Hello, and we trust you had as good a weekend as possible in these difficult circumstances.
As we start a new week please remember - we’re here to help you on a daily basis with appropriate advice and guidance for the industry. If you have information to share, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There’s solid advice about working from home at the end of this story but we begin with more offers and services from suppliers and services.
Simply Conveyancing is hosting a webinar at 3pm today - it will be discussing Exchanges and Completions during the Coronavirus LockDown – Everything Estate Agents Need to Know.
The agenda includes which sales can go ahead and why; what other options are available other than standard exchanges and completions; what can't be done and why; And how to progress files during this period.
Agents can register at https://us04web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_W8qwLGQBT7yKBk4IBcafKQ
The portal Propertyheads, which already allows agents to list properties for free, is now supplying up to 300 very local homeowner and landlord connections to every agent on its social platform for free.
The man behind the portal, Ben Davis, says: “Furthermore, we are giving all our agents 100 per cent organic reach so they can market their entire brand/business (not just their listings) to local home movers.” If you want to know more, contact Ben at email@example.com.
And the portals in OneDome Group - onedome and nethouseprices - have introduced a new functionality to allow prospective home buyers and tenants to request a virtual viewing for properties.
Consumers now have an option to request a virtual viewing from an agent via mainstream video conferencing solutions like Zoom, Bluejeans or Skype.
The service is completely free of charge for agents and was built to help agents keep their businesses going during the lockdown.
In a short time the cloud-based platform teclet has become popular with agents, property managers, landlords and tenants.
teclet already charges no fees for coming on board and has now extended its free trial period to five months for agents and property managers.
Before the current crisis, nearly 40 per cent of interactions with the teclet platform were taking place outside of normal business hours - ideal for remote working.
Gas Tag has launched a new feature to support housing providers and compliance contractors.
The sector has been advised that it should continue to carry out gas and safety checks as normal although if providers are unable to complete the work due to COVID-19, they are required to keep records and evidence.
Therefore Gas Tag has launched a new feature that allows the contractor to mark an unable to access (UTA) due to self-isolation.
This information can then be used along with the geo-tagged and time-stamped photographic evidence to demonstrate that reasonable efforts have been made to attend a property and carry out the safety checks.
Finally today some extensive and extremely useful advice on how to work remotely from home. You may already be comfortable with this new way of operating but these tips from the Guild of Property Professionals may offer a few things you hadn’t thought of…
Set up a workspace at home: “It is not always easy to get in the zone and stay focused when working from home, especially if it’s out of your normal routine. Ideally, if you have an extra bedroom or space to set up a dedicated workspace it would help. This could include using a room divider to section a room into a separate work area” advises chief executive Iain McKenzie.
At all costs avoid working in bed. Failure to separate your work area from where you sleep will result in sleepless nights and drowsiness during the day.
Useful business tools required for remote working: There are a few essential tools that agents will require to ensure their business continues while working remotely:
- A high-speed internet connection is key, especially for video meetings.
- Digital versions of all documents required for transactions, ideally PDF versions.
- An electronic signature platform such as DocuSign.
- A social media and digital marketing plan.
- A platform such as Dropbox to share photos, videos, virtual tours or transaction-related documents.
- A phone or tablet with a good quality camera, a tripod, and microphone.
Ensure you have all your passwords: Make sure you have all the passwords for the online systems you need day to day, particularly if you've relied on your computer at work to remember them for you. If your company doesn't provide a central password management tool, search 'password manager' for a range of options you could use.
From a data protection point of view, The Guild’s in-house compliance officer advises that all staff members working remotely will need to confirm that their device is password protected and that anti-virus software is installed. He notes that no files or documents should be saved onto the staff member’s personal PC or device, and when not in use work devices must always be locked.
Collaborative remote working tools: Maintaining communication with vendors, buyers, landlords and tenants is essential. Your company email system may well include lots of tools for collaborative remote working and video conferencing, so explore what you already have access to, such as Google GSuite or Microsoft Office 365. Otherwise, many standalone options are available, including Slack, Zoom, GoToMeeting - lots of suppliers have introduced special pricing at the moment
“The Guild currently uses Microsoft Teams as an internal communication platform to conduct meetings, conference calls and project management, as well as a number of other functions,” adds McKenzie.
Facebook is another platform that agents can use to communicate virtually. “Paul Offley is using Facebook as the platform to present his ‘Compliance Surgery’ live streams each month to ensure Guild Members are kept up to date with the latest legislative changes and various other compliance-related topics,” says McKenzie.
Video conferencing and calls: “Video requires a good internet connection,” says McKenzie. “If you're video conferencing a lot, you may find it beneficial to use a cable to plug directly into your broadband router rather than relying on WiFi, particularly if others in the house may be using the WiFi for streaming music or films.”
Before your first meeting, make sure you test your audio setup, particularly your microphone. It is important to check that you are using the right microphone, for example, if there's one in your laptop and one in a separate webcam you've plugged in - the software will typically have a ‘setting’ or 'devices' option.
Certain laptop microphones need you to be in the right place to pick you up clearly, others pick up a lot of noise from the room around you and you may find you're better off using a headset or separate microphone.
To minimise feedback, mute your microphone if you're not speaking. Sometimes even quiet background noise can result in the person who is speaking being cut off for others in the call - but remember to unmute yourself when you want to speak! Also, be aware of potential delays for some people on the call, allow space for people to contribute.
Pay attention to what appears on the screen behind you. Many tools allow you to blur the background but play it safe and don't rely on that working 100%.
Treat a video call the same as a physical meeting: Try to keep focused on the call - you probably wouldn't check your email or Twitter while in a physical meeting, so avoid it when meeting remotely too.
Be supportive of others on the call. Many of the usual helpful cues for a speaker will be missing, and it's much harder to judge how what you're saying is being taken. In some cases, a user won't be able to hear sounds from other participants while they're talking; again, leave gaps for others and check your gestures are visible on camera
Things will go wrong, so jump in quickly to tell somebody if they've left themselves on mute. If somebody has problems with their internet connection, give it a few seconds to resolve and ask them to recap. If problems persist, it's often better to reschedule, allowing space for them to resolve the problem, rather than struggle and have the technology dominate the conversation instead of the business you scheduled the meeting for.
For more information on conducting your business remotely while still winning business, The Guild will be conducting Facebook Live sessions in their Members Group every day at 1pm.
That’s it for today - we’re back tomorrow as usual, Conquering Corona with the industry...