The real estate industry will no doubt look very different by the end of this year to the way it looked before the COVID-19 pandemic - but in many cases the changes made will be extremely positive for estate agents and principals as well as their clients because of the potential for both better service and greater rewards.
That’s the view of Berry Everitt, CEO of the Chas Everitt International property group, who says that in the post-lockdown market, there will be exceptional opportunities for property buyers, sellers, and estate agents, even though the impetus that is usually provided by exceptionally low-interest rates is likely to be somewhat dampened by greater uncertainties around employment, affordability and bank lending.
“However the key for agents to succeed in this period, we believe, will be the ability to adjust quickly to a major shift in consumer demand for service that is not just more efficient but also intuitive and able to provide solutions that are tailor-made to fit specific circumstances.”
This change, he says, has been hastened by the pandemic, which has clearly shown people that they don’t want to be just a ‘number’ who receives generalized advice in an automated system. “They want to connect with a human who listens to and understands their particular needs - and then is able to access superior technologies to really help them save time, money and inconvenience.
“This means that estate agents, and the principals and companies behind them, are going to have to ‘step up’ now as never before if they want to win clients and achieve and maintain success. And as always, there will be those who can do this largely because they are already trained, prepared and equipped to do so, and those who can’t, and are unable to innovate fast enough to avoid losing ground to their more nimble, adaptable competitors.”
In short, says Everitt, there will be survivors who go on to thrive and there will be casualties – “and those who anticipate being in the latter category are likely to have a very different view of market prospects for the next 12 to 18 months than my own.
“Indeed, we have seen some really gloomy predictions being circulated over the past few days about prices crashing, distressed stock flooding the market and the real estate industry collapsing.
“But our outlook is very positive, given what our agents were able to achieve even during the hard lockdown by putting their clients first and making full use of the technology ecosystem we have spent years building. They managed not only to maintain empathetic and reassuring contact with their clients, but also to find potential buyers and tenants, set up virtual viewings and show-days, organise home loans and sign deals worth hundreds of millions of Rands, all from their own homes.
“There was no shortage of demand once buyers realized what was possible, and we expect the momentum to increase now that the economy is opening up again and we are also able to conduct physical property viewings and speed up the transaction process. There will be more properties for sale, and prices will come under pressure, but this will just create more opportunities for sales, especially if interest rates remain at current levels or fall further.”
He says the digital ecosystem used by Chas Everitt principals and agents has been specifically designed to keep agents at the centre of the transaction, right next to their clients, and empowered with a suite of best-of-breed technologies to deliver such exceptional service that they become indispensable, unforgettable, trusted property advisors for life.
“We have never sought to automate the agent out of the transaction. On the other hand, we did anticipate the growing need to liberate principals and agents from desks and offices and specific sales areas, and we built our Notebook© and Nomad© systems accordingly. These enable principals to reduce overheads and agents to retain more of their commission, and during this crisis, they have more than proved their worth in enabling people to work completely remotely, just using a laptop or a cellphone, and still deliver a quality experience to their delighted clients.
“And we believe this state of readiness is going to stand us in very good stead over the next few months as the industry undergoes the new round of disruption (which we like to call progress) in which clients seek to interact with property professionals who are authentic and attentive as well as highly capable.”
At the same time, says Everitt, market fluctuations and differing views of the future will create more scope for industry mergers and acquisitions over the next few months – and generate more movement among top professionals who are seeking to join forward-looking companies with good leadership.