The world as we know it has come to a stop and our lives are on hold. What a bleak state of affairs for us as a country, as human beings. We are in completely unchartered territory and no-one knows truly when it will end or what the political, financial or personal landscape will look like post Covid19.
Lisa Jacobs, Franchisee of the Winkworth Devizes and Marlborough offices, reflects on the strange new world that Estate Agents now find themselves in.
As an office and a small business, we have had to furlough our staff in order to protect the business and try to make sure there is something for them all to come back to. It was a heartbreaking decision after so much hard work building up the business together as a team. But their safety, the compliance with Government Guidelines, and the safety of all our clients, made the decision unavoidable and it’s one which has been made by businesses up and down the country.
So here we sit in a very quiet office, continuing to service our clients – and particularly tenants and landlords – through this strange new time. There are lots of new guidances to keep up to date with from HMRC, SafeAgent, and the Government, and we are working hard to keep up to speed with it all so that we can respond appropriately and legally to any circumstance that may fall on our desks.
We have a few properties which are completing despite the situation – largely because they are empty and so removal teams are happy to do the moves as they can continue to comply with the social distancing regulations. These properties give us a few crumbs with which to keep the cash flow moving but sadly nothing like enough to pay the enormous bills associated with a High Street presence. This is where the Government Business Interruption Loan Scheme steps in and hopefully will save many businesses such as ours – businesses which are viable and in normal circumstances, thriving, but which now find themselves completely cut adrift.
Our vendors are being brilliant, and our thanks go to them for staying with us whilst the pause button is pressed. There are still a few enquiries coming through and we are creating viewing files so that we can arrange viewings for them as soon as restrictions are lifted and hopefully get them sold. But what will house prices look like then? Will we see a huge dip in prices as buyers can no longer afford the prices sought? Or will there be a huge demand as people move their savings away from the more volatile stock market and back into the safe environs of bricks and mortar? Who knows? We are certainly braced for some stiff renegotiations in the weeks and months to come as the market settles into whatever the new reality is.
There are so many things being tried by agents at the moment to try to keep things moving – virtual viewing tours being one such tool. These of course, are helpful and provide a differing perspective from flat photos on a screen, but at the end of the day no-one is going to buy a house and commit huge sums of money to a property they haven’t seen in real life, so we still have to wait until things are more normal and viewings can take place.
And until then, we remain positive. We have a good business, an amazing team of supportive staff, time with our families we wouldn’t otherwise have had, a time to reflect on our lives, our routines and our priorities, and we live in a fabulous community who are pulling together in the most incredible ways to support each other through this – for all those things we are grateful.
Stay at home and stay safe, contact us if you need any help or advice, and we look forward to seeing you on the other side and to helping you move!