Senior industry figure Ed Mead has called for the government to give the industry more clarity on what is ‘essential work’.
He has also predicted that ministers will have to look at the furlough scheme as the crisis begins to ease in order to allow estate agencies and other businesses to plan how they are going to return to normal trading conditions.
This would include allowing furloughed staff to being working again but still receive some or all of their monthly government payments, and allow agencies to ease back to normality.
Mead says he temporarily suspended operations at his outsourced viewings company, Viewber, which uses the services of several thousand self-employed operatives around the UK, once the lock-down was announced, but would love to utilise them.
But he says Viewber can’t because Ministry of Housing guidance has yet to be issued that is crystal clear about the work of estate agents and what is ‘essential’.
Currently, the advice is that: “Employers should take every possible step to facilitate their employees working from home. Where it is not be possible to work from home you can still travel for work purposes, provided you are not showing coronavirus symptoms and neither you nor any of your household are self-isolating”.
Asked what he thinks negotiators and valuers should be doing now, Mead says his experience, gained through several tough times including the 2008 financial crisis, is that no one remember what you did to them during a downturn, but “they always remember the feeling”.
“So in a disaster like this agents should be contacting customers to make them understand how sorry they are about what’s happening,” he says.
“It’s more important to find out how they are feeling, rather than just trying to transact – treat them like human beings.”