapacities through millennia, and somehow have managed to recreate ourselves and our processes in order to survive. So too will be the case in this frightening and debilitating global pandemic.
In the wake and flurry of all of this, we see large economies of scale in the entire world reeling. National and international authorities are jumping into solution mode. Doing Business, in Real Estate and otherwise, has always been relative to the access and ability we have to reach each other and as well to promote and deliver the materials that we create and sell. Supply chains domestically and around the world are in turmoil. The means with which goods and services find their way into the daily function of our lives shape us.  I believe if anything is terrifying for people at this stage it is the sudden limitation and abrupt realignment and the lack of systemic normalcy. The health crisis around which people are so terribly affected requires intense caution and segregation from one another in order for us to stay safe and defeat this virus.
Now, in the midst of all of this, the “powers-that-be”; governments and the advisors who manage our politicians are hard at work behind the scenes. They are trying to keep us safe but also to strike the medium between debilitating our social and economic fabric ensuring that our systems do not fully degrade, threatening anarchy or social upheaval. From this, we have the interesting new catch-all word in the business sector, which strikes the balance between necessity and safety and has become ubiquitous in the lexicon of life, enter – “Essential Services”.
While all of us are redefining our own national/local/family/work relationships, we want to reassure you that we are concerned about your needs.  You matter to us!  Our OLH Team at Coldwell Banker Rhodes and Company meets daily to discuss client support and strategy. Our entire Brokerage membership also meets weekly in a large-scale forum, discussing the current and ever-changing legislation which governs our conduct and capacity. In light of the Essential Services declaration mentioned above, and of the recent and ongoing changes to rules and recommendations by the Canadian and Ontario Real Estate Associations, our concourse of late has been solely devoted to support industry innovation during this crisis. One of the major questions we wanted to get our minds around was the obvious: Are we really an Essential Service, and if so, why? The real estate industry not only helps provide homes for millions of Canadians, but it also creates countless numbers of job opportunities, making the industry a massive driver of the economy. The organized governance and legislated practice of real estate protects the integrity of value and secures the process of trade. With more provincial and local governments implementing stay-at-home orders, real estate agents are having to redefine how we do business as we find ways to meet with clients and also maintain the health and safety of all parties involved.
In response to this, we have been meeting with our clients, supporting goals and advising timelines within both the traditional and recently popular communications technologies.  Also, we offer counsel and guidance to those wanting to learn more. We are committed to staying in touch, offering tutorials and invite anyone interested or in need to connect with us to do so by whatever means available to suit you.  We are here to help.

  1. I started using WhatsApp in about 2010, which still offers amazing avenues to share documents and connect with live video.
  2. Skype of course still works, is well established and popular with many
  3. This week I attended an Off-Broadway performance and a large international birthday party on Zoom. (personal new favorite for meetings).
  4. Live Instagram is also popular and a nice way to lower your feeling of isolation.
  5. is up and coming. An on-line transfer for files.
  6. Our office has long been paperless. E-signatures are the standard.
  7. GoToMeeting is an on-line meeting platform taking some market share

Our commitments have not changed with regard to the support we offer. We have versed ourselves in all modern avenues of communication and encourage and invite any of you – our valuable clients, friends and stakeholders – to reach us in whatever avenue suits you. We also, as always, are here to gently and respectfully support the process as we adjust and learn the newly evolving technologies. So, please reach out, by whatever means suit you, and we are here to help.
In response to the emerging “virtual world” of house showings, on-line presentations of space, and conducting interviews, we are assessing and getting ready to implement the most current venues.

  1. Carefully conducted and safely organized photoshoots for both Gallery and Virtual Touring of property has never been more important to plan for and scrutinize. This, both in terms of physical on-site safety, but also quality of production in order to ensure the clearest and most objective presentation of a property possible. Hence eliminating misrepresentation and disappointing live viewings.
  2. QR links to effective videography. We experimented and improved our use of video home production last year. Successfully, we included scripted versions of the video with custom edited auditory descriptions.
  3. Live video tours, showings and Open Houses. We are considering Zoom and GoToMeeting on site tours with “Open House-Open Tour” format, allowing several people to engage and tour a structured house tour which will include a Q&A capacity.

There is no possible way to circumvent nor means to minimize the magnitude and seriousness of this current health crisis or the social and economic turmoil which derives from it. No matter which direction the process of healing takes us, the necessary reinvention of ourselves, especially through technologies which connect us will be eternal. New Real Estate Industry support systems and evolving communications venues, which keep us effective, will be important in order for us to continue to be current and successful. All this being said however, and no matter how advanced, computerized or mechanized new systems of communications will become, nothing will ever be able to fully replace the core fiduciary rules or the personal values we bring to our individual practices. The following are legislated Fiduciary Rules of Agency:

  • Accounting: The agent must account for all funds entrusted to her and not commingle (combine) client/customer funds with her personal and/or business funds.
  • Care: The agent must use all of her skills to the best of her ability on behalf of the client.
  • Confidentiality: The agent must keep confidential any information given to her by her client, especially information that may be damaging to the client in a negotiation.
  • Disclosure: The agent must disclose to the client any information she receives that may benefit the client’s position in a negotiation.
  • Loyalty: The agent owes undivided loyalty to the client and puts the client’s interests above her own.
  • Obedience: The agent must obey all lawful orders that the client gives her.

Each of us in the practice of Real Estate brings unique and highly personalized skill sets to our clients. And luckily, like in so many of life’s necessities and circumstances, we will continue to have the opportunity to choose our advocates and achieve our successes, according to what feels right for us. As this unique new world is unfolding around us and as we struggle and grow, so too will many conditions around us evolve – innovation and opportunity will no doubt present itself.
In conclusion, for those of you who made it this far, we would like to wish you as much peace and safety as is possible in this trying time. Our thoughts and hopes are with the countless 1000’s in the world who have suffered through illness and the loss of loved ones.  In the words of the great poem Desiderata; “Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in Silence”.


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