Coronavirus: is it ‘business as usual’ for Norfolk estate agents?
PUBLISHED: 12:38 01 April 2020
Find out how three Norfolk estate agents are adapting to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
As non-essential businesses across the country have been forced to close in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, many teams are having to adapt to a new way of working.
Yet contact is often considered essential when it comes to buying and selling properties, affecting everything from viewings and valuations to exchange and completion of contracts.
We spoke to three Norfolk estate agents to find out how their teams are using technology to carry on ‘as normal’ during these unprecedented times.
Ben Marchbank, Bedfords
“The world seems to have become a very different place in the last three weeks and I cannot think of any aspect of our lives that is carrying on its ‘business as usual’!
“The situation has moved very quickly and, last week, we closed our offices and are now working from home.
“Technology is a great help to this end; all of our infrastructure is in the cloud, we have laptops accessing our software and the phones can be diverted to each of our mobiles; unless you were to visit the office, you would never know it was not ‘business as usual’. The only thing we cannot provide for home-workers is the camaraderie we share in the office!
“Needless to say, the day-to-day mechanics of our business have been badly disrupted; understandably in these dark times, thoughts of buying or selling have been put on hold.
“There are very few viewings taking place and whilst we are happy to offer technological solutions such as virtual walk-through tours, there is little appetite right now – perhaps as the situation eases, this will become more common.”
Jan Hytch, Arnolds Keys
“While this all came upon us quite suddenly, we had been making provisions. Over the past few weeks we have been practising social distancing and going to empty properties to film virtual videos as well as thinking outside the box about how we might be able to do ‘business as usual’ as much as possible.
“Like lots of businesses, we’ve been using tools such as Zoom, Facetime and Microsoft Teams to stay in touch with each other and our clients. Some of our vendors have also been taking Facetime videos for us with their own tours. We’ve even conducted market appraisals by Facetime, doing the best job we can with the information we have, and using Google Maps to give us a clearer picture. It’s not something that we expected to do a month ago, but it’s working. “Communication is key, so making sure that our clients know we’re still here, working from home, has been important.
“At the moment there’s a small window of do-ability. If you’re in the process of moving this week, that’s still likely to go ahead but longer term it is harder to predict. Lots of the legal stuff can still be done but other things, such as actually moving, could be difficult as many removal companies have been told to down tools for future moves.
“The good news is that lots of people still have the intent to go ahead after all of this is over, and the offers we’ve seen on properties viewed before this started are not disproportionate.
“People are at home seeking out information and are looking to get on with practical jobs, including decorating their houses or finishing off the garden in the hope of selling later on. Meanwhile, agents are being socially responsible, helping those in their communities as best they can. Some are even lending a helping hand by picking up medications for those who can’t.”
Louis de Soissons, Savills
“In line with the latest government guidelines, we have taken the decision to temporarily close our office and move to remote working. All of our agents are now working from home and remain committed to providing a full service to our clients. In that sense it is very much ‘business as usual’ – just from a different place.
“We are here to assist in any way we can and as ever our advice will be informed by the latest thinking from our highly regarded research team, by local market knowledge and insight, and of course, individual circumstances. Now more than ever our 150 years of experience matters most.
“Our residential team is in touch with buyers, sellers and each other all day, every day, with regular conference and video calling to ensure we all stay up to date with latest developments. We also have a secure IT system that allows us to work remotely while having access to everything that we would normally.
“All of our agents know the properties intimately and can talk them through with potential buyers over the phone. Much can also be gleaned about a property from the online listings on our website, with high quality, professional photography and detailed floor plans so that people can continue to browse what’s available from the comfort and safety of their homes.”
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