There is little doubt that the impact of Covid-19 will be evident for years to come. You don’t need to be an economist to understand the huge debt levels which the future government of the day will have to contend with. The impact of rapidly increasing unemployment levels and business failures will be evident for some time; each and every one of us will now have greater respect than we had previously for how a pandemic can take over our lives and change our lifestyles. Businesses will be run differently in the future, and some of the important things we have taken on board such as cleanliness, regular hand washing and social distancing look like becoming an ongoing part of our lives – at least in the short to medium term.
One of the biggest changes to our work patterns has been the opportunity to work from home rather than having to trek daily to an office – something that often involves travelling in peak traffic and what amounts to ‘dead time’ for commuters living any distance away from their designated workplace. There are many reports about just how successful the change to working from home has been for some people. Working from home requires self-discipline and a suitable environment, preferably with a workspace that does not double as the kitchen table or other location used for daily domestic duties. Laptops and other more sophisticated computer installations are often a necessity and are a challenge that has been met head-on. Zoom and similar telephone meetings have been part and parcel of our new world of working in isolation at home.
Since moving down to level 2, many home workers have returned to their offices, but judging from the peak hour traffic levels, there are still a large number of clerical workers who are working from home. For many, this could be a permanent arrangement. City retailers are noticing a significant reduction in pedestrian traffic as a consequence. For many industries, working from home requires changing how they operate, and real estate has been no exception. Despite our inability to operate as normal, it was surprising, even to those of us involved in real estate, how many property transactions were completed during lock-down!
At Tommy’s, we have adapted to the changes thrust upon us and are pleased to say that sales during May have exceeded expectations, and not at cut prices as many have been predicting. As we move through level 2 and look forward to level 1 with some anticipation, normality is returning to our daily routines. Our administration team is safely ensconced back in their respective offices, and salespeople are working from a combination of their home and office locations.
From a real estate perspective, working from home is a feasible option but it cuts across one of the key marketing principles that have contributed to the success of Tommy’s over the past 20 odd years; that is restricting agent to agent communication. It has always been Tommy’s policy agents must communicate freely with one another if we are to get the best possible result for our vendors. Every person that lists a house for sale with Tommy’s Real Estate Ltd is assured that details of their property will be shared by every agent in the particular office they are dealing with.
There is a mantra in real estate that says, ‘if you can’t see them, you can’t sell them’. This, of course, means that every property that is listed for sale by Tommy’s should be inspected by all agents so that they can then speak to prospective home buyers with some authority. This usually involves a group inspection or ‘caravan’ as it is commonly called in the industry. Having a large number of agents descending on your home is not always popular, but it is a short period of activity that helps agents to marry a property to a specific buyer which in turn results in a quick sale.
At Tommy’s, the sales teams hold meetings, usually, twice weekly. These create an opportunity for agents to promote their listings and to discuss details of any properties they have for sale. As we stated earlier, communication is vital in our industry both between agents and between agent and client. Talking about a property can often be the catalyst for one agent selling a property listed for sale by a different agent in that office.
Generally speaking, Tommy’s offices have not been inconvenienced materially by the Covid-19 lock-down and have adapted well to the changes required. We look forward though, to something resembling normality in the months ahead. Whilst winter usually heralds an industry slow-down, we are optimistic that this year may be different. People still need to be housed and with the very favourable borrowing rates on offer at present, we believe June and July may produce better than usual sales statistics. Time will tell, but at least communication will be easier and more effective than what we have worked through in recent months, and good communication facilitates good sales results.
The Tommy’s sales team will continue to observe Government directives to protect the safety of those we deal with, and will ensure that buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants dealing with our company obtain the best advice possible in these difficult and unusual times.