The property industry has endured considerable challenges throughout the coronavirus pandemic. For commercial real estate, demand has collapsed thanks to home working and in residential real estate, concurrent lockdowns and measures like the stamp duty holiday have created turbulent unpredictable conditions.
The threat of coronavirus is expected to persist for many months in 2021, with potentially stricter measures being implemented to curb the spread of the disease. This will likely affect the property industry and prevent agents and professionals from reaching pre-pandemic levels of work. As in the first lockdown, digital innovations will play an important part in streamlining workload and creating more opportunities to serve customers remotely.
Industry Health During 1st Lockdown
When the lockdown was initially announced in March 2020, property sales fell by 70% and rental demand fell by 42% as the industry shut down and viewings were restricted. Only in those cases where moving was essential were allowed to continue, meaning thousands of households were forced to remain where they were. The government’s eviction ban also allowed people to retain their properties despite any rent or mortgage arrears they currently had.
Once this initial lockdown ended, the pent-up demand for moving home, as well as Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s stamp duty holiday policy, caused an explosion in property sales and drove house prices up to a 21-year high in October. With physical distancing still in place and house viewings only allowing one household in at a time, estate agents were faced with the challenge of providing all their customers with the information they needed while maintaining their safety.
Virtual and remote technology has been essential in maintaining good relationships with customers despite the extended distancing rules, especially as tighter tier restrictions have been implemented and a harsher lockdown was introduced in the first week of 2021.
Property Industry 2021
With new coronavirus measures expected imminently and the prime minister suggesting home moves may again need to be halted, the challenges to the property industry are not yet over. Though the rollout of the Covid vaccination means consumers are more optimistic about the future, an additional pause in working for the property sector could be highly damaging without adequate financial support from the government.
As with the previous lockdown, virtual and remote processes will be essential for property agents, managers, and landlords in delivering a high level of service to their clients while also protecting the health of all parties.
How Digital Has Helped Agents Adapt To Home and Remote Working
With viewings limited, isolation periods being imposed, and workers on furlough the property industry has had to adapt quickly in order to keep working effectively.
During the initial lockdown, remote and self-service inspections allowed landlords and managers to monitor the condition of their properties without having to set foot in them. This allowed them to protect the personal space of their tenants while also delivering comprehensive service and protect their own assets.
Virtual viewings are now a staple of any property listing on sites like Rightmove and Zoopla. However, viewings have been conducted over everything from Instagram DMs to FaceTime video calls as more and more people are moving into properties they haven’t even visited in the flesh.
The Value of Long-Distance Viewings and Inspections
Far beyond the limitations of the Coronavirus pandemic, the introduction of remote ways of working will be beneficial to the industry for a number of reasons.
Though virtual viewings have only been responsible for a handful of overall sales in the last year, granting potential tenants or buyers an in-depth look at the property without setting foot inside has allowed agents to meet the needs of a much larger range of customers while socially distanced viewings are required. Virtual viewings also mean property hunters can review more properties faster, helping them find the property they want without having to arrange countless viewings.
Self-service check-in, interim and check-out inspections will also help to reduce the workload of property managers and landlords by granting tenants more responsibility in reporting the property’s condition. With simple, easy templates, tenants can complete inspections to a high standard that will simply need to reviewed by property professionals.
Virtual viewings and inspections have also facilitated remote working for property agents and professionals alike. This will be essential with coronavirus still posing a significant threat to any workers who may be clinically vulnerable. However, this will also allow inspectors and agents with disabilities to work independently and provide work opportunities that aren’t limited by distance for the entire industry.
Remote Working Innovations
Since March 2020, InventoryBase has provided its users with self-service inspection reports to allow remote working to continue throughout the pandemic. In the first 3 months since their launch, these templates were downloaded over 20,000 times, a number that has continued to climb throughout the rest of 2020.
InventoryBase also launched live inspections towards the end of the year to facilitate more in-depth, professional inspections being carried out without the need for inspectors to enter the premises. With lockdown measures expected to tighten again, live inspection software will support more inspectors in maintaining workflow, with the aim of preventing job losses while the country recovers.
Live inspections mean property managers can work with trusted professional inspectors from across the country no matter where the property is. It also allows inspectors more freedom as travel requirements are reduced and they can accept work from anywhere in the country.
How PropTech Will Keep the Industry Going in 2021 and Beyond
Though PropTech has been essential to maintaining a semblance of normality for many in the property industry, the innovations inspired by the coronavirus pandemic will no doubt continue to serve the industry well in the years to come.
From streamlining work processes, meeting customers’ needs throughout the lifetime of a property purchase, and granting much more freedom and flexibility to workers, PropTech will become even more prevalent in the life of agents, managers, and landlords.
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