From Propy’s weekly webinar Episode #27 is with Staige Davis, CEO of Four Seasons Sotheby’s International Realty.

Staige Davis, CEO of Four Seasons Sotheby’s International Realty in Vermont and New Hampshire, along with Propy’s CEO Natalia Karayaneva and William Dickey, Tech advisor, discuss the surprising results his offices are having amid the pandemic. Staige shares its market metrics through August 2020 and explains the factors that have contributed to their success.

A little background

Currently, we have 15 offices located in Vermont and New Hampshire, 200+ agents, and a full-time staff of 40+. We are the #2 brokerage in this area.

The big surprise during the pandemic

We are having our best year ever. This is so unexpected because we were completely shut down for the first two months of the pandemic. We didn’t have any showings; we weren’t allowed to go into any homes to take listing photos. Even though in May 2020, we were doing very little business.

Factors that have contributed to our success

Some of it is basic – merely keeping in touch. I used to drive 35,000 miles a year to visit all the offices.  Now, I am having a “town hall” style Zoom meetings with all our associations. Initially, we did those weekly, but everyone is too busy right now, so we have those monthly. I believe it’s more critical than ever to communicate with my associates, vendors, and customers regularly. We are also a Ninja company and follow those principles.

The trends that are impacting the local market

First, people want to feel safe during the pandemic. The larger cities are frequently a hotspot for COVID, so many people want to move to smaller communities. I’m seeing many people who already own second homes in Vermont are starting to put many improvements in those properties to make them year-round residences and make plans to live here full time. Along with this is the civil unrest we see in many large cities. Again, people want to feel safe. Secondly, I’m seeing many people from the west coast visiting and inquiring about properties here because of the wildfires. After three bad fire seasons in a row, many people are making moves across the country to be in an area not impacted by wildfires. And third, Vermont is frequently being cited as an example of how to handle the virus effectively, and we continue to have the lowest rates in the country.

Some challenges we’ve experienced

Property sales are at the highest level they’ve been since 2016, and we have less than two months’ inventory. Because we couldn’t see homes in person at the start of the pandemic, we had to ask the sellers to take their photos.  We have a strict quarantine rule still in place, so if you’re visiting this area from a county with more than 400 cases per million, you must quarantine for two weeks. Because of that, we’ve done showings on Facetime — and we’ve even had a few properties go under contract without the buyer ever seeing the property. Closings were initially helped in the law firms’ parking lot — people would sign the paperwork in their cars.

Tech tools are the answer

We are using a lot of different technologies to market properties. Social media has been essential, especially Facebook. We use a live chat service on the website for lead gen. Other tools we’ve found useful are MoxiWorks, Matterport, Dotloop, along with Zoom and Facetime. We also send out digital flipbooks every couple of weeks to our mailing list, which has been very popular.

“Propy is going to become a vital tool to use as we move forward.”

What the future holds

I expected to see the market start to slow down three weeks ago, but it hasn’t yet. We’ll be redesigning office spaces shortly, as I don’t think many people will be working in the office as before. Retail markets are already changing, with more people shopping online.

“These are challenging times, and my philosophy is “make hay while the sun shines.”