One top L.A. real estate team shares how they’re harnessing new digital innovations.
Despite the wild card factor of a global pandemic, Los Angeles-area home sales are up from a year ago. And that’s a trend repeating across the country. Is it because interest rates remain at near record lows, because we’re all bored of seeing the same walls day in and day out, because with vacations on pause investing in a new home is the next best thing? There’s no single answer—and perhaps all of the above are contributing to the buzzing housing market that shows little signs of slowing even as we head into fall—but here’s what’s certain: The actual experience of buying or selling a home is completely different now.
“We don’t want to just be the person in a mask holding a bottle of hand sanitizer and saying ‘don’t touch that!’ over and over.” - Jeff Biebuyck
Crowded open houses, cookies by the front door, touching and testing all the cabinetry and fixtures—none of those typical home-buying moments are COVID-friendly. Even handing out flyers or signing in on a communal clipboard add a few too many touch points. In short, “showing a house in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic has become very tedious,” realtor Jeff Biebuyck states bluntly. His partner Dana Olmes concurs. “Running up and down stairs turning on and off lights with masks on, sterilizing a home after showings and enforcing the necessary paperwork for each showing [including a COVID release form] has definitely brought a lot more work for us,” she notes. The silver lining is that these safety limitations have also pushed their team both creatively to change up how they do business—with innovative ideas that both Jeff and Dana betting are here to stay.
Jeff and Dana are the primary agents of Dana & Jeff Luxury Homes, leading a team consistently ranked in the upper echelon of L.A. realtors that boasts a well-heeled clientele of celebrities, entertainment industry executives and corporate power players. The two have been partnered for more than a decade and live and focus on prestigious neighborhoods like Calabasas and Hidden Hills, as well as West San Fernando Valley, Conejo Valley, Malibu and the greater Los Angeles area. While they’ve long been a realtor team willing to pull out all the stops to properly market a luxury property, the pandemic has pulled their attention to technology. Luckily, that’s Jeff’s focus—and his specialty.
“A digital experience doesn’t offer what a local expert can, or the chance to ask all the questions I can answer.” - Jeff Biebuyck
Video walk-throughs have largely replaced in-person showings, but while most agents rely on 3D home tours that allow viewers to move and pivot through rooms—a cool bit of technology that’s proven quite useful—Jeff and Dana hew to a more personal experience. “When we shoot a virtual showing, we speak to the camera just like we’re speaking to you,” explains Jeff. “We won’t do a boring room-by-room walkthrough; instead, we focus on things like our favorite four features in a home, or on showing something that’s really unique—like seeing a vacuum laundry shoot in action, seeing the shirt get sucked in from a bedroom and end up in the basement laundry.” The idea behind these more engaging videos is to spark interest in seeing and learning more, of course. “People need a really good reason to come out these days, and technology is a way to reach them while they’re hunkered down,” he adds.
The team does offer in-person showings by appointment only (with masks, social distancing and signed COVID waivers required, of course). Here again, they’re exploring ways to make what might otherwise be a very sterile experience better. “We don’t want to just be the person in a mask holding a bottle of hand sanitizer and saying ‘don’t touch that!’ over and over,” says Jeff. He’s exploring touchless sanitation stations placed at the entry, QR codes that zap a digital flyer straight to your smartphone and digital ‘for sale’ signs placed on popular apps like Waze—all digital-forward approaches to viewing a home and conveniently downloading all the relevant information. And he expects even more real estate-related tech innovations in the near future. “Maybe I’ll never kill trees to print brochures anymore,” he muses. “Even if the coronavirus disappeared tomorrow, I already want to keep these things in our wheelhouse. Creatively, I believe much of this is here to stay.”
Jeff also firmly believes that no digital experience—no matter how professional or robust—will ever take the place of a human being. “A digital experience doesn’t offer what a local expert can, or the chance to ask all the questions I can answer,” he says. “Sure, it might be an opportunity to save money, but you risk introducing a liability. Oh, no one told you about the garbage dump behind your new house? Or no one advised you to check on your ability to get fire insurance before you released your contingency?” The latter is something he’s seen double a mortgage, and can potentially affect the status of a loan.
“This year is going to leave a scar, but we have to adapt,” he concludes. While future predictions are tough, for Jeff and Dana’s team—and we’re betting, for many other forward-focusing realtors too—a more digitized world of real estate is exactly where we’re heading.
Follow Dana & Jeff Luxury Homes on Instagram at @danaandjeff