Paul Smith, CEO of Haart parent company Spicerhaart has told The Negotiator that he’s ‘horrified’ by how many of his competitors have opened branches with a complete disregard for the safety and well being of staff.
Smith says that, instead, his business is adopting a phased approach to re-opening its physical branches as it sources and fits plastic screens and trains staff in social distancing procedures. It is now more than four weeks since the housing market re-opened and at least ten days since many of its competitors at least partially opened up their branches.
The estate agency chains’ branches are conspicuous on many high streets because they remain closed while next door competitors are bustling, with window signs explaining how to contact staff, who are working from home.
But some branches are being utilised – the Streatham office (pictured) that we visited had a bunch of keys in a plastic bag that a landlord or contractor had posted through its letterbox.
“What’s the hurry? People seem to think that because the nice weather is here, and everyone is allowed out and about that coronavirus has gone away. It hasn’t,” he says.
“We moved very quickly to get people out of branches and into the safety of their home environment during lockdown when the pandemic struck.
“They all have access to the latest technology and are working brilliantly and have been 18% more efficient in terms of making calls.
“We have also been working with our staff, many of whom have childcare issues, and we are supporting them with their work-life balance. They will return when I am satisfied that it is safe to do so.”
Nevertheless, several senior industry figures have been in contact with The Negotiator to wonder why such a large chain is so reluctant to re-open its branches.
“Haart is not a small one-man band, we are part of the largest independent estate agency group in the UK – Spicerhaart – and that means that we have a large logistics operation under way, bringing people back from furlough and looking at how we will work during the coming months while we are all still at risk of the virus,” he says.
“Our branches dealt with over 14,000 new applicants last week, which is an all-time record for Spicerhaart, and gives an indication of the pace at which we are working.”