The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures have undoubtedly had a severe impact across the whole of the UK property market. And while all sectors of the industry have felt some sort of effect, it seems online and corporate sectors have been hit particularly hard.
Many corporate agents have furloughed almost all their sales staff, and in the online sector we have seen recent reports of closures, such as Settled, and dominant online player Purplebricks’ market share dropping from its peak of 4.25% in August 2019 to 3.45% in the first months of this year. While most estate and lettings agents are now far more tech-oriented and have embraced virtual tools and online services, it seems that during these uncertain times consumer sentiment is swaying towards traditional agents they can trust.
Iain McKenzie, CEO of The Guild of Property Professionals, says that in a market where people need as much support and guidance as possible, the local independent agent has never been more important.
He says: “With the online sector of the market under immense pressure, now is the time that truly local, dedicated property professionals can shine. As the property market begins to move again and communities re-establish themselves, neighbourhood agents who are a part of their communities will be an intrinsic part of rebuilding the local economy and getting those regions back on their feet,” adds McKenzie.
“Now more than ever, consumers will want to work with a local expert who they trust and who can guide them safely through the process of selling and buying a property during these unusual times. Although the property market is open for business, ‘business’ doesn’t look the way it used to, and consumers will need an agent’s help to navigate the new normal.
"Many Guild Members are reporting that they have been inundated with enquires from buyers and sellers during these first days of the market reopening. The Guild’s Leadpro report shows that enquiry numbers for both sales and lettings are higher since the market reopened than they were during the first two months of the year and the ‘Boris bounce’ with around 1,500 lettings enquiries a day, and approximately 750 sales enquiries a day.
"From 1st January to 19th March there were between 750 and 1,000 lettings and between 500 and 750 sales enquiries a day.
"According to the latest data from the Yomdel Property Sentiment Tracker, demand for estate agency services have skyrocketed since the ease of restrictions and numbers are now far higher than average figure seen pre-COVID-19. Based on the figures from the previous week, new vendor enquires have gone up 67.13%, new buyer enquires are up 63.24%, new landlord enquires are up 41.9% and new tenants have increased by 28.27%.”
“While vendors have been more than happy to conduct virtual viewings, most would want an agent to conduct the physical viewings with proceedable buyers only, to ensure the correct Government and health procedures are followed and their family is protected. During these uncertain times, the high street independent agent will be needed more than ever.”
A recent survey conducted by YouGov around consumer behaviour revealed that the biggest lifestyle change that the British plan to continue post-COVID-19 is to support local businesses. Over two-thirds of the respondents said that they would want to continue helping neighbourhood businesses in their area, which, according to the survey, was even more important to the respondents than booking a holiday.
McKenzie says: “During the past few months many communities have rallied together in support of each other. Recent times have highlighted the importance of both community and local business. These are the times when agents can establish themselves as a trusted resource of information and guidance, and grow their market share in the area.”
He adds that as an organisation of the best-in-class independent agents across the UK, The Guild of Property Professionals is providing its Members with all the resources and guidance they need to differentiate themselves from their competitors as the market gains momentum.
McKenzie concludes: “Independent agents have the opportunity to grow as the online sector slides backwards. Our priority is to ensure our members have what they need to conduct business in a safe manner, grow market share, increase revenue, and provide guidance to the customers about the process of selling or buying a home in the current market."