Real estate agent Ashley Farrell had to take a different approach to showing and listing houses during the pandemic, by ulitizing FaceTime and social media. Credit: Morgan Campbell

Ashley Farrell has a new mantra, "adapt and overcome." This philosophy has guided her throughout the pandemic.

From March until June of last year, Farrell’s business shut down. The associate real estate broker for Corcoran in Westhampton Beach says her first instinct was damage control. "What did I need to do to stay afloat?"

Like real estate salespeople across Long Island, she had to find a way to meet the needs of her clients without in-person showings. There was a major obstacle. "How to show real estate without getting in the home?"

Her solution was to teach clients how to create videos and to collaborate on putting together virtual tours. "Not everyone was comfortable with technology, so there was a lot of trial and error. It was frustrating for clients and me."

She relied on her clients’ homemade cellphone videos as "showings." "Believe it or not, a few homes were sold. One man, with only a video made by the owner, bid $150,000 over the asking price without even seeing the home in person. However, I didn’t want to find myself in that position again. I shifted my focus heavily toward technology."

Farrell, who hasn’t been to a closing in person in over a year, says the pandemic completely changed her business. Without a deep dive into technology it would have struggled to survive.

How did you adapt?

Pre-COVID, it was sufficient to have 10 to 15 still photos, a 2D floor plan, and perhaps a few aerial photos. Now, my standard checklist before launching a property includes 15 to 20 still photos, six drone photos, 2D floor plan, 3D Matterport interactive floor plans and tour, full home virtual showing with voice-over, and countless short "detail" videos for social media. I’ve moved away from the "less is more" philosophy.

How do you use social media?

The transition to social media was dramatic. In addition to my pre-pandemic Instagram and LinkedIn postings, I now have a YouTube channel, am a TikToker and regularly post Reels. I’ve found success with featuring full home virtual tours on YouTube, received positive feedback with TikToks and Reels with under-15-second snippets of home details. I’ve sold and rented homes because a buyer or renter saw the listing on Instagram. Technology’s reach is endless.

What was most challenging?

I’m in my 20s, I thought I was tech savvy. I ate humble pie. At first it took me so many hours to make one video. I work with six to seven apps to make videos, and I’m still learning. It was also tough that neither the owner nor I could be present when the photographer took the photos for the listing. The photographer couldn’t touch anything and sometimes things need to be moved out of the way or rearranged. Usually I would be there to make sure everything was picture-perfect. We reopened last June with many restrictions. It was chaotic at times because the Hamptons market was hot, hot, hot. I could only show the home with the owners and one party at a time. People were lined up on the walkway waiting to see the home.

With last week's lifting of the remaining pandemic restrictions, will you keep the new things in place?

I will 100% keep them. My sellers love all the exposure and the 3D tours. My 2020 business was triple that of 2019. The market is still hot. This year should be good, though not as great as 2020. Adapting to the "new normal" helped my business stand out from those reluctant to change.

What did the last year teach you?

You can’t get too comfortable. Be ready and willing to change. Whatever life throws you, deal with it – adapt and overcome.

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