So while we await the Prime Minister’s update on easing the lockdown, some things are becomming increasingly obvious. The first is that Valerie and I are cooking a lot more fresh food than we did in “commuter times”, another is that our dogs are getting truly spoilt with lots of long walks and fuss. Thirdly, there are only so many cups of tea you can drink in one day, at a time when boiling the kettle has become an “event”.
Some things that are not so obvious are how and when the lock down will lift, and how the market will operate. What will the new normal look like? There are lots of estate agents in the Rugby and Lutterworth area selling “miracle cures” like video viewings, but the industry guidance has been updated to say that digital copies of these must be kept for compliance, and that they shouldn’t be relied upon when entering a sale/letting contract and that physical viewings must occur before any “deals” are done. So basically they are a nice extra, but are no replacement for a physical viewing. We find them most useful for “pre-qualifying” serious viewers, especially for character properties and luxury homes to establish a basic level of interest from potential viewers.
“Video valuations” (or “market appraisals” as us non-RICS valuers should call them) are a nice gateway to meeting a potential new client, but the vendor could make the wrong choice of agent based on the price/fee offered, or a misunderstanding of services offered by the agent. Content and context can be difficult in face to face meetings, and even harder to convey on a video link! There’s also the risk of not being able to advise properly when it comes to luxury homes or character property in the Warwickshire and South Leicestershire area. These properties can vary wildly in age, size, condition and location. “Proper” advice on home staging, plot splitting or converting outbuildings, for example can only be given after a proper site inspection. They are a great way of keeeping in contact with retained clients, and assessing projects, (so like in the dating world), I wouldn’t be commiting to contracts or expenses on the strength of a video meeting although they may make you feel comfortable enough to go ahead with a “second date, or maybe not if they don’t like you on video!
Then there are estate and letting agency staff and office premises. Many property industry “coaches” and “gurus” are selling two main “game changes” in the way property agencies operate. The first is essentially getting rid of staff and replacing them with self employed associates (sales reps basically). This can create a “not my job” culture as there is no concentric “why” or “team spirit”. The other trend is shutting offices (working either from hubs or non-geographically from home or Costa for example) to save and therefore make more money with less overheads. The problem with being too “virtual” is that you are replacing yourself, in my opinion. This is fine for “stack ’em up” agents who sell high volumes of low(er) value stock, where there is little to differentiate between the properties, or the agent, but not so easy when dealing with character properties and luxury homes. There is something to be said however for having a “hub” that the public can still use, and making use of staff’s geographical locations to create property experts (we call them local specialists as EVERYONE seems to be an expert these days) that focus on an area/community they live in. More on that in a future article!
What is looking likely is that there will be changes in the way we do business, and I believe they will look like this, which is taken from an article in the industry publication “the negotiator online” with NAEA (National Association of Estate Agents) chairman Mark Hayward;
- Viewings will not last more than 15 minutes.
- PPE will have to be worn
- Sellers will need to have PPE and have disinfected the property prior to viewing particularly door handles.
- Only two adults per viewing.
- Viewings will have to be staggered – days of ‘open houses’ are over.
- No hot desking (working between different desks)
- Screens between work stations.
- Separate in and out doors.
- All surfaces disinfected regularly.
- In-branch and appraisal/viewings staff separated.
- Protective equipment to be supplied to staff.
Whatever the future holds we will still commit to supporting our vulnerable clients and public that need our “High Street” office. We will still be a “Refill” point (so you will still be able to get fresh drinking water for free in the town centre), and we will continue to help and support the local community, other local businesses and those local heroes that continue to suppot and champion our local area.
We will continue to be active with the Scout’s Christmas post, by being a drop off point in the town centret, support the Rotary Spring Fair (and other events), Round Table Fireworks Night (and other events), local business networking groups and much more. We wil continue to coordinate CORVID-19 response projects in our towns and villages, and volunteer to the help the emergency services and local homeless/housing projects. One thing I do know is that you can’t do all that via video.