The property market must get comfortable with the uncomfortable

According to Bruce Burkitt, Founder & Managing Director at Property Experts ..

The past few months have presented some of the most unique challenges ever faced to the

property market. Now as large swathes of the industry return to work we can look to regain the momentum of the Boris Bounce, aid the recovery of the property market and as an industry, shoulder the responsibility of safely kick starting the economy…

But although things slowed they did not stop, businesses such as ourselves and others found new ways to be productive, experimenting with different formats for how we would conduct business once the market fully reopened. Also, we remained vigilant for opportunities in the marketplace, despite the correction to the market caused by Covid-19.

As a property developer with over thirty years of experience I have seen the market rise and fall several times. I wanted to share my advice on how Property Experts are successfully navigating the current market during these challenging times and the future of the property market following the reopening of the industry.

This crisis has led to all of us taking on radically different roles over the past few months as we looked to navigate the crisis. As the virus was in many ways unlike anything any of us have ever lived through, we knew we would have to thing outside the box and take on different roles. At Property Experts we all have ended up playing a number of new roles over the last few weeks, whether it was moving the lawn for unoccupied developments or making sure apartments were thoroughly sanitised. Thank to our team’s work we have stayed match fit and as such are ready to meet the challenges of the next few months head on.

Speaking to others in the industry it was reassuring to hear the traditional British spirit of innovation and resilience remained strong as companies look to navigate these unfamiliar waters. Although the common misconception is that all viewings had been banned under government guidelines, viewings where able to take place if the property being purchased is unoccupied and the correct preventative measures are taken, including ensuring apartments are sanitised, people are wearing mask and gloves and having no contact.

By following these precautions, we were able to conduct a limited number of viewings at our new unoccupied development in Kenley. We have now accepted offers on four of the eight apartments. All to date have Help to Buy scheme – three are first-time buyers, whilst the other is a divorcee. They were all local to the area so used their allocated hour of exercise to walk to view the property. Each conducted an isolated viewing, where the prospective buyers arrived at the new development, which was unlocked in advance and were able to look around on their own wearing the necessary protective gear.

Interestingly, when soft launching the development early in the year the majority of leads were from downsizers, however, much has changed due to the extended stricter lockdown so are unable to progress even if they wanted to. Many are also waiting to see what happens with the market in regards to selling their own home. However first-time buyers are typically younger and still keen to go ahead and the government should potentially look at extending the Help to Buy scheme further to aid market recovery.

Although COVID 19 has little in common with the factors that have impacted the UK economy over the past two decades, primarily the 2008 financial crash, Brexit and the 2014 introduction of the Stamp Duty rises, they all have had a shared effect, causing a market correction.

In this sense Covid 19 is at once familiar and unfamiliar. The UK property market has weathered several crises before and each time has adapted, with many successful businesses switching to a more agile approach. Again the whole industry will have to accept the “new” normal and those who innovate first and boldly will be rewarded by drawing customers who are looking for the safest and easiest place to buy, sell or let their home as the market is now returning to some form of normality.

The industry will have to become comfortable with the uncomfortable and draw on the experience of those who have navigated past crises successfully. Now is a time to reach out to your connections in the industry and learn from others and you should certainly not be afraid of seeking guidance. This situation, although prolonged is now starting to turn a corner following the government’s announcement to allow estate agents to reopen mirroring many countries who have made tremendous progress in combatting the virus. Agile businesses will be best positioned to ride the present wave of uncertainty in the market, those who have failed to adequately prepare and stopped working and planning will be in a difficult position and these businesses will find themselves fighting for survival over the coming months.

In contrast to some of these businesses we maintained maximum care at Property Experts to find the opportunities that were there, we completed several deals in a short space of time through adapting to the situation in front of us. I would advise others to not let any chances slip through your net upon full reopening as this could be costly for those who experienced little to no activity the past two months.

Several common themes have emerged over the past two months amongst those who have successfully adapted. The first consideration of many of these companies was that with footfall radically dropping to reinvest into their online presence, conduct virtual viewings and focus on reaching customers who are still in the market. For those who ceased activity completely it is difficult to see how they will be able to generate the cash flow movements most businesses will be implementing in the latter half of the year adapting to the ongoing situation.

With the country beginning to reopen we can look to accept the “new” normal as a permanent change for the property industry. We have important questions as an industry to address on issues from how new houses are built, how buyers purchase them and what will they be looking for in a home. The property market must follow the example of traditionally faster moving industries to learn how to navigate through these difficult times and draw strength from the positive conditions underlying the market following Brexit.

For further information on property investment, development and sourcing contact Property Experts on 020 8720 6901 or visit www.propertyexperts.co.uk

About Property Experts: Property Experts specialise in sourcing and acquiring land, residential, commercial, investment and development properties for ourselves and on behalf of retained clients.

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