As we approach ‘Freedom Day’ it is hard to believe that nearly 18 months have passed since Covid began and that not only have agents survived but in many cases, are thriving after the toughest year the sector has ever seen.
But while estate agency has been robust in its handling and response to the crisis, as we make our way back to normality, it is clear to see that there is still some way to go.
The world has changed irreversibly over the last 18 months and so too must the property sector, in particular the world of estate agency and we need to evolve quickly if we wish to respond adequately to rapidly changing consumer habits.
Perhaps most obvious is the shift to online, with virtual viewings proving popular amongst renters and buyers and helping them search more effectively from the comfort of their own home.
While these are no substitute for the real thing, we have found them to be an effective was to help clients eliminate unsuitable properties much earlier on in the process, before visiting only a handful of homes that fit the bill.
Tech has also enabled our entire business to stay connected, feel motivated and part of a team throughout this period.
Most of our staff have now returned to the office several days a week, but we expect digital comms will remain a key part of our business and will help bring branches closer together where physical distance separates them.
As well as enhancing our digital offering to suit the new breed of tech-savvy home-hunters, it is also vital that we acknowledge the other buzzword of 2020/1 – ‘wellbeing’.
Having shared in the collective challenges we are now all, I believe, much more aware of the impact that work – and life – takes on us all.As an industry – not least one that has a reputation for its fierce competitiveness, it is our responsibility to ensure we are doing what we can to enhance the wellbeing of all those with which we interact whether it be staff, clients or peers.
Organising safe social gatherings for staff – we are hosting a charity tennis match in a couple of weeks – and exploring flexible working hours are just some of the ways in which the industry can begin to take steps towards enhancing wellbeing.
The same is true even for small gestures. For example, where we once gifted new home owners and renters with a bottle of champagne on move-in day, we now give them plants courtesy of our collaboration with local London florists, Beards & Daisies.
The strength and resilience of the property market throughout Covid has been remarkable and gives me great confidence in knowing that as an industry, we are ready and willing to adapt by any means necessary in order to continue to provide the level of service our clients, teams and peers rightfully expect.
Clynton Nel is a Residential Director at estate agency JOHNS&CO.