Brokering Multifamily Properties In The COVID Era

May 15, 2020

How Essex Brokers Have Adapted To The New Normal

As we wrap up the eighth week of shelter-in-place, we asked a few Essex brokers to reflect and share some of their recent experiences.

Property Tours In The Time Of Covid-19 – “The April 1st announcement limiting showings of occupied rental properties has made our business a little more complicated. Lucky for me, and this is likely the first time you have heard this from a multi-family broker, the nine-unit waterfront property I have listed in Fox Lake is 100% vacant!

The location is superb so there has been a lot of interest from investors, and due to the vacancies, I am still able to show the property. Touring during this time has been a big adjustment and is a little awkward. I often question whether I am even meeting the right person. How can you tell when we both have bandanas around our faces like bandits in an old western movie? It is also hard to read someone with half their face covered. I think to myself, “Are they interested in what I am saying?” “Did they open their mouth in awe when the gate opened to the waterfront?” “Did they frown their face when they saw the two unfinished units?”

It is clear business is anything but usual, so my team is working on how to be creative with our daily operations, whether that means hosting virtual tours or possibly requesting an owner keep a unit vacant so we can continue to conduct showings in the interim. I believe the market is still strong as many of our clients are still requesting property valuations. Plus, buyers are still closing! My team has closed four transactions while quarantined. This pandemic is merely a bump in the road for humanity and we will come out stronger on the other side. We are already seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Banks are still lending, transactions are still closing, the curve is flattening, and in my opinion, apartments are still the best investment asset class.” – Anthony Citriglia, Essex Associate

Volunteering – “My team focuses mostly on Chicago’s South Side multi-family market, so over the years we have joined a few neighborhood groups to keep up with and help the local community. Recently we have worked closely with LYTE Collective, a group that provides local youth in situations of poverty and homelessness with safe space, and resources, to raise awareness and support their goal of building a LYTE Lounge on Chicago’s South Side. They are looking for donors to gift funds to purchase the construction materials, or to provide the actual materials which would help reduce construction costs significantly. Covid-19 has only increased the need for a safe space like the LYTE Lounge. We also worked with Block Club South Shore to help clear a lot and start a garden. My team, which is comprised of myself, and my associate Erica Trejo, joined as volunteers and helped plant the community garden. We were moved to learn that the space will have a designated area for reflection and remembrance for the South Shore community residents impacted by Covid-19.” – Brian Mond, Essex Director

The New Closing Dinner – “Last week 5045 N. Northwest Highway, a 12-unit walk-up apartment building located in Jefferson Park closed. I helped facilitate the sale by representing the buyer, a close friend and local investor. While we usually like to celebrate a successful transaction with a dinner downtown, instead we drove – in our separate cars – over to Superdawg Drive-In to enjoy what I can confidently say is one of Chicago’s best hot dogs (and burgers)! This pandemic has inspired all of us to work together to do our part to support the cause of slowing this pandemic. We are also inspired to be creative whether celebrating a deal, managing curbside closings, video walkthroughs, or many zoom meetings, I have been very impressed by the entire real estate industries’ resourcefulness to still be able to operate business at a high level during this time.” – Jordan Multack, Essex Director

Time Well Spent – “For me, now is a great time to organize my tools, resources, and business systems and to improve efficiencies for when I get back on the offense. Now is a great time to show my team extra support and leadership so they can remain empowered during this downtime and excited to relaunch when we are back in the office. I am also using this time to check in on my clients and let them know I am here to be a resource for them if they need my help. I know that creating allies and maintaining strong relationships during a time of crisis is invaluable and will make the times of prosperity that much more fruitful.” – Matt Feo, Essex Director

Virtual Leasing – “Leasing apartments since Mid-March has been an interesting experience. There are almost two different leasing markets out there. Vacant and/or new properties where in person tours can be accomplished and occupied units that cannot be toured in person. We have consistently heard that brand new apartments are leasing very well as they are perceived to be safer to enter and move in to. While retention of existing tenants appears to have increased dramatically in the last several weeks, there are still apartments with existing tenants that must be leased now in order to avoid a vacancy. In those situations, we have offered our tenants gift cards or rent credits to film a high-quality virtual tour of their apartment. It has been fun to watch tenants take ownership of this task and send in great videos to help us in this process! While tenants are still acclimating to leasing an apartment they cannot tour in person, the leasing world is evolving very quickly as another example of how everyone must alter their game-plan in today’s world.” – Jordan Gottlieb, Essex Principal

Virtual Business Development – “In April I was promoted from an associate, to a director focused on business development and brokerage. While it has been a strange time to launch my brokerage career, in a lot of ways the timing could not be better. I have had time to fine tune my database, research and drive my markets, and make new connections with clients, lenders, and other service providers. I have also enjoyed participating in a number of free networking events and webinars. Lauren Zangl, one of the event leaders for REFF, a Chicago-based professional organization for women involved in real estate finance, development, and deal structure, has started hosting small virtual coffee groups in the mornings. I have joined a few of the meetings and it has been a great way to meet new people and stay in touch with different aspects of our industry.” – Jaimie Steinher, Essex Director

Virtual Property Tours – “We all have been affected in one way or another by the recent pandemic. In order to stay ahead of the game our team has recently begun putting together virtual tours for our new and current listings so that our clients can have a better understanding of the real estate without having to put themselves or others at risk of contracting Covid-19. We now include links to virtual property tours in our marketing materials and email blasts. It has been well received and we like how the videos allow us to virtually walk through the property with our clients in remote locations and the medium leads to quick feedback. Creating our first virtual tour was a fun experience and we quickly learned some of the dos and don’ts of putting together an interactive marketing piece. I learned that the golden rule for recording video content for virtual property tours is to film horizontally!” – Jacob Goldstein, Essex Director