South Florida brokerages go virtual during coronavirus pandemic

Keyes, Cervera and Coldwell Banker remain open, though encouraging remote work

A fictional text conversation
A fictional text conversation

“Send me the Zoom meeting invite.” “Let’s talk over Slack.” “Can we do the property tour over FaceTime?”

Brokerages in South Florida are starting to close their brick-and-mortar locations temporarily due to the coronavirus pandemic, with reopening dates to be determined. And if they’re not closed yet, agents and employees are encouraged to work from home to reduce the spread of the virus.

Those that have temporarily closed all of their physical locations in South Florida include One Sotheby’s International Realty, Douglas Elliman and Brown Harris Stevens Miami.

The Keyes Company is keeping its offices open. Mike Pappas, owner of the Keyes group of companies, said the offices are being sanitized twice a day, and hand sanitizer and wipes are plentiful. He sent out a memo to his companies, which include Keyes and Illustrated Properties, on internal office measures, with advice on how to conduct listings, how to reach out to buyers and sellers, and open house practices.

“We’re feeling very good because we’re virtual. Our associates are equipped to be able to handle business in a virtual world,” Pappas said. That includes closings.

Keyes has 58 offices with more than 3,000 agents in six counties in Florida, including Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach.

Pappas said that new listings are down, but overall first quarter closings are up compared to last year. “It’s clearing out the non-motivated and the motivated buyers and sellers,” he said.

Brown Harris Stevens Miami has closed its four offices in Coconut Grove, South Miami, and two in Miami Beach, but remains “functional and operational” thanks to technology, said Phil Gutman, president of the brokerage.

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“A lot of people are now requesting a virtual tour or 3-D walk-through,” Gutman said. He’s encouraging his agents to proceed with caution when setting up tours of properties.

One Sotheby’s has closed its 18 offices in South Florida, but is fully operational via a remote work plan.

Elliman, which closed its offices nationwide temporarily, is extending the closures through at least the end of March. The company spent two days disinfecting its locations, and agents and staff are being instructed to work remotely.

Coldwell Banker is implementing social distancing policies for agents and staff in all of its 80 Florida offices. Most employees have been told to work from home beginning on Monday until at least the end of the month. For those still working out of the company’s brick and mortar offices, Coldwell Banker has upped its daily cleaning and sanitization efforts.

Cervera Real Estate is also enforcing a social distancing policy, limiting all in-person meetings and temporarily suspending its Cervera Academy classes, the latter of which will be offered via video conferencing. The Brickell-based brokerage is asking its agents to work remotely until further notice, and only go to the office to pick up or deliver checks. It’s also suspending non-essential travel for staff, and formed an internal task force to monitor the situation.

Cervera decided on Monday morning to postpone its annual corporate summit, which was scheduled to take place April 21, according to a spokesperson.

“We are also encouraging associates to utilize our video conferencing systems to conduct meetings, presentations and webinars remotely (with domestic and foreign clients/co-brokers) as needed,” the spokesperson wrote via email.

Pappas said the increase in remote work is “going to take creativity and is going to help us think through the new model of our business.”

“Some of these behaviors will stay with us,” he said. “This will change the way we do business.”