Micro-Interview With Barak Dunayer
We are thrilled to have Barak Dunayer kick off our new micro-interview* series with some of America's leading experts in the fields of real estate, healthcare, government, and more.
*A micro-interview, as the name would suggest, is a new, shorter, more concise form of an interview, born of and designed for the TL;DR age.
Barak Dunayer started his real estate career in 1999 out of his tiny Upper West Side studio apartment and subsequently built his successful agency- BARAK Realty- into one of Manhattan's premier boutique firms, including two Manhattan offices, over 40 sales associates, 400 transactions per year and over $500,000,000 in volume. In 2012, his company was acquired by Halstead Real Estate and in 2019, Dunayer, one of Halstead's top-producing agents, partnered with the award-winning Jacky Teplitzky Team at Douglas Elliman Real Estate which is consistently ranked among Douglas Elliman's leading teams.
Back in March, New York City became the nation's COVID-19 epicenter. Thankfully, the city has since rebounded, but in what distinct ways has this crisis impacted the New York City real estate market?
In order to describe the current real estate situation, we usually use terms like "Business Unusual" or "the New Abnormal". During the height of the crisis, we've often heard that NYC is dead, but we preferred to think of it as a "temporary coma." The worst of it was from mid-March until late June (specifically June 22nd, which we vividly remember as if it's our birthday or anniversary..) when real estate brokers were prohibited from showing properties. Although we managed to make some deals during this time using technology, virtual showings, etc., generally, people want to see, touch, and feel the property in person prior to buying it – and frankly, who can blame them? NY has experienced many challenges before, but it seems as if this present crisis is a combination of multiple challenges: Like the 2008 financial crisis, there is rising poverty and unemployment, like 9/11 – it's a mass casualty event bearing psychological trauma and shaking people's feeling of safety living in a congested urban environment. Like the 1970s, city governments face a fiscal crisis with a drastic reduction in tax revenues. Since June 22nd, we've actually seen a fairly solid uptick in our market activity as buyers who believe in the city's longer-term potential recognized and capitalized on the opportunities offered by lower prices and historically low interest rates. There are talks of "mass migration" from the city to the suburbs, but we think it's mostly people who've already been thinking about leaving before COVID or people who are spending more time or buying new second homes without giving up their NYC residences. Things are starting to settle into the "New Abnormal." Activity grew towards the end of the summer as families started coming back to the city from their summer homes, school started (albeit in many places remotely), and the residential neighborhoods took on a charming vibe with outdoor dining. Overall, people have short memories for bad events; the city has rebounded before, and it will rebound again.
"Like the 2008 financial crisis, there is rising poverty and unemployment, like 9/11 – it's a mass casualty event bearing psychological trauma and shaking people's feeling of safety living in a congested urban environment."
Your newsletter "The Jackey & Barak Report" is fantastic. I personally really like your video series of virtual tours around the city. What other methods/tools do you use to engage with your clients and prospects other than email-marketing?
Thank you for that. We invest a lot of resources in our newsletter because we understand people's need to be informed, especially in times like this. You can actually sign up for our newsletter here. We also receive great feedback on our videos, and we very much enjoy making them. We make sure we don't produce just another real estate video only showing the property, but engage with our audience, giving them insights as to who we are personally and professionally, occasionally making them laugh. We have substantial marketing and engagement tools at our disposal, we have a team-dedicated marketing director on our payroll, and we use digital advertising, physical and virtual brochures, mailings, magazine ads, PR, videos, email marketing, and more. Here’s a brief preview of who we are and how we do it.
"We make sure we don't make just another real estate video only showing the property, but engage with our audience, giving them insight about who we are personally and professionally and occasionally making them laugh."
Speaking of virtual tours, in March, Redfin reported a 494% increase in requests for agent-led virtual home tours, and Zillow said it saw a 191% increase in the creation of 3D home tours. Has Douglas Elliman been experiencing a similar demand? And do you think virtual home tours and 3D home tours are here to stay post-COVID-19?
I'm not surprised by these numbers. Virtual tours, 3D, videos – they were all around before COVID-19, and they’ll be here to stay after it's over. The difference is the demand, which soared since you couldn't show properties in person. Another key difference is in the dramatic range of quality because a lot of agents started making amateur videos on their iPhones, while the pros continued to make professional videos and strived to elevate them even higher. Our team was doing our high-quality videos before COVID, and we were able to further establish ourselves as a leading brand by increasing their quantity and furthering their distribution. All these tools are excellent, but there is no substitute for seeing the property in person! But I do expect these tools to stay post COVID because they make our lives easier.
"Another key difference is in the dramatic range of quality because a lot of agents started making amateur videos on their iPhones, while the pros continued to make professional videos and strived to elevate them even higher."
Do you think the digital experience for prospective homeowners and sellers is where it needs to be? What types of technologies or services would you like to see in the mix?
I think there are plenty of tools on the market, but you keep seeing the tools get better, cheaper and more widely distributed. In new development projects, where there are hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of real estate to sell, you see more advanced tools than what the average real estate agent can produce, including view shots from every floor, virtual reality tours, and other simulator-type tools. They were there before COVID because these developers had always tried to pre-sell units before the building was completed and physical showings were possible. I believe that as the technology becomes more advanced and more accessible, some of it will start filtering down to re-sale transactions as well.
"I think there are plenty of tools on the market, but you keep seeing the tools get better, cheaper and more widely distributed."
Lastly, what's the best book/film/tv show/podcast/recipe (choose one or more!) you've discovered during these long months of staying home and socially distancing? :)
At the beginning of the lockdown, we did a lot more cooking, and every meal was a hearty affair. After a few weeks of that, we had to cut back as we were gaining too much weight… We were able to catch up on some Netflix shows, including Shtisel and Fauda, and lately, given the elections, it was mostly news and political talk shows.
Want to learn more about the intersection of technology and real estate? Visit our conversational AI for real estate page, or check out our blog for more thought pieces on digital transformation in real estate.