Not Business as Usual, But Open for Business

With the “sheltering in place” and quarantine orders extended until the end of April, one thing we still know is: lots of people still need to sell and buy homes. With an eye towards social distancing, the real estate  industry, and Help-U-Sell Real Estate “Experts Next Door” in particular, have changed business practices to adjust to current safety procedures and protocols. 

Some states have already had real estate deemed as an essential business, which provides some leeway as we strive to continue to serve our clients. Creativity in overcoming obstacles and problem solving is the theme of the day. Naturally, technology plays an enormous part. Whether working virtually, or with key staff rotating in the actual office, we are committed to continuing work for you in every way we safely can.

John Powell

“We are doing real estate in a different way. This is still a perfect opportunity to create new connections and reaffirm old ones. We are calling our previous clients to check in on them, and see if they need anything, especially if they are unable to leave home. We are recording our listing presentations and buyer consultations to have them handy to email to our current leads.”  – John Powell, Broker and Chief Development Officer, Help-U-Sell Real Estate Headquarters

“I’ve remodeled my business entirely. I’ve been doing listing presentations via GoToMeeting, and either going to the property to sign listing agreements or conducting it via DocuSign. I have had transactions where I do not see the seller until settlement time. Sometimes I have not seen them in person at all.” – Walt Hippuaf, Broker/Owner, Help-U-Sell Peoples Real Estate, Philadelphia, PA

Kimberly Zelena, Help-U-Sell Direct Savings Real Estate

“One of our agents walked through the house live with the client using GoogleDuo. She recorded a video, uploaded it to where the house is listed for other potential buyers to view it. Closings are limited to ten people or fewer – only the people who absolutely have to be there.” – Kimberly Zelena, Owner, Help-U-Sell Direct Savings Real Estate, Waynesboro, VA

“We moved up closings as quickly as possible for two of our elderly clients. We had the escrow officer go out and sign a client yesterday, and a mobile notary visited another client to get the job done. I’m doing as much as I can on my own. For example, my new phone takes great wide angle photos and video. I’m filming my listings, and post regularly on social media.” – Lona Lassen Murphy, Broker/Owner, Help-U-Sell Oregon, Eugene, OR

“Two of my recent clients, sisters buying condos in the same building, closed yesterday. One could not be in state at all. The tours, the inspection, and the final walk through were all done virtually. During the inspections, I was there, live on FaceTime so she was able to ask questions. The closings were done via email and with e-signatures. Electronic and mobile notaries were approved in Florida this year and that helps a lot.” – Chantell Stevens, Broker/Owner, Help-U-Sell Gulf Coast, Sarasota, FL

“We invested in the cameras to do high quality photos and virtual tours. The majority of people now view home listings on their phone, so we wanted to ensure they have the best viewing experience we can provide from where they are.” – John Metcalf, Broker/Owner, Help-U-Sell Inland Valley, Lake Elsinor, CA

“We are moving closing dates up to help clients close faster. Showing houses is still possible with the CBS (call before showing) code, and assigning a special window to view the home. No one else is allowed in during that time. Both safety and security are increased.” – Yasumi Davis, Broker/Owner, Help-U-Sell Golden Homes, Martinez, CA

“The market here is almost business as normal. Yesterday there were 22 new listings and 11 active contracts. Buyers and sellers who feel like they need to go are allowing showings, but no open houses, of course. It feels like a rainy day open house: you know there won’t be much traffic, but what you do get will be serious. I am telling sellers who haven’t listed yet to get everything ready in advance, so when the restrictions are lifted they will be ready for the burst of opportunity that is bound to happen.” – David Bartels, Broker/Owner, Help-U-Sell Full Service Realty, Westlake Village, CA

“Homes that are vacant are a gold mine, but when they are not, we’ve found virtual tours have been the most helpful.” – Kurt Steffien, Broker/Owner, Help-U-Sell Coast and Valley, Santa Ana, CA

“I have been able to work via text and email.  In one case I drove to escrow to drop off signed documents that had to have a wet signature. I wore an N95 mask, gloves, and used hand sanitizer.” – Raul Novales, Broker/Owner, Help-U-Sell Wisdom Realty, Ontario, CA

To find the Help-U-Sell office closest to serving your area, use our office locator tool. https://www.helpusell.com/OfficeLocator.html

Work, Persevere, and Shine

John Metcalf, Broker/Owner of Help-U-Sell Inland Valley in Lake Elsinore, CA, began his real estate career in 1989, becoming versed in residential and commercial real estate, business opportunity sales, and brokerage management.

Equipped with a strong sales and entrepreneurial spirit, John has owned and operated several small businesses prior to real estate. Ranging from sales of home security systems and home theaters, to children’s clothing, a laundromat, and even a post office, John eventually settled into real estate.

“In the past I would buy a business, build it up, and sell it. My wife, Cerita, got her real estate license and started working with a traditional real estate company. I’ve always liked sales and have always been selling,” John said. “It occurred to me that real estate commissions were far greater than alarm company commissions, and I wanted to be involved. Cerita was already experienced, so I became licensed so we could get into business together.”

After spending several years in the traditional real estate model business, John and Cerita noticed the market was changing from the consumer standpoint.

John explained, “The 6% commission was being heavily questioned, especially in a high real estate market like California. What value were they were getting for 6%? Brokers and agents were competing over lowering commissions, and it seemed like a race to the bottom. Consumers sought another solution to selling. It was getting harder to stay competitive.”

They researched alternative business options. He shared, “We wanted to get ahead of the game. Help-U-Sell started in Orange County, which was a primary reason we chose it; People know and remember the brand here. We often hear folks say they sold with Help-U-Sell 20 years ago, and they seek us out again when they are selling the next house. That sort of name recognition has made it easier to obtain new business. The brand name sticks because people remember the savings.”

While there are misconceptions about a set-fee business model, John is quick to set people right. “Help-U-Sell looks like full service – because it is. We’ve been offering full service with a set-fee for two years now. Our office is comprised of Cerita and I, plus one agent. We plan to bring on one more new agent in the coming year. Last year we closed 26 sides. We set our goal for this year to 30 and we’ve changed some tactics that bring in new leads and business.”

John further elaborated, “When you explain to clients that the set fee is not a catch, we always get a great reception. We recently put our office in a storefront that is busy with lots of organic foot traffic. Having a storefront is huge for us. It is by far the best and smartest thing we’ve done and we did it completely on a leap of faith. We amplify this by offering notary services, and we have people’s undivided attention when we are helping them. We’re number one on Google searches for notaries in our area, and that links to our website, too. One thing that is priceless: the expressions on people’s faces when they learn about the set fee. ‘You sell homes for $6,000?’.  We know they will be back. We’re not in competition with the companies that list for 1%. We know their services can’t come close to ours. No one else does what we are doing.”

John also utilizes the OMS platform that is a part of the Help-U-Sell system. “We make sure to do the Center of Influence postcard mailings every month. We are in constant contact with our clients in one form or another.” Leads also come from working in the community and being involved with groups like the Women’s Club, and volunteering for cancer walks or cleft palate repair organizations. John is also known for being a reserve firefighter for 20 years. 

California can be tenuous and not just for real estate. John said, “When we bought the franchise, the market had shifted. It was very strange year with nature: between brush fires and the worst rains we’ve had in 25 years – there were at least eight evacuations. Residents have been through quite a lot, but will always be buying and selling homes. When the market is down, it’s actually an advantage for serious brokers and agents, because everyone else is a part-time real estate agent. Those folks don’t know how to handle a soft market. The upside of terrible environmental circumstances is a mass exodus of agents. People who know how to work continue to persevere and shine.” 

The housing market covers a broad spectrum. “This is an affordable area. People with young families can get a house for about $380,000. Prices have increased a lot over the last 10 years and jobs in San Diego and Orange County are not as attractive as they once were, but it’s still a great option,” he said. “There is more inventory today than there was a year ago. Average time on the market is about 70 days and that’s healthy! “

When not selling houses, John and Cerita spend time with their five grandkids, and enjoy boating off the river, and scuba diving. “When I learned about Help-U-Sell Real Estate, I believed the platform was the wave of the future. I think it is still ahead of the game. We made a great choice.”