Social distancing laws introduced during the coronavirus outbreak have led to an inevitable slow down in the property market, with many estate agents now working from home.
Nineteen of the UK’s leading PropTech and PropService companies have come together to help you through the lockdown. As members of the Innovation Collaboration Group (ICG), these ‘best-in-class’ suppliers have included their top tips, hints and advice in a short video to help estate agents survive and thrive.
Here are some of ICG members’ tips for estate agents:
It’s all about “attitude of mind” says Brian Farrell of Acaboom, and Alex Willis of the GOTO group agrees. Alex says he has spoken to agents who are considering “downing tools for 2-3 months,” but warns “don’t let this be you.” Alex suggests that using GOTO’s online auction service can improve agents’ cashflow and help clients prepare their properties for sale as soon as Covid-19 restrictions end.
While it’s almost impossible to market property in the age of COVID-19, Brian Farrell has some suggestions for current lockdown activities. These could include practising procedures for virtual viewings and valuations with your team, rehearsing reasons why clients should instruct you and putting everything in place so you can catch the new wave of activity when the lockdown ends.
Richard Day of Reapit agrees that it’s vital to keep staff motivated and engaged, with online training programmes to help them develop new skills, plus opportunities to refresh their product and industry knowledge.
Peer group learning is especially important to Sarah Kemp of Property Academy, who has swapped the Academy’s popular face-to-face events for a series of expert-led webinars to motivate and support estate agents.
Rory Black from Dataloft says it’s “really important to keep the conversation going”, a view shared by Iain White of Agency Mentors, Matt Sprift of Sprift and Heather Staff of Spectre. Heather says “a different and relevant message at this time will stand you in really good stead”, while Rory Black observes “What you don’t want to be is pushy or salesy at this time.” To keep clients engaged he recommends sharing the kind of market information and property insights offered by Dataloft’s software product Inform. Meanwhile Matt Sprift recommends following up Zoom chats with a market appraisal report so clients will keep you front of mind.
For Lee Wainwright of Focal Agent, the trick is to use virtual communications to engage with teams and customers in new ways. He recommends virtual socialising with quiz nights, exercise sessions, cookery classes and “family meet and greet sessions.” Rus from Starberry adds that a “fun” video can also attract clients’ attention.
Agents working from home may need to review their telephone communications. Maria Brett from Global4 Communications says a mobile app that presents the agent’s business number rather than a personal mobile number or ‘number withheld’ message can be useful at this time.
“People will always remember how you made them feel,” says Andy Soloman from Yomdel. His tips for estate agents include using a live chat facility with “real people” to ensure clients’ questions are always answered promptly. “If you are able to engage with customers just when they need it … you’ll be in the best position possible, going forward.”
Get a handle on housekeeping
Kristjan Byfield of The Depositary says lockdown provides an opportunity to catch up on “all those boring jobs like cleaning up company drives and revising your website content.” He also advises businesses to identify any gaps in their chain of operation and take appropriate steps to fill them.
Paul Conway of Yuno reminds letting agents to look after tenants as well as landlords while COVID-19 rules are in place, and to keep compliance in good shape in order to avoid problems at a later date. Meanwhile, Rus Sellers advises companies to go through their costs and cut as much as they can. Maria Brett agrees that it’s a good time to conduct an audit of bills you regularly pay to ensure that you are getting the best deals.
Carry on and plan for the upside
For those agents still reeling from the onset of the Covid-19 outbreak, housing market recovery may feel a long way off, but Iain White from ICG says “It’s important to understand and appreciate that at some point this will be over.”
Meanwhile it’s a case of ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’. Matt Lowndes of the Mortgage Advice Bureau has set up a mortgage information support service to advise people who are feeling “under the cosh,” while Steve Meade of Crux Careers is offering advice to property professionals who fear losing their jobs.
The overarching message from ICG members is to stay positive. Bradley Kieser from SMS Speedway has offered to remove all set up fees and monthly charges for their “reach out” product (requesting videos and images from homeowners that can be used for sales and lettings purposes). Meanwhile Ian Stratford of the Land and New Homes Network has offered to talk to any agents interested in brokering deals between landowners and local developers.
Going forward, Ed Mead of Viewber suggests that access to his nationwide team of vetted viewing and inspection staff could help agents get back on track, while Ben Sellers of Starberry recommends that agents install Zoom and Calendly, free apps that allow clients to go online and book a date and time for a virtual viewing or valuation with their estate agent.
According to Iain White, the world of estate agency will be completely different on the other side of the COVID-19 outbreak, but he believes that ICG is perfectly placed to help estate agents get ahead of the curve with new systems and processes. Watch the full video now for more essential insights on strategic business management in this challenging time of change.