I often wish I had the same grasp of the English language as Stephen Fry. To be a compelling narrator as he is, to connect the heart and mind and verbally express what I want and need from this life, from my role in it and everything in between; now that would make for an interesting blog!
Unfortunately, according to my personality type, I am a process person; an ISTJ. In fact 13% of the population is an ISTJ (Myers Briggs) and according to some websites I Googled we’re in good company! George Washington, Queen Elizabeth II, Robert DeNiro are all within this percentage group.
Me; I like figures, identifiable trends and, the most important attribute to my ‘type’, facts.
Facts are very much in abundance with the current pandemic; daily briefings and statistics showcase where we are with diagnosed cases, hospitalisation and unfortunately fatalities.
But there are also positive facts to focus on in that we are now seeing the first new shoots of life emerging in the housing market and with the lockdown continuing to ease, the industry is slowly but surely starting back up.
The last week or so has proven just how much pent up demand there is. Reports are being booked, tenants are moving home and agents are telling me that they are busy enough to start bringing back staff from furlough and a lot earlier than expected. With predictions that the industry will be almost level in the next few weeks, there are embers of confidence in the market that are starting to glow.
As an ISTJ I like to keep both feet on the ground. I am a realist so I’m not sure I can subscribe to Russell Quirks idea that [estate] agents could be likened to superheroes, but I do think that we are pulling relatively in the same direction. We’re all trying to do the right thing by keeping each other safe whilst we figure out this new ‘normal’.
As we work out how we navigate this new order; we should, as industry suppliers, not lose sight of our core client base. We need to support agents and landlords across the housing market so they in turn can ensure that tenants ‘feel’ able to move and access the industry’s network of agents and suppliers with new and renewed confidence.
According to the English Private Landlord Survey, just over half of all English landlords don’t use a letting agent to let or manage their properties, whereas one-third (34%) use an agent for let-only, only 9% use an agent for both letting and management and 5% use an agent for management only.
This can create a lot of uncertainties and concerns amongst this group of property owners. I and others I speak to within the industry are finding that unrepresented landlords are increasingly leaning towards agents, inventory companies and suppliers for advice & guidance. They are also seeking cost effective and quality driven options and alternatives to viewing and securing new tenancies.
Already we’ve seen a massive pivot towards the use of video tours and property walkthroughs, online 1 to 1 viewings and non-contact reporting, such as tenant led interim inspections and unaccompanied checkouts.
And as we continue to reevaluate our core services throughout the housing market, we should be factoring in questions like whether volumised reporting is still possible when safety is the overriding priority?
Completing numerous reports a day is great for revenue, for any size of inventory business. This helps to keep the rental chain moving but they are, in reality, no longer safe if the property has not been cleaned or made ready between reports and move-ins.
The questions we should be asking ourselves right now is whether safety, the report quality, delivery of service or report cost should be our key focus right now?
Cost is, for many, the overriding factor.
The impact of COVID-19 led Government borrowing could be as much as £298bn just for this financial year; the deficit alone has lept to £62 billion in April 2020. (Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).)
So with speculation about post-pandemic figures spiralling, it is highly likely that we will see an increase in taxes year on year for the foreseeable future which will then put an inevitable pressure on all our pockets. Companies both large and small are looking to generate much needed revenue to ‘plug the gaps’ created since the pandemic was declared, so it’s not a stretch to think that fees will become a key focus for both the supplier and the buyer.
Adapting not only our working practices but also our approach to how we nurture our relationship with our clients will prove crucial in the months ahead as this will be how we justify our fees whether they stay the same or increase.
We should be using what is left of lockdown to rethink our services within the housing market, develop new ways in how they can be delivered more efficiently, reflect on what our core values really are and more importantly, how we can increase our market share.
None of us know what the ‘new normal’ actually is yet but we can certainly plan and influence what it could become.