Ep. 132: Stephen Acree– How to Sell Consistently During COVID-19

Stephen Acree has worked as a real estate agent out of Lynchburg, VA, for the last three years. He completed 35 transactions in his first year, and is currently ranked in the top 10 percent of agents in the state.

On this episode of Stay Paid, Stephen sits down with Luke and Josh to discuss how he is shifting gears in his business to accommodate the changing landscape due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Key Points:

  • Don’t make your follow-up about the transaction—show clients you care.
  • Use this time to change your standards.
  • People will still buy and sell—be there to provide value for your clients.

Q: What have your transactions looked like this year?

The beginning of this year was the best market we’ve been in. We have had about 50 transactions in pending. And we’re hoping to break the 200 mark this year.

Q: What is your mindset during this time? What should people be thinking about?

I think the biggest thing for me, this will change a lot of real estate agents who aren’t educating themselves and aren’t true professionals. It is funny to see even the mindset of the agents who are doing well when you literally just have to reach out to your sphere. But coming into a market where you’re going to have to provide substantial value, you can’t just be a real estate agent, you have to be a fiduciary agent. You have to problem solve and look at each individual agent and think how you can help them. You might have to help someone sell even when they’re losing money.

Q: What do you think the mindset of the consumer is right now?

As soon as this started happening, I have been getting a ridiculous amount of calls from my sphere. It’s been cool to see because it shows the consistency of the follow up throughout the year pays off. I had someone on Facebook reach out to me and say how thankful she was for my help even though she’s with another agent. It’s cool to have people reach out and ask me to tell them with what’s happening in this market.

And I haven’t seen a change in the listing price, I’m telling every single one of my clients this is the best time to sell. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the next couple months. And if you’re seeing good prices right now and nothing’s changed, why would you be negative with your sellers. I’m letting them know what could come, but I’m telling them get their house on the market as soon as possible. I want the best for you, you want to get it sold for best market value because things could change.

We’re putting 7 listings on the market this week alone. I have one right now, an absentee owner, they own their house outright. They don’t care they just want to get rid of the property. But if we had to tell them unfortunately the market is taking a shift, we have to change this price. It’s still not going to hurt them. Not everyone is going to be in a tough situation. You have to tell them the truth, but go into it with the positive. We don’t decide the market, we’re just here to provide value.

Q: What’s changing for how you’re having to show houses?

We are being a lot more safe, obviously. It is a big fear and rightfully so. We’re in a place where it’s not as big of a scare. We’ve only had a couple cases in Lynchburg. But we’re telling anyone of our listings to keep all the lights on in the house and we’ll tell the buyers as they’re going through to touch as little as they possibly can. When I’m going out, I’m putting on Germ-X when I can. But people still have to sell and need a roof over their head.

We’ve done a lot more virtual, but we’ve always been doing that. I don’t know with other agents if it’s the same way. But buyers never really like virtual. They always want to see the house. We’ve never been able to break the virtual barrier, we do video walk-through tours with a photographer and videographer, but now buyers are more willing to do it. So maybe we’ll see a change in the market with buyers being more willing. We’re going to be doing some Live videos coming up for open houses, but I’m doing Instagram stories of walkt-hroughs right now. We just had an Instagram person reach out to us today because of those videos who is looking to buy.

Instead of taking on a ton of different activities as far as lead gen goes, just do things consistently. You see it paying off three years down the road. It’s not instantaneous obviously. I had friends make fun of me the first year in my business doing video tours, and now it’s paying off.

Q: How have you changed up your marketing?

We just started doing Facebook ads. We’re actually trying to brand more in this market to show that we’re still selling houses. I called both my brokers when this went down, and they both said they called each other and cried because they didn’t want to go through the same thing they went through in 2007 and 2008. They both cut expenses and let some people go without even hesitating. But they both started branding much bigger, like “Another Success Even With COVID-19” so we’re doing the same thing with our emails. We’re going to post, just hit the market, just under contract, and then the closing picture with our clients. I just want us to post every single listing to show them we’re still there for them.

We talk about the consistency thing. If you just started doing it, you’re probably not going to start seeing results. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be doing it. People need to see the consistency and if you do it for a year, two years, three years, you’ll start to see major results.

Q: What does your day-to-day look like right now?

This might have been the best thing that could have happened for our business, because as soon as this went down and I heard that from my brokers, we cut a ton of stupid expenses we were paying for. We set up a standard you have to make 20 calls a day, add 5 contacts to Command, touch base with your sphere. So for me, it’s been coming in but setting up the standards for the team—this has to happen. For us, it’s been easier because I have a bunch of people reaching out to me asking what they should do. I’ve loved having that. But people can do the same thing, touching base with their sphere.

If you’ve lost your job, you can still pull equity out of your home. You can sell your home and make money. There’s so much you can do for your sphere, you just need to touch base with them and ask them.

Q: What are some examples of stupid expenses you cut?

Well, I was paying for three Gmail accounts. We cut Zillow in half because they don’t want you to leave right now, but the only reason I did that was because we were doubling out income on return but they were cutting. I went out and got a completely new business card. That was the first thing I did, I took cash out of the bank and got a new card. And am making sure that we’re way more profitable than we were before.

If you’re paying for way too many platforms, you lose the money and motivation and you’re not able to go out and sell homes. Everything you do should be wrapped around profit so you can give back to your people.

Q: You ended up picking up a buyer just from reaching out to your sphere. Tell us about that: 

It was someone we talked to probably a year ago. We should have been in touch with him a little bit more. I basically just texted him. This is a million dollar buyer, he owns a lot of the sweetFrogs up and down the East Coast. I told him interest rates are so low. I wasn’t expecting a response, but I knew it was the right thing to do. But he texted me back right away. And he’s actually a really cool guy and we’re out and about looking at properties now.

I had another investor reach out to me about selling, he wanted to sell his properties because he’s expecting to go into a worse market. I had one from the guy who does our roof saying he wants to sell another property. So just make sure you’re reaching out to people and caring about them. It’s not about the transaction. Just call them and see how you can provide value. Because you’re not calling for the money, people feel that.

Action Items:

  • Call the people in your database to let them know you care and educate them on the market.
  • Use this time to double down on your standards and hold yourself accountable.

Connect with Stephen:

Subscribe today to get the most actionable sales and marketing tips.