I believe that the property industry will see an amazing leap forward in productivity and work practices once we leave this tragic and violent virus behind us.

Although no viewings are currently taking place, we are keeping in touch in our new virtual worlds giving valuable valuation advice. I believe that our forced adoption of virtual technology will be a step change in productivity and service. I have even learnt a new word – “Collocate”, which is to place side by side or in a particular relation – think remote working verses collocated in the workplace.
In future we will not be wasting a buyer’s or tenant’s time showing them unsuitable properties. We will be “virtually” showing you WHY you should NOT be physically viewing a property, giving you a more productive time for what you should be viewing. The internet has been a disrupter for the industries of banking, insurance, travel, food and clothing but it has been the best aid ever for the property industry, informing and educating the buyers and tenants on availability and historic transactions.

“Virtually” saving 90 minutes per meeting
Over the last few weeks, I have been attending video meetings that have taken only 20 minutes rather than an hour allocated to compensate for all the attendees’ travelling times. I am gaining a minimum of 90 minutes extra time per meeting – allowing for extra productivity elsewhere. Nothing will replace the dynamics of human contact, but we can redefine WHAT human activity is important and allocate the rest to virtual.

Baptism of Fire
I first learnt the basics of estate agency to an historic backdrop: A secondary banking crisis, the winter of discontent, the 3-day working week, IRA bombings of London, plus inflation was rampant, halving spending power in 3 years with the doubling of the oil price – twice. Now we are dealing with the “unknown unknown”. 2 We have never experienced what we are going through at the present time. I have worked though booms to busts and have seen the transformation of how business is conducted with ever more sophisticated technology. Who now remembers the telex? The facsimile machine will soon join the business relics museum with the ticker tape and the typewriter.

Markets Adapt
We’ve ridden the dreadful storm in 1986 on a Thursday only to be followed four days later with the “Black Monday” crash of the world’s Stock Exchanges. The Recession of 1991 was followed by a similar one in 2000 and of course 2001 was The World Trade Centre which virtually stopped the world for months.
More recently, we have had to deal with the Global Financial Crisis through 2008 and 2009. Also, in between all these “tombstone” dates we have had to deal with devaluations, elections, taxations and other epidemics. It seems that in any 5-10-year cycle, we are forever fighting one thing or the other.

The Future – Less is More
Having the privilege of being able to look back and work through these experiences, it has assisted me in looking to the future and as to how we will operate during the “getting back to work” stage. I started my career with just a desk equipped with a telephone, a register of property (in price order) and a box of applicant cards (in alphabetical order). The historic weapon of choice for estate agents and the successful negotiators has been the hours spent viewing properties, to drive the offers to create the deals.
Initially moving forward, people who have maintained their 2 metre distancing regime will be keen to continue their due diligence on healthy routines moving back into the normal world. All unnecessary contact is to be avoided. Therefore, as an estate agent my challenge is to be aware of both the owners/landlords and buyers/tenants’ risk of catching any infection by reducing the number of physical viewings whilst saving them time to focus on the rest of their lives. I can now garner the use of incredibly sophisticated technology to do this.
Instead of “You must come and view this house” replace with “I do not feel this one is right for you, let me explain why by showing you virtually over your mobile”.
Before the arrival of Covid-19 we might have conducted over 30 physical viewings before a successful sale or letting of a property. Seems now like a rather inefficient and time-consuming way to sell or let a property.
I will therefore be looking at ways of minimising your physical viewings, to empower you to say no with the knowledge that the property would not be suitable. I suppose it is rather akin to a buying agent separating the wheat from the chaff, but from our perspective we will never be forget that we are acting for our client – the landlord or vendor and in their best interest.

Business Redefined
Over the past month we have all adapted to video conferencing, the systems have now reached critical mass and acceptance. So, I will use all my abilities to save you precious time and energy, The Coronavirus crisis is likely to have far reaching consequences for the business of selling and letting property. It is going to encourage us to redefine how we work with greater emphasis placed on virtual rather than in-person communications. Covid-19 will impact on our expectations and styles of work, rest and play.
Over these last few weeks we have conducted some incredibly productive meetings, getting lots of people talking together over sophisticated communications technology – without everyone jumping onto trains, planes or automobiles. It is redefining the way we work – which is good.

And Lastly – Beards
My only other observation is the large number of my male colleagues who have used home working as an opportunity to grow a beard. Video conferencing with a bright back light of the window behind them, it is almost impossible to recognise who you are talking to on the screen!
Perhaps barber shops and the sales razor blades will be the first indicators of the recovery.

Thank you and my best wishes and good health to you, your family and friends.