It appears that we may, may have finally have turned the corner with a distinct glimmer of light shining at the end of this very long, dark coronavirus tunnel. 

Housing Minister Chris Pincher is drawing up plans which could allow estate and letting agents to return to their offices following discussions around guidelines with some agents, conveyancers and removal firms. (Estate Agent Today).

Great to hear although, as with everything that has been touched by this dreadful Coronavirus, I tend to treat any such news with a degree of caution, a smidge of optimism and a lot of hand sanitiser!

On a positive note; the easing of the lockdown restrictions for agents will allow for the supplier industry to get back to work.

That said; what will be the solution to keep our suppliers and providers safe when coming into contact with the client base and those who are perhaps less than willing to take the necessary precautions?  Who will agree and police the strategies to help us help our industry keep the virus numbers down (R) and, how do we manage contact with those that are asymptomatic? 

My view is that we can work (our role means we cannot work from home) but should only be out working if it’s safe to do so but as the virus is such an unknown even the professionals, the skilled doctors and academics are learning as they go.

So it begs the question; should we be carrying out a dynamic risk assessment for each and every property we visit? What does that even look like and more importantly; who will be advising us? Has anyone been actively listening to our industry during the last few months to understand the impacts of the pandemic on our ability to work or are we to be left to ‘fend for ourselves’ with the hope that we get it right?

Although the past 7 weeks have mostly flown by and, if I am being honest, I think we have all benefited from the slowing down of pace, the Government is predicting it will still take many more months or indeed a viable coronavirus vaccine before we can get back to any resemblance of normality.

However be under no illusion; this is not a one-off, the virus won’t just spirit away. We will, both as a society and individuals, have to rethink how we work and live to ensure that we can continue to both. 

Personally, as an SME; I have tried to spend the last few weeks working out and planning my next steps in-between succumbing to Netflix and binging on Amazon ‘Uploads’ (my top fave series) and unfortunately, the biscuit tin.

When I set up my inventory business back in 2012, I knew that my position would be somewhat precarious at best (lack of Government support for small businesses and limited company directors during the coronavirus pandemic bears this out) but equally, I knew that everyone needs to live somewhere.

We are a nation of homemakers and movers. Our population is not static, but very transient and with an estimated 1.2m rental moves each year (Zoopla 2020) up until February 2020 it has been a very busy 8 years!

I am, however, not holding my breath to receive anything meaningful from our ‘leaders’ as there has and continues to be a distinct lack of support and specific advice and guidance for the inventory industry from the self-appointed bodies. However, I do think that RICS soon to be announced guidelines for working (post-pandemic) are more aligned to our position as professionals who complete property reports which is great news all round

I don’t have access to a crystal ball (wouldn’t that be helpful!), but I do have a handy looking glass and from what I can see there are a number of things the supplier industry needs to do and quickly so as to not get left behind;

  1. Wait for Boris to announce on Sunday his plans to start easing us out of lockdown (I’m presuming it means this Sunday coming?) 
  2. Try not to get too caught up in the inevitable leaks to the press of the content; we need exact, actionable details not hearsay
  3. Look to the industry bodies ARLA Propertymark, RICS, AIIC to see what advice they provide and how it may help or hinder ‘my/our’ situation
  4. Speak with the client base so that expectations are set and safe reporting protocols are agreed and aligned
  5. Risk assess – both planned and dynamic
  6. Review business models and or look to pivot
  7. Prepare for the upturn in work 
  8. Plan for a second wave including potential impacts and how life and work (always in that order) will be affected 

And be in no doubt; it’s not all doom and gloom. There are positives to this coronavirus pandemic.

I feel we are kinder to ourselves and our neighbours. We finally recognise and appreciate the wonderful institution that is the NHS and all that work within and around to support it.

We are talking to each other; communicating in unique and obvious ways without the constraints of time knowing that life is indeed fleeting and that every moment is precious and unrepeatable.

But we still need to live, to work, to be so as Russell Quirk commented this week: Those that saw lockdown as a time to prepare for the recovery will capitalise on the next few months from a position of having kept alert, in touch and trained. Those that went into Netflix induced hibernation are now at a massive disadvantage. 

So better get planning then (oh and leaving alone the remote control!)

Sián Hemming-Metcalfe, Head of Training & Development at InventoryBase Academy is an experienced provider of property reports with over 8 years industry experience.