Welcome to another edition of “Ask the MLS.” Here, we talk to people running innovative MLSs around the country and ask them questions about their markets, their members, and what keeps them up at night.
Today’s post features Liz Kendrick, Senior Vice President of Broker Services of Greater Alabama MLS. Greater Alabama MLS has approximately 3,200 members and serves the Alabama counties of Jefferson, Shelby, Blount, Calhoun and St. Clair, as well as other outlying areas and municipalities. Here’s what Liz had to say:
Greater Alabama MLS has a very strong relationship with Homesnap, with many integrations and features available to your members. What is the most popular Homesnap feature among Greater Alabama agents?
There are many features we hear raves about but the top answer from everyone on their favorite Homesnap feature is checking out what homes are listed/valued at! So many people now have driving around as their get-out-of-the-house activity during our lockdown periods with this pandemic, and everyone is always curious to see what homes are listed/valued when driving in a new area or subdivision! I love this feature when traveling, and having the ability to check out the home values in other cities and states and compare what the dollar will purchase from one market to another.
The Heatmap feature is always a big “WOW” factor in our training classes for this FREE lead generation.
Our agents love to see what houses their clients choose as favorites – giving the agents a better read on the client’s wants and needs. And they know that when a contact starts selecting favorites, it is time to reach out and check in with them!
Another feature in Homesnap that our trainers love to demo is Homesnap Stories. This is another big impact feature to showcase and it is reassuring to those who are social media challenged how easy this is to accomplish.
One more that is a growing favorite is the ability to quickly create ads just by setting the budget allocation per listing by agents. To have this so easy and with hardly any time and effort, they are seeing a huge marketing impact for their listings – how sweet!
How has technology eased the path for your agents during the pandemic?
More and more agents are using video for sharing listings and their virtual showings. The pandemic has forced agents to get comfortable utilizing technology. Video and these virtual showings allow agents to reach out when they can no longer shake hands and meet face-to-face. Agents can still be ‘in-person’, personable and still reaching out and staying in touch.
It is fortunate that we have this technology available now with the pandemic so that we can stay in touch, network and also work very productively, and all at a distance! Transactions can be and are completely virtual from start to finish – something that would not have been possible just a few years back. Having this technology available so that agents can continue to work and manage their business has been invaluable during this time with the health risks and stresses of the pandemic. Even with the concerns of COVID19, many agents have reported this has been their best year ever in the volume of transactions handled!
How are you staying in touch with your members during this time of social distancing?
One word dominates – ZOOM! We’re handling our meetings and classes virtually, and agents are handling their client meetings through video and live streaming. It will be interesting to see how lasting this virtual meeting trend will be. Everyone loves the convenience of a zoom meeting and that you don’t need to schedule the additional commuting time needed to attend these meetings. What is lost with the virtual meeting is all the body language and side notes and talk that you pick up in a live meeting, where you can watch and hear more than just the one person currently speaking on a virtual meeting.
Beyond Zoom, some are returning to simple phone calls to have a quick chat with their agents or clients, to see how they are doing. This personal touch often reveals info about someone that you never knew about them such as discovering a hobby or personal interest that person now has time to invest in, to their current at-home project they are tackling.
Some agents have replied that they are writing personal notes – even virtual notes are also other ways of reaching out to others that some are finding very rewarding. And in this time of virtual everything, getting something in the mail stands out all the more.
How are you keeping your internal team connected and engaged with each other?
Email, video, text and of course, ZOOM!! Who would have ever thought we would be doing so many meetings and classes from the kitchen table, the patio office or your “NEW” home office!
On staff at the MLS, we are back in the office by-and-large. We are not holding in-person meetings or events at the office, so we are can comply with the social distancing concerns. When working remotely, our office meetings are via Zoom. Even after staff meetings, we saw that everyone remained on the session just to chat and visit. We missed this personal social interaction that being in an office provides! Once the office opened again for staff, in-person is the preferred work choice by far. This gives us that easy back-and-forth conversation amongst ourselves as we are working on projects.
In addition to Zoom and other communication tools, more of us are implementing or stepping up the use of project management platforms to help keep up with organizing projects, tasks and details.
What has been your favorite pandemic pastime over the last 6 months?
I’ve especially enjoyed the extra time that working from home allowed me to have with my family. My daughter and son-in-law had their first child in March, a beautiful baby girl! While we couldn’t go in person initially, the video chats still let us visit often. My son married in February, and they are now expecting – another baby girl for our family! This holiday time will be very special for us!
While working from home, like almost everyone else, I have done home improvement projects – redoing bathrooms and now in progress for new cabinets for a mudroom. Getting this done has been a much slower process with the shortage of materials and limited available help, but it will be so nice when I don’t have to go to the living room for a new roll of paper towels or the leaf blower!
Others I’ve asked this question mentioned reconnecting with their neighbors – one agent has neighborhood cocktail hours, where everyone brings their own lawn chairs to sit and visit. She noted that in addition to learning more about their neighbors, that she fell in love with her neighborhood all over again!
Getting a pet is another answer we noted – a ‘pandemic puppy’ helps to keep you up in spirits and also a definite reason to get outside more!
And one replied that this at home time allowed her to binge-watch the food network and also “Walking Dead”!