The Aftermath: 6 real estate pros weigh in on trends for 2021

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Earlier this year—April, to be exact—we hit up a few industry leaders to grab their thoughts on how the real estate teams and agents could maintain business continuity while navigating the rough waters of the pandemic. 

Responses were varied: Some were confident and committed to tackle it head-on, others were cautiously optimistic and some thought we’d be back to normal in just a couple of months. (Those were the days, am I right?)

So when we reached out again to another group of real estate pros to get their take on the aftermath of 2020, we weren’t totally sure what we’d get. 

On the one hand, fundamental real estate activities and lead gen strategies disappeared overnight. Many of those still have not returned, at least not as we knew them before. 

On the other hand, the resilience of the real estate market has been called “one of the biggest surprises of 2020”—which is definitely saying something. 

All in all, the responses from our panel of experts revealed six major trends in predictions for the coming year and what, if anything, could be considered “COVID Keepers”—those new ideas, methods and approaches worth hanging onto as we move into a brand new year. Here’s what they had to say.

Trend #1: Staying strong

There’s no doubt about it—the future's looking bright. Our experts unanimously agreed that 2021 is going to be another great year in real estate, even though the home buying frenzy is beginning to slow.  

Michael Stott, broker, coach, and co-owner of Your Coaching Matters predicts that “continued historically-low interest rates will keep prices moving up at a slower pace than 2020.”

But with all the market growth and skyrocketing home prices, is there a crash headed our way? 

That seems unlikely according to Mark Ferguson, real estate broker, investor, and founder of InvestFourMore.

“I think a lot of people are wishing for a crash to buy cheap properties,” he says. “I personally wouldn’t wish that on people...and I don't see it happening either. I think we will have strong real estate markets even with a struggling economy.” 

With that said, he’s still cautious: “I never bet on prices going up and I always prepare for the worst,” he explains. Better safe than sorry.

Looking beyond 2021

“We’ll have another good year for real estate in 2020,” says Donna Stott, broker, coach, and co-owner of Your Coaching Matters (and Mike’s wife 😉). 

But after that? “It’s a toss-up,” she says. “With low interest rates meaning hyper-low monthly payments, many owners will not move to another home, but will stay in place to keep that payment.” For real estate agents, it’ll be time to step up their game. “Finding sellers and buyers may take more time in the future and require better relationships for referrals,” she explains. 

Trend #2: Changing consumer priorities

With stay-at-home orders, social distancing, and quarantines in effect, it’s no wonder so many people are exchanging their tight (and expensive) downtown living quarters for something with a little more room to breathe. 

Kyle Alfriend, lead agent with The Alfriend Group in Dublin, OH, has noticed some big changes in the community around him: “During the pandemic, I have been thrilled by seeing the number of families and couples out together for walks, runs, and bike rides,” he says. “As an avid marathoner and triathlete, I spend a lot of time on the trails. It has been wonderful to see the increasing numbers of families out together, enjoying each other, and getting healthier. I hope many of these trends caused by COVID will continue.”

Along with changes in lifestyle, he’s noticed trends in consumer priorities as more people are spending more time at home: “Home entertaining spaces, both indoor and outdoor, will become increasingly popular,” he explains. “Home workout and office spaces will also be important.” 

Mike and Donna Stott agree that single-level floor plans are also becoming a priority. 

“Dollar-per-square-foot of single-level homes, or those with at least a master on the main level, will rise dramatically over those with bedrooms on a 2nd or 3rd level,” she says. This is primarily due to “the massive aging of American people” and the limited supply of these desirable types of homes. 

Donna also predicts that “newer homes will be far more valuable than older homes. People do not want to handle old electric, plumbing, and septic systems. They don’t want stucco or old siding. Those properties may begin to lose value as the supply of newer, affordable homes takes over.” 

Her husband, Mike, takes an opposing view on the topic: “Resale homes will compare more favorably to new builds in that buyers will get more home for their money,” he says. “Costs of construction and availability of supplies will hinder new construction.” 

When we asked Mike about their differing opinions, he shared: “We don’t always agree 🙂. I’ve found over the past 30 years that Donna is right 90% of the time.” 

We’ll have to wait and see!

Trend #3: New efficiencies & technologies

The pandemic has brought bigger changes than just going virtual. Kyle Alfriend has seen a huge shift in how homes are listed on the MLS. Prior to COVID, MLS data was heavily marketing-driven, with the goal of drawing as many showings as possible. But that has changed. 

Today’s buyers are all about transparency.

“Buyers didn’t want to look at every potential home, and sellers didn’t want every potential buyer in their homes,” he explains. “So many listing agents (my team included) began providing far more detailed information in the MLS, including the negatives. If the home backs up to a railroad track, put that information in.” Virtual tours have added even greater accuracy to listings. 

This has also created a new level of efficiency in home showings for buyers, sellers, and real estate agents alike.

“There is no reason to show a home to people who will never consider buying it,” he says. “This has reduced the showing to only truly qualified buyers with a strong potential of buying the home.”

For Emily Smith, COO of Wemert Group Realty in central Florida, she hopes for these sorts of efficiencies to continue: “For all of the things we’d want to leave behind because of COVID, our ability to partner with buyers and sellers virtually—leveraging technology seamlessly and continuing to provide excellent customer service is something we hope to continue to carry forward!” she says. “We sure could do with a lot less Zoom, but for now we remain incredibly grateful that technology keeps us on track and connected!”

The rise of the iBrokerage

Michael Stott also sees big changes on the technology front. “Zillow and other iBuyers will become their own brokerages,” he predicts. 

Because of that, “Personal relationships with great salespeople will matter more than ever because the iBuyers will each have their own language and lingo. Sellers will need agents to explain the language and bottom line to them—much like life insurance agents do now.”

Trend #4: Getting creative

Despite the numerous challenges, we’ve seen real estate agents and teams adapt their mindset and their business in response to the conditions of 2020. 

In addition to adopting new technologies and developing innovative strategies to reach and connect with leads, real estate agents have had to answer what Donna Stott calls “a Call to Creativity.”

“Those that shifted and pivoted in creative ways had their best year ever, while those who froze crashed for a very long time,” she says. “Spending the necessary time to develop creativity and allow it to thrive is critical. That will not change.”

Mark Ferguson took a particularly unique approach to keeping his business on track. When some states chose to limit real estate as a non-essential business, he decided to stay a step ahead. 

Over the course of his career, Mark has flipped over 190 houses, so he had the chops to take a chance: “We started a mold remediation company and made sure that no matter what happens, we are essential and will stay open,” he says. 

While it may not be in the cards for most real estate agents and teams, you gotta admit—it’s a clever, creative move.

Trend #5: Hold tight to the fundamentals

While there’s nothing like a good crisis to get you thinking more creatively, there’s also something to be said for going back to basics.

And top producers like Brendan Bartic, CEO of Colorado-based The Bartic Group believes that a healthy respect for the fundamentals will be a key determinant for future success.

“This year presented a major opportunity to strengthen our cadence of success,” says Brendan. “With so much out of our control with COVID-19 not only was it essential to pivot and pivot quickly, it was vital to the success of our business that we maintain a consistent rhythm to our day, holding true to our time blocking schedule, and steadily building on our systems already in place.”

But the right systems and workflows are nothing without the right attitude. Brendan’s wish for the future?

“I want agents to start thinking like business owners.”

Here’s how he sees it:

“The fact of the matter is, there’s only so much we can predict about the upcoming year. Sure, markets will inevitably shift, buyer priorities might change, but the fundamental, core systems of our business won’t. If agents don’t have a systematic approach to how they do business it doesn’t matter what happens in the market. They’ll miss out on major market share, help the same (or fewer) people, and wonder why they’re doing more but getting less. If you want to be ahead of the game, help more people, and not get burnt out in the process, take a hard look at your systems and models, get a coach, and systematize your business for long-term success.”

If you want to capitalize on the many opportunities we’ll see coming out of this crisis, you’ll need to make sure that both your systems and your mindset are ready for an increase in business. 

Trend #6: Building connection

During this time of social distancing, building connections with others has become more important than ever. Despite all that has changed, our experts have seen increased caring and consideration, both with their clients and within their teams.

“Realtors are being kinder to each other,” shares Michael Stott. 

Donna Stott believes this shift in attitude is crucial: “Community and caring for each other is how we will survive and thrive in this historical time,” she says. 

Emily Smith has seen a similar pattern of delivering better service, and hopes that agents in real estate will continue to “step into the call to master their craft and serve all those they are partnering with—clients, customers, co-op agents, and vendor partners at the highest level possible, each and every day.”

Ultimately, “Relationships are everything,” Donna continues. “Your business literally depends on the relationships you have developed. People have always done business with, and referred others to, people they TRUST to do a good job.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

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