Virtually Building Relationships During Social Distancing Era

When your business thrives on relationship building, how do you pivot during a time of social distancing?

Ebby Halliday CEO and president Chris Kelly said that the umbrella of services his company offered helped quite a bit in the first few fraught weeks of the safer-at-home orders.

In addition to real estate brands that include Ebby Halliday Realtors, Dave Perry-Miller Real Estate, and Williams Trew, the company also owns Prosperity Mortgage, Home Team Insurance, and Texas Premier Title.

Having a title company in-house, for instance, meant that the company could quickly come up with a plan while waiting for Gov. Greg Abbott to sign an order that would allow notaries to witness signatures virtually.

“We would send mobile notaries who would pull into your driveway, hand you the papers with gloves on and everything, and you sign it on the hood of the car or inside your house, bring it back out to them, and they’d drive off,” Kelly explained.

A lot of things may remain after business opens back up as usual, just because they’re so much more convenient for buyers and sellers, Kelly said.

Chris Kelly

Virtual closings – which were allowed by law in 2018 – have become more common.

“Now, especially on the seller side, we can do the entire seller closing over online – and cash buyers,” Kelly explained. “And then we, in theory, should be able to do buyers as well, but the secondary lending markets are where most mortgage companies then sell the loan to, not all of them have said they’re on board with that yet – but it’s accelerating, and we hope to be there with kind of what they call a hybrid closing.

“That, to me, is one of those things that will likely be a lasting change within the real estate industry,” Kelly added. “That’s not to say that no closings will take place in person anymore, but it’s one of the things you look at and say, well, why would you not continue to do this practice even when we’re through the COVID-19 era?”

House-hunting, Kelly said, has also changed during the pandemic.

“I just think that the number of buyers that are just out there, you know, kicking tires is, it’s going to be relatively low,” he said. “I think buyers are much more mindful of the different environments they want to walk into right now.”

One other thing that is helping buyers hone their lists? Kelly said the video tours of homes have been instrumental during the pandemic.

“Something that has just become almost a stable in their toolkit right now is the video tour of the property,” he said. “Some of them are fancy, some of them are having videographers do it, and then they’re narrating or whatever, and a lot of our agents are literally just taking their iPhone, and we’ve kind of taught them all how to do it.”

See more of our conversation about the real estate market during the pandemic at

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Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, Digital Editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at [email protected].

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