A big statement for sure, but Covid-19 (coronavirus) has already had huge repercussions on the letting and sales market in the United Kingdom. Since March we’ve not been able to hold viewings in properties with tenants, there’s been a huge shift to digital, and in general, the housing market was on stop for a good 12 weeks.
Into July 2020 and restrictions are beginning to loosen, we’ve been able to host viewings again, and tenants are now moving in and out of properties. So as we begin to return to normal (or a new normal), what did Covid-19 teach us?
Working from home
Everyone began working from home as the Government rules stated you must, if you could. That in itself was a challenge to many businesses, especially those with staff members, reliant on offices and devices. For us, it was simply a case of unplugging the computers and taking them home.
We’ve been moving into digital ways of working for a few years now, so it was a fairly painless step for us to move home. We’d expect this was a bit trickier for businesses reliant on paper trails and filing cabinets – working from home will surely have made companies realise the importance of digital and the cloud.
Working from home also opened up the huge potential of online meetings! No longer were people travelling up and down the country for meetings, or landlords coming over to Aberystwyth for a quick meeting with us to discuss maintenance on their property. Everyone prefers a face to face of course, but Covid-19 pushed us all into online meetings, via video call. Before long, Zoom was a verb, and we Zoomed around on our digital meetings.
The importance of digital
As we’ve already said, we started moving our business online a few years ago. We run everything online:
- Enquiries and bookings
- Application process
- Guarantor agreements
- Credit checks
- Signing tenancies
- Sending inventories
- Landlord statements
In fact, the only thing we didn’t do online was host virtual viewings. We’ve done it before with potential tenants living abroad, however this really became important during the lockdown, especially so for the sales market. We think this will really improve viewings overall, and especially move into 360 viewings if not live ones.
Yes, many lessons were business related of course, but coronavirus really did teach us about the importance of community too. Prior to coronavirus, did you know how many of your tenants were in a high risk category? Elderly? In need of assistance if shops closed?
As soon as lockdown started, we asked all of our tenants if they were in need of help, were they high risk, and shielding? It wasn’t just for our own interests as a business, but to offer help to those who potentially might need it, especially if they were isolating on their own. As ever, Aberystwyth shone as the community rallied together, delivering lunch packages, food deliveries, prescriptions, offering phone calls to those living alone.
Let’s hope that the feeling of community remains, as a strong lesson learned during 2020.