While thousands of English estate agent rushed to open their branches last week and resume trading in kind of normality, the Countrywide network of 850 branches has yet to open.
The UK’s largest traditional estate agency, which has over 60 estate agency brands, has decided to take a much more cautious approach to customer and staff safety than many of its competitors, an example of the divide currently opening between estate agents prepared to open branches in a limited way, and those who are not.
One of these, Dexters, re-opened its 70 branches in London last week with CEO Jeff Doble (left) saying his company had guides and procedures in place to keep those involved in the home selling process ‘reassured’.
In contrast to this, Countrywide has released a statement saying it is still preparing to reopen its network in England while its branches in Scotland and Wales remain in lockdown.
It says: “The health and well-being of our colleagues, customers and communities is our utmost priority.
“Following on from the recent government’s announcement we’re working hard to ensure that we can return to work in England whilst keeping everyone safe, restrictions still remain in Scotland and Wales.
“We’ll keep you updated as soon as we have more details and confirmation on when our branches will re-open.”
Robert Jacobs, a Savills area manager who has four branches in and around Tunbridge Wells, also said over the weekend that, although he was excited by the re-start of valuations and viewings, his branches would be remaining closed for the time being.
“The safety of our clients and staff is our first priority and so it is vital that we proceed with caution,” he said.
One agent in Streatham, South London who The Negotiator spoke over the weekend, and who said his office was now open but only using non-furloughed staff, said he’d notice that the branches of several Countrywide estate agencies in his area remains closed.
“I think this is typical of the larger corporate estate agents who are more governed by lawyers and cautious head offices, whereas smaller independents have looked at the situation and decided it’s OK to open their branch as long as they follow government guidance on viewings and branches.”
The Negotiator approached Countrywide for a comment but has so far not received a reply.