Since my last column in April, one could argue that very little has changed for agents in terms of the market being on hiatus. However, at the same time, the industry has been preparing itself to embrace a new normal.
The UK will remain on lockdown until Thursday May 7 at the very least and even if restrictions are relaxed soon, it will be a long time before things return to how they were before the spread of Covid-19 took hold in March.
In recent weeks, there has been plenty of debate around whether estate agents should be allowed to reopen their offices, with some reports suggesting that due to agents' role as 'multipliers' of the economy, they could be one of the first set of businesses to reopen their doors.
It's still advised that moving home should only take place if absolutely necessary, but there is hope that this status may change in the coming weeks so the market can get going again.
Whenever this does happen, the market in which we operate will have a very different landscape. Alongside having to rebuild consumer confidence, agents will likely be tasked with carrying out their roles while observing social distancing for some months to come.
With these new challenges in mind, how can agents make sure they are the home moving expert of choice for local consumers as this new era dawns?
Continue to be adaptable
The coronavirus pandemic has forced agencies to be adaptable in order to survive. This means that to keep business ticking over, virtual viewings and market appraisals have become the norm.
When the market does resume, agents will need to adapt further. This is likely to include respecting social distancing in offices and on viewings – something which will seem alien to most of us.
One of the key things to think about will be how you show consumers that you're adapting, operating efficiently and keeping everyone safe at the same time. It will take some working out, but by adapting to a market which is operating under restrictions, you can cement your position as trustworthy and competent within your local market.
Meanwhile, it will be important for the industry to look to other countries where recovery from the pandemic is ahead of the UK to see how their agents are operating in a post-virus market. It's interesting to note that in several US states, 'realtors' have been deemed key workers.
Some of the measures there include a ban on open house viewings, a maximum of four people in a property, wearing PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), sellers vacating the property before viewings, ensuring lights are left on and cupboards are open so no-one has to touch anything, and all parties signing disclosure forms to confirm they are fit and well to attend a viewing.
Will all or some of these protective measures come into play here in the coming months? Time will tell, but agents should start thinking about these things now.
Build confidence and be reassuring
There has been much talk within the industry that the market will bounce back pretty quickly once the impact of coronavirus abates.
We are starting to see reports on market sentiment that back up the idea that demand is still there and people will be looking to move before the end of the year.
That said, we are in uncharted territory right now. We've not experienced the global economy going into freefall like this before and the ramifications it could have on domestic markets.
Therefore, at this stage, we can only honestly say that the outlook for the UK property market is uncertain.
Over the coming months, it will be important for agents to help rebuild consumer confidence, explaining why investing in property remains a good long-term proposition and demonstrating that the demand and supply needed for property to change hands is there.
It's likely that as an agent you will be required to offer lots of reassurance throughout the reminder of 2020; how you do this will be important to how your brand is perceived by consumers for the long-term.
And while it pays to be positive during times like these, market reports should be tempered with a tone of realism, acknowledging the unprecedented and uncertain situation we find ourselves in.
Nail the balance between people and tech
Since the government's lockdown restrictions were imposed towards the end of March, technology has certainly been a friend to agents, helping them to stay in touch with consumers and generate leads for future transactions.
And when the market does resume, who's to say that some of these newly popular practices - such as virtual viewings and valuations – won’t become more commonplace?
One thing that will always ring true is that property is a people business and having a stellar team with an exemplary personal approach should always be at the core of your brand.
For the remainder of this year and possibly beyond, the personal service side of being an agent may be more important than ever - particularly when you consider the points above relating to reassurance and rebuilding confidence.
Unfortunately, many agencies have had to furlough large numbers of staff to stay afloat. One silver lining of this is that it may have helped business owners to work out which tasks can be successfully automated and where the need for the best people lies. This will hopefully allow some businesses to become more efficient while offering the best possible service in the future.
It’s clear that post-lockdown, getting the balance between technology and personal service will be key to the success of every agency.
As we look forward to the next stage of tackling the coronavirus and how this impacts our industry, keep safe and remain positive where possible.
You can read more about my thoughts on coronavirus and its after-effect on the market on the Move iQ website here.
*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.