As what now seems like a common occurrence everything has changed again since I last sat down to write about the industry, as we were plunged into a second nationwide lockdown of the year and all waited to see what might happen in early December.
This second lockdown has been very different to the first for the property industry, though, as the market has remained very much open for business thankfully. During the first lockdown we, along with other agents, conveyancers and contractors all ground to a halt as we tried to adapt to all the changes and regulations.
Luckily, this time around the government has given estate and letting agents along with contractors the ability to stay open, provided they are Covid secure. This means that there are not huge delays and backlogs building up, which happened in April.
We’re also in a much stronger place in terms of having plans in place and being able to adapt quickly to any changes.
At the start of the second lockdown, we worked quickly to provide alternative solutions to those looking to view properties to purchase and rent in the safest way possible. Virtual viewings and valuations were a huge help in terms of being able to provide customers with ongoing support, and have allowed us to adapt to the situation and needs of our customers in the current environment.
Even throughout the summer period when agents were open for business as normal as now can be, we still focused on virtual solutions in order to keep face-to-face physical appointments to a minimum, and we’ve received some really great feedback from all parties involved.
In October, a third of all of our property viewings were conducted virtually, and I fully expect this to be even higher in November and potentially continue to increase further into winter.
Of course, there will always be a need for physical viewings. However, providing a virtual option will reduce physical viewings to only the most serious of applicants being hugely beneficial in keeping everyone safe and saving the time of vendors and buyers.
I think it’s likely that these virtual viewings and valuations will be here to stay for a while longer, and potentially even into the ‘post-Covid world’ due to the benefit to buyers, sellers and agents.
Doing things virtually has certainly not affected the market negatively as buyer and renter activity remained healthy in October and although we’d start to expect to see a slight slowdown in November and December. it hasn’t happened yet, and may not happen at all this year.
Personally I’m not predicting that activity will drop unnoticeably when we come out of a lockdown next week.
If anything, I think we could see a slight surge as buyers and sellers focus on the small focus of opportunity before Christmas and New Year to agree sales and purchases.
*Ellie Donaghy is Head of Lettings at Andrews Property Group