Helen Rodgers spoke to Nottingham estate agents to see how the coronavirus has affected their organisations and what they expect in the coming months.
With only 24 hours notice before the lockdown began, estate agents were told to stop everything and close their doors, leading to a halt in sales negotiations and some companies losing sales as people were unable to move in somewhere new.
This has had a significant impact on estate agents, despite the boom the industry saw in the first few months of 2020 post-Brexit.
However, many organisations have been able to continue letting properties. “We were able to work from home easily and we managed to keep the ball rolling with our lettings,” said James Tristram, director at Tristram’s Sales and Lettings in Bramcote.
“We also managed to secure a few lets with key workers and NHS professionals as some people had to relocate.”
The coronavirus lockdown has forced estate agents to adapt and many have implemented virtual tours to satisfy clients. “Virtual tours have been useful as they ensure that the viewers are genuinely interested in the property,” said Robert Pitick, 44, director at Fairview Estates in West Bridgford.
Mark Hayward, chief executive at the National Association of Estate Agents Propertymark, believes that video tours will become more commonplace even after the pandemic.
“A house viewing should include warts and all,” he said. “Normally, digital 360 tours are designed to flatter the property and sometimes even utilise creative editing to show the property at its best. However, during physical viewings you would look behind the curtains, under the rug and you would search for signs of damp or mould, so virtual house viewings in the future will have to fully represent the property with all its good and bad features too.”
Estate agents are now allowed to offer physical tours of properties according to guidelines from the government and Right Move, but these also come with specific regulations to keep all parties safe, including strict social distancing, a lot of disinfecting, and a rule that only people from one household can view at a time.
Since the lockdown has been eased, many estate agents in Nottingham returned to work on Monday May 18 and have encountered significant changes to the way they operate within the workplace too.
“We have completely rearranged the office to adhere to social distancing rules and we have sanitising stations and instructions about keeping clean around the office,” said Richard Cardwell, 49, senior valuer at Walton and Allen in the Lace Market. “We also had a team meeting before we returned to work to make sure we are doing things properly and safely.”
There have been changes regarding interactions with clients too. Gone are the days of open houses and open door policies as estate agents are currently working on an appointment-only basis.
“The majority of contract signings will be done online and the handing over of keys will be more like throwing keys at a client from a safe distance,” said Robert Pitick.
However, despite the damage that coronavirus has caused the housing market, estate agents are still optimistic about the future of the industry.
“The lockdown has caused families to be stuck indoors which makes people realise they either need more space or have too much space,” said James Tristram. “The coronavirus has also caused a surge in divorces and, of course, deaths so there has been an increase in both supply and demand since we returned to work.”
But, there are other factors that estate agents depend on to sell houses such as mortgages.
“The worry for me is bank lending,” said Richard Cardwell. “If the banks support the industry and offer people loans that allow them to move then we should be fine. If they don’t do that then it will have a significant impact on the market.”
The future also looks bright for estate agents as Mark Hayward expects house prices to rise due to the increased demand post-coronavirus.
Robert Pitick said, “It is likely to be a bumpy ride for the next few months, but it should all work out.”