So here we are, for better or worse, the government is all but lifting lockdown. You may agree or you may not agree with this, how it’s been run, or if the timing is right, but either way, we are where we are, but what’s next?
Let’s look at the negatives to start with, always a nice familiar British feel to being negative, so let’s moan about what we can’t do – well, we can’t do viewings, not really. Maybe in sales where you have a motivated vendor who will leave when needed, but in lettings, it’s not really going to be a thing. If someone is leaving their house or flat, then they have no real need to help you find a new tenant unless they want to help, but I think this will not be too forthcoming. Agents usually have to tread pretty lightly when booking viewings anyway, and rightly so, someone lives there, but this will make things more than doubly hard. Social distancing is going to be awkward walking around an HMO or one-bedroom flat, and you will need to make provisions for sanitisation both before and after. We won’t be able to collect someone from the station and drive them around a few choice properties, and even handing over brochures or any kind of paperwork will be a little awkward. So, there is going to be a whole new world as far as lettings go, but it’s not all doom and gloom, in fact, during lockdown I have noticed the embryonic shoots of new methods that I have a feeling will take the industry quite quickly in ways I had hoped we would go anyway.
So, what could these positives possibly be? Well, let’s look at some stats that really warmed my slightly anxious soul this week. We managed to let twenty student houses and five flats during lockdown. Yes, you read that right! And all of those with only three actual viewings, and they were only in the last week. How did we do it? We have some great tenants to be fair, and without them taking the time to walk around the house or flat and send over a video tour, I doubt we would have let anything. We have also, for around three years now, been focusing on marketing – we’ve made sure that almost every house we have has professional pictures and proper floor plan. With these and an actuate description, a motivated potential tenant can see what is on offer. Unlike in sales, they are only taking it for six months to a year to start, so if there are some small discrepancies, they are not buying it, but are in a position to know that what they are looking at is what they want. The video tours have been a real hit. We’ve even found that since agents were allowed to go back to work, that applicants are actually still asking for video tours. Maybe, especially in the rental sector, this will become the new normal. This is fine by us, we even invested last summer in a Matterport 360-degree camera for a real quality walk through’s, sadly though we didn’t get many filmed, so that’s this summer’s project. If the government has let us out of the traps too early and we see another spike, of these virus epidemics, become more frequent, we will need to be able to offer all of these services, all of the time, so this summer we will need to be making sure we are prepared beyond all other measures for whatever is going to happen in the coming years.
In short, I do think that an agents job has just become a lot harder, which is a bit of a body blow coming so soon after the tenant fees ban, and with stronger regulation coming in the next twelve months to boot, it’s going to be more important than ever to make sure your agent has what it takes to navigate the new normal.
If you want to talk about residential or student lettings, or indeed discuss anything to do with commercial property then please contact us on 01273 672 999.