The Covid-19 crisis hasn’t caused the revolution it has been reported to have. Despite the challenges it has brought, fundamentally, the inherent nature of estate agency has not changed.
Yes, the use of technology has increased over the last few months but from my perspective, Covid-19 has reinforced that great agents are paid to be the consistent conduit of information in their marketplace at all times.
And for their clients on the market, an agent’s job is to get the absolute very best price that they possibly can. Whether it’s on a Zoom, on Facebook, in a letter or over the phone, the importance of the quality and relevancy of the information that you are providing people with hasn’t changed at all.
When it boils down to it, estate agents should be thinking to themselves: “What can I tell Mr and Mrs Jones about their local market today?” Or “What do I need to do today to move Tim and Sally closer to making an offer?” Or “What do I need to do today to give my vendors the information that they need to know to be able to make a decision to move forward?”
An agent's job will always be to give the best quality communication and the best advice. Read that again. Covid-19 has drawn a line in the sand and right now, we’re seeing a turning point in our industry where the best agents will start valuing themselves more, which will lead to the broader market responding in kind.
This is a golden opportunity for agents to reinforce to their clients that great communication and great advice makes a difference. With people re-evaluating their home situation after being stuck indoors for two months (I know my wife and I are, for any North London agents reading), it’s the agents who adapt their communications, and show empathy to these situations, that will thrive both in the short and long-term.
We’ll see an increased desire for non-metropolitan living and more value placed on private outdoor space. At Homesearch, we’re betting that the public will be looking for homes marketed with ‘home office space’ or ‘ultrafast broadband’ just as much as they will anything else.
Turning to our working environments, safe practices will be in place for the foreseeable future and clients on both sides of the fence should rightly be required to participate in this process for the privilege of engaging with your agency.
Virtual valuations are the natural step to better (and safely) qualifying your leads. Agents must embrace video conferencing technology to communicate and build trust with their clients. If anything, it’s an incredibly efficient way of becoming more connected.
Once on the market, Facebook Live is already the open home for the modern age. It’s the best tool (that 90% of your market already has access to in their pockets) to create natural competition, further your own reputation and find the best buyers/tenants to continue the process with.
Looking to the future and as we move further out of lockdown, we’re coming to a seminal point in time for the property market. Low stock levels could have a huge impact on millions of would-be movers for months to come, especially as potential buyers and sellers grapple with the decision of whether they should be transacting at all.
Acknowledging the benefit of hindsight, the pre-Brexit market may have actually been a blessing in disguise for the best agents. You already know how to thrive when stock is low and uncertainty is high. You learned to really focus on what it takes to get a deal across the line. You know not to just take an order, but to very clearly explain to your client what it was that constituted a good offer (or asking price), and why it is that they should take it (or pay it). Now is no different.
I’d like to end on this point. If you’ve got this far and you’re thinking ‘there’s nothing new in here’ it’s probably because you run a tight ship, and are looking to the future with calculated optimism.
You know you work hard and you know you’re constantly refining and adapting your best practices.
If you’re here and you’re thinking you have a lot of change ahead I urge you to please not simply re-open your offices in hope that it’ll all sort itself out. It won’t.
There are too many good agents moving forward at a quickening pace. You will be left behind.
Covid-19 has taken estate agents' excuses away around exploring new ways to create relationships, communicate efficiently and build their reputation and their businesses.
Don’t sit in your offices and wait for the phone to ring. Do engage, communicate and serve your market. You can do it online. You can do it offline. And you can do it all safely.
*Sam Hunter is chief operating officer at Homesearch