A ‘secret shopper’ survey of half a dozen estate agencies in London by an anonymous industry blogger has discovered the half of them offered to do property viewings when requested to do so.
The agent, who writes under the nom-de-plume ‘Dodgy London Agents’, emailed and phoned the six agents requesting to see properties available to rent in the N1 postcode of North London.
Of the six, local branches of Chesterton, KFH and Storey all said they couldn’t do viewings but, in some cases, would be able to offer ‘virtual viewings’ or video walk-throughs.
The other three – Anthony Pepe, James Edward Letting and Fyfe McDade all confirmed that normal property viewings of the homes requested would be possible. The latter two initially offered video tours but also booked in for ‘real’ viewing; copies of correspondence between the six agents and the blogger are available online.
But Fyfe McDade has contacted The Negotiator to say that a video walk through, taken before the lock down, was offered to the applicant, ‘in line with our current policy and the viewing booked was over three weeks away and outside of the current lock-down period’.
“The current lock-down period is due to end on Monday the 13th of April and although it may very well be extended, at the time of enquiry made by your mystery blogger, there was ample opportunity for the viewing to be cancelled or moved should the lock-down continue,” says Carl Schmid, its MD.
A letter from one of the other agents says: “We are delighted to confirm your viewing on the 8th April at 3.00pm. If you have an questions prior to the appointment please do not hesitate to contact me.”
The Negotiator was also sent details of a luxury rental property marketed by Harrods Estates which, although unconnected to the blogger’s investigations outlined above, made it clear the property would be an ideal home ‘for this tumultuous time’.
After we asked the agency’s PR representative whether Harrods was suggesting someone should take up the £8,000 a month tenancy, it wants to make clear that Harrods has closed all its branches and is not conducting face-to-face viewing or encouraging anyone to move home, and is adhering closely to government guidance.
The government guidance says that: “Home buyers and renters should, where possible, delay moving to a new house while measures are in place to fight coronavirus”.
“The Harrods Estates offices closed on Friday 20th March – as per Government guidance – we are an agile team and we are now working remotely; having adapted to the current situation,” a company spokesperson said.
“We can offer video calls to make appointments, register new listings and we are providing an update to our clients on their property searches and we are discussing investment opportunities. Futhermore, we are working with several applicants interested in buying off-plan or in new developments where they’re already familiar with the range of apartments available. The online marketing collateral provided by many of our developer clients offers fly-throughs and video tours to help buyers make a confident decision. In line with Government advice, we are not encouraging anyone to move at this time.”