As the second national lockdown was announced last Saturday night, I sat at home with my wife and daughters and we just assumed, along with most of you, that we would have to close our branches again like agencies have been forced to do in Wales and the same as during the first lockdown.
A few hours later and a few vague tweets which we all had to ‘read between the lines’, we released that people would still be able to move, which to me, made good sense.
Then the news started to circulate that we could stay open and operate as normal, well – as ‘normal’ as anything is nowadays. Immediately this worried me.
Why had the world been placed on pause again while we as estate agencies were allowed to keep going?
Now I understand the value the housing market has to the government and the economy, but to me it made no sense that, even with all our high levels of COVID health and safety procedures we have implemented, we can still go house to house with clients who have been who knows where doing who knows what!
My other concern was whether business would maintain its level of craziness of the last few months, or even pre-lockdown normal?
I feared for the worse and asked myself why would anyone who can’t see their friends or families want to let in random strangers into their homes?
Everyone has been told to stay home under tight restrictions, and yet people with properties on the market are now getting estate agents, who aren’t the most popular of industries in the first place, calling up and saying “it’s ok, we are exempt”.
I’ve been running my agency, Benjamin Stevens Estate Agents for just over 16 years, and just in the first few days of this most recent lockdown, we’ve seen the public have spoken with their feet.
Everyone I’ve spoken to including fellow agents and industry leaders have all seen a sudden and alarming dip in calls, viewing requests and activity.
Of course some are still busy with some great listings and that will always bring activity, but no one can deny a change, that coupled with the usual slowdown over December and early January, indicates it’s going to be a tough few months before spring returns and people start to feel comfortable again being out and about.
As business owners we have the use of furlough but now, like kids in a playground, we need to pick our strongest team and potentially offend some of our loyal staff, when what we are actually doing is preserving their futures.
It could be argued we should have money for a rainy day but in my view we shouldn’t be open when so many others can’t be. Why should we be allowed to work when so many can’t?
Ultimately the last thing people who have been furloughed and fearing their job security will be thinking about right now, is moving.