I won't be the first or last person to say that society and the property industry in which we operate is facing unprecedented and uncertain times.
At the time of writing this column, the latest government advice is that agents are not essential businesses and therefore that offices must be closed. On top of this, current transactions should be delayed where possible to adhere to social distancing rules, unless a vacant property is involved in which case transactions can go ahead with the necessary safety precautions in place.
This will translate to a quiet period for most agents, unable to do the majority of their day-to-day tasks and fulfil their ultimate objective of getting people moving.
Right now, we don't know what's on the other side but there is hope that when things return to normal (whatever that may be), the demand from the first two months of the year could still be there and the market can start to recover. We'll just have to wait and see.
In the meantime, there are a range of things you can do to make sure you keep in contact with existing and prospective clients, giving your business the best possible chance to hit the ground running when normal life resumes.
You’re still a trusted source of advice
During this time of uncertainty, buyers and sellers will be looking to you to provide information on the moving process. For example, whether they can continue with their transaction, what happens to their mortgage offer and so on.
Things have been moving very quickly, so there will be an appetite among consumers for regular updates from agents. These could come in the form of company emails, blogs, social media posts, recorded video updates or video check-ins with specific clients.
It’s important to show consumers that you’re still active and that you’re on top of developing situations. Remember – you are the professionals when it comes to moving home so during times like these, when the market isn’t operating normally, your insight will be greatly appreciated by home movers.
Helping consumers get ready to move will be key
Traditionally, agents' communications and advice focuses on encouraging people to put their homes on the market or for prospective buyers to organise viewings.
At the moment, however, it could be beneficial to tweak your messaging to advise consumers on how to prepare to move when they are able to do so again.
For sellers, the key piece of advice is for them to ensure they are doing all they can to get their home in tip-top condition for when the market resumes. With lots of properties likely to become active in the market again at the same time, standing out from the crowd will be especially important.
With most people at home for the foreseeable future and no sport on the telly, there is no better time for sellers to tackle that list of jobs they've been meaning to get round to - it could make all the difference in a few months' time. Feel free to share our guides on home selling first impressions and what you need to know when selling with your clients.
For prospective buyers, it could be a good time to get their budgeting in order and researching the various mortgage options available to them. For example, guidance on the recent base interest rate cuts could be very handy for this demographic.
It will also be important to update them on how the current situation affects the mortgage market over time. Many lenders may struggle to accurately assess the borrowing capacity of individual buyers in a post-virus marketplace. As well as their need to be confident of a property's value, lenders will also want to be confident of a borrower's income prospects going forward as so many businesses have been affected.
During this period, filling the gap with advice helping people to get ready to move can keep your brand front of mind for when the market resumes.
Good databases will be more valuable than ever
While you're unable to get deals over the line, having a healthy database which provides you with a pipeline of future business will be vital.
By reaching out to your database with some of the advice ideas outlined above, you can keep people engaged and interested in the moving process. And, by continuing relevant marketing campaigns, you can also add to your database, providing you with new opportunities to pursue over the coming months.
Now is also a great time to review your database management - is it managed efficiently? Could you nurture prospective clients more effectively? Taking a step back to look at how your database and communications are operating could allow you to hit the market with a leaner proposition when the hiatus is over.
Ask me your questions
Like most people, I currently find myself with more time on my hands than usual as my busy filming schedule has been temporarily put on hold.
Ahead of the Covid-19 pandemic, my team and I started work on Move iQ Pro, an online resource to support and connect with our property community. We're continuing to work on this but I'd love to hear from you in advance and start a conversation - please join me here and let's talk!
For now, with uncertainty hanging over the market for an undefined period, the only thing to do is make the best of things as you see them today. We’re all in this together and we will find a way through.
*Phil Spencer is a presenter, author, businessman and property investor. Phil’s consumer advice platform Move iQ, is a website, YouTube channel and podcast. Each preserve and reflect the same impartiality that consumers trust and base their property moving plans. Coming soon: Move iQ Pro, Phil’s resource to support the property community. Stay tuned ready for launch – sign-up here.