Overcoming Major Hurdles | The Current Pandemic
November 23, 2020

As part of our 30th Anniversary celebration, we are looking back at major moments in history to see how Essex brokers have overcome economic hurdles. Principal Steve Livaditis has seen his fair share of headwinds throughout his 30-year career in Chicago’s multifamily real estate industry and offers his take on the current pandemic.

Q: COVID has affected every industry. Describe what you see happening in the Chicagoland multifamily real estate industry today.

Steve: In an industry as big and vibrant as ours, I was always surprised at how slow we have been to adapt over the years to new ideas and platforms. We have been one of the few industries where brokerage and asset wealth could be created without the direct need for new technology- the good old days of having a Rolodex of clients could technically still work today. But it took a massive gut-check such as the pandemic to purposefully transform our stagnant thinking and create new excitement in how we can reinvent ourselves and business. This pandemic gave us an opportunity to take a step back from the daily “tunnel vision” activity, and allowed us to take a few deep breaths, focus on the future and our evolution, rather than just our prior successes.

As COVID-19 cases were rising in late February, we made the early-on decision (first week of March) to temporarily suspend interoffice activity and encourage a remote working model. Although this may not have been the most popular decision, we knew it was in the best interest of the health and safety of not only our office, but our clients, property managers, and tenants. We also knew that this decision could impact our in-person interaction with clients which is so important for our relationship driven platform. Thankfully, because we enacted swiftly, we were provided critical time to create and streamline a full-service virtual platform for our firm to utilize internally and with our clients to maintain our relationships through an advisory position.

From incorporating Zoom and reinventing our daily operations to adapting how we market and interact with clients and colleagues, we have created far better efficiencies for our future and longevity. At Essex, forward-thinking has been the key to managing the changes that stem from reactions to COVID-19. This could not have happened without the continued daily interaction of every agent and employee of our firm starting from day one of the pandemic, and we are fortunate to be surrounded by forward thinkers at Essex who are comfortable adjusting to a new norm.

Although no one could have predicted the magnitude of the pandemic, we were confident that business would not return to normal, but rather there was going to be a new normal, a normal revolving around new ideas and technology--nearly all steps of the traditional transaction needed to be refined. Essex heavily invested in the digitalization of real estate by creating and utilizing 3-D Virtual Tour Software for listings, thus creating a more efficient and sanitary marketplace for both buyers and sellers while still having a buyer tour a property as they were physically present. For example, over the summer, a team of brokers here at Essex exclusively employed virtual technology to market a 19-unit mixed-use building in Ravenswood. This property was 100% occupied, and this virtual approach was utilized to respect the tenant’s wishes. Less in-person physical tours also means less distraction for our management companies, tenants and property owners. To help streamline the virtual marketing process, all documents and due diligence information is now uploaded and downloaded through an interactive document drive “Virtual War Room.” This allows for effective collaboration between all parties and counsel. This new model’s feedback has been terrific, and I do not anticipate it fading anytime in the future. And to wrap up the example, the property was placed under contract after one month of virtual marketing and closed within sixty days.

After 30 years in business, we have been through many cycles, and as a firm, we have always been able to pivot and alter our business plan to stay on the forefront of a recovery. This pandemic, however, has been drastically different as the effects have not been limited to just real estate. This pandemic is a global issue and the most vulnerable have been the residents and communities of our neighborhoods. It is imperative, now more than ever, that we continue to help support the schools, small business retailers, and residents in the communities we serve. Essex has implemented numerous initiatives to help support our community, including donating our time with Chicago HELP Initiative and donating $30,000 to Academy for Global Citizenship, a Chicago Public School on the southwest side that was short on devices for their students who must now manage virtual homeschooling.

The key to surviving this pandemic is communication -- with our clients, our brokerage team, and the neighborhoods and suburbs that make up our concentrated circle of business and friendships. Along with all of our team at Essex, I have so much confidence in Chicago and the people who choose to live, work and play here. We will all continue to navigate changes that can maintain the strong relationships we’ve proudly built over the years.

Since 1990, Essex Realty Group, Inc. has served Chicago's investment real estate market as a top multifamily real estate brokerage firm. Contact us today to learn more about our recent Chicagoland multifamily and mixed-use property sales.

Tagged in this post: Steven Livaditis