Open homes and auctions may be on the back-burner due to the Covid-19 outbreak and countrywide lock-in – but that doesn’t mean estate agents are sitting on their hands.
It’s tough going though with the people unable to move home and the Auckland District Law Society recommending settlements be deferred until the lock-down end.
Nevertheless, Mike Pero agent Peter Warren is busy taking enquiries from people wanting to buy property in south Christchurch, and placing open home visits in his diary.
“I am stacking up a list of buyers for each property I am marketing,” he says. “Every property I have has its own folder and I put all the details of anyone who enquires in there for the future.
“And as soon as the opportunity comes to hold an open home I’ll have everyone come through at once. I expect a lot of people to be in the queues to buy property – and so once the enforced lock-in is over it will be frantic.”
Peter says in the days leading up to the enforced lock-in from midnight on 25 March, open homes were tense.
“There was a feeling of awkwardness among buyers and vendors – all parties were worried about transmitting the virus,” he says. “There was a lot of fear.”
While the idea of selling a house based solely on a video ‘inspection’ has been touted as an option by some, Peter doesn’t place much stock in it.
“I don’t think people would be confident enough to buy purely on what they see on a computer screen,” he says. “It’s a great idea, but I don’t think it works in practice. Buyers might fascinate themselves with it – but won’t buy due to the risk.
“I listed a house a few days before the lockdown, had a buyer go through, and am now negotiating with them remotely. With that and my other listings there is still plenty to do while working from home.”
Peter expects a huge rise in internet traffic as people search for properties. He will be spending some of his time raising his profile across social media.
“Basically, anything I can do with online media will be exploited, and I can also do property appraisals from home based on photographs and knowing everything about the house. As far as is practical, it is business as usual.”
In Auckland, Ray White agent Vanessa Mowlem, says people in the industry need to keep as upbeat and as positive as possible.
“There’s a lot of doom and gloom around,” she says. “But we have been here before with 9/11 and the 2008 global financial crisis. But the industry always bounces back – sooner or later – we have just got to stick together and be as positive as we can.”
She says it is too early to understand what the impact on real estate will be and Vanessa’s focus right now is on her active buyers and sellers.
“We are really looking after the vendors that we are already working with,” she says. “There are people out there who want to sell today, and there are people who want to buy today.
“So we are really just focusing on those clients and making sure they are being kept up to date as much as we can – it is very uncertain times for them.
“They are feeling a little bit uneasy about what’s going to happen. I think the best thing we can do is have daily contact with them and try to get offers to them via scan/email.”
Vanessa is scanning documents that clients can print out, sign and email back to her.
Her team is also using this time to upskill and work on further brand development.
“We will continue to market our services through various forms of social media – that’s a given.”
Dianne Cummings, managing director, Cummings Kilgraff & Co in Petone, says while work hasn’t ground to a halt it’s going to be a lot different over the next few weeks to the red hot market she’s been used to.
“Unless you have someone willing to buy sight-unseen it’s not going to happen,” she says. “We can’t even take someone through a home at the moment.
“But we do have video tours and floor plans, but the majority of people – especially in Lower Hutt – actually want to see a house before they put an offer in. So we are busy on social media promoting our listings and generating interest for when life gets back to normal.”
Dianne says this period of self-isolation will give buyers time to do their homework on which properties they might be interested in, and says the market has recently been driven by first-home buyers.
She says this is a time for sellers to do DIY to prepare a home for sale, and Dianne is posting ideas on Facebook to help parents with young children get through the next few weeks, running fun online contests, and published a chore-list for kids to help around the home.