Thousands of estate agents face remaining on furlough until September according to new research from the Property Redress Scheme.
Its research has discovered that 65% of those surveyed are set to continue using the Government’s furlough scheme beyond July, with 26% anticipating they won’t have every employee back to work before September. As we reported recently, Haart is one of the better-known agencies to be taking a much more cautious approach to re-opening its branches and bringing staff off furlough.
And more than a month after the Government re-opened the lettings market, 58% of those surveyed said they’d opened branches to the public while of the remaining 42%, some said they would be operating online indefinitely, or opening branches by appointment only.
Generating sufficient income to bring staff back from furlough was one of the most common challenges cited by agents, many of whom are operating with smaller teams. Agents with HMO properties anticipate changes around maintaining standards of hygiene and filling rooms while those renting to students are looking at how to manage student check-ins/outs without contact.
Sean Hooker (left), head of redress at the Property Redress Scheme, says: “While we have seen some encouraging signs of a market recovery, agents clearly feel we are far from out of the woods yet. Many feel the biggest impact will be felt in the medium to long term as companies announced redundancies and unemployment rises.”
But COVID-19’s legacy will be a more virtual and less personal lettings sector, the survey also found.
There’s been a seismic shift from agents relying on building face-to-face relationships to offering viewings online.
The PRS Back to Work Letting Survey shows that while 21% of agents offered virtual viewings pre-COVID, 70% now provide them. After quizzing 231 agents, it found that they’re also embracing the use of electronic signatures with 77% using them compared to just 46% before the lockdown.