As restrictions are set to ease further on 1st June, it is a good time to reflect on the effect that the Covid-19 onslaught has had on the real estate industry.
Most Agencies went into a mini panic when the first wave of lockdowns, business closures and social distancing rules were handed out.
As a Principal, the concerns were for the welfare of their staff, vendors, buyers, tenants, landlords and the financial pressures that it caused with an indefinite timeframe on restrictions at that time. What ensued was an adaptation almost overnight to a remote work life with many agencies & agents left wondering what their future would hold.
We experienced properties being withdrawn from market, buyers easing back on viewing homes and some buyers and even vendors pulling out of progressing purchases.
There were no physical open homes allowed, only virtual opens. Auctions had to be taken online, which caused a lot of additional problems for those agents and agencies who were not so tech savvy and who may not have had the resources & knowledge to enable this.
Additional to all of this was the affect that the Pandemic had on the market overall, with property prices falling in some areas and rising in others. With the uncertainty as to the length of time we would have to work under these new regimes, a lot of Principals were forced to cut costs and that included reducing staffing in some instances, with a lot of agents finding themselves moving to a Commission only based pay structure. Now, as we slowly move out of these times, it has been interesting to watch the transition back to what was considered “normal” and into what is now looking like the “new” normal for a real estate agency.
Although it is a fact that a lot of agents were already working remotely before the Pandemic hit, particularly with the progression of technology and the rising surge of Contract Agents within the industry becoming more prevalent, many are choosing to forego the travel time to an office every day now that they know they have the ability to work as effectively from home.
Coming out of the restrictions, those self motivated agents & support staff who have the capacity to work from home or a workspace are finding it more appealing to continue to do this and it’s possible that this culture will remain in place for many agents and agencies. There is still huge value and necessity in getting your team together for meetings, events, training and team bonding but the need to sit in an office to do your prospecting, reporting & day to day activities is not so important – as long as you are committed and organised when you are working elsewhere.
There can be many benefits in this. The first is that it allows more work/life balance, which in turn can reduce stress levels in employees. It also means less travel time in their day & it can reduce the overheads for business owners in not having to supply the resources daily for those staff members working remotely.
And Auctions are back thank goodness! Whilst online Auctions can be beneficial in certain circumstances, nothing can generate emotion like face to face competition.
The same goes for Open Homes & guided buyer inspections. Being able to walk through a home is 100% more emotive and satisfying for a buyer than seeing it on a screen. However, the ban on open homes has taken us back to the good old days where all inspections were done privately. I remember driving buyers around for hours looking at a variety of properties.
Whilst this sounds and is in fact often a total waste of time, what it did do was to give us the best understanding possible of the buyers likes and dislikes, what they were looking for as opposed to what they really wanted and their honest feedback on each property through conversation and the build up of trust you gain. Spending time in the car with people allows you to build a relationship which can result in a client for life if it’s done right.
We have so much information available on the internet these days that we don’t need to waste hours showing every property to every buyer. But a lot of agents, especially those who have come into the industry in the past 15 years when open homes have really become the norm for buyer inspections, have come to realise the value in one on one inspections and so for many, this will continue.
Agents and Agencies alike will be more adept at change now that we have had to adjust to a different way almost overnight. There will be a whole new level of respect & appreciation for the cleanliness & hygienic standards for both buyers and sellers through our learning about the inherent risk of having people in homes and confined spaces when infectious disease could be passed on. It is inevitablethat some degree of social distancing and sanitisation at opens and auctions will remain in place for most.
So, whilst it will still be a long road to recovery, the real estate industry is one of the lucky ones. The need for people to transact property will never disappear and we are fortunate enough to have the technology and support enabling a contactless approach to fulfilling that need when and if we are hit with a second wave of Corona Virus or some other infectious disease in the future.
But it’s important to note that the need for the human factor will never change in real estate. Building relationships is the foundation of all that we do and face to face contact is the only real way to do that effectively. And this has been indicative through the most recent Auction clearance rates which hit 70.9% last week.
Buyer confidence is back and that, combined with the new appreciation for freedom people have and the proposed Government incentive & stimulus packages to help boost the building and property sector, have had a hugely positive impact in the marketplace.
Written by Marnie Beauchamp & Mitchell Angel.
Business Growth & Sales Performance Strategists.
Licensed Real Estate Agents.