How the real estate industry is quickly adapting to Covid-19
The way Australians buy and sell their homes has changed drastically overnight, with property auctions and open homes being banned from midnight on Wednesday as part of a new suite of measures to flatten the curve of Coronavirus.
In last night's address, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that auctions and open for inspections could no longer take place. He said, "Real estate auctions and open inspections… that cannot continue."
While it's unclear how long these restrictions will be in place, major real estate agencies are already lobbying for the property sector to be recognised as an 'essential service.'
While the real estate market had continued to hum along prior to this announcement, many industry professionals were bracing for tougher restrictions to come into play, and as a result have already been working on adapting the way they do business in order to comply with restrictions.
Sydney based real estate photographer and videographer Cameron Curdie said, "Three weeks ago, we got incredibly busy. Things were going great in the market, auction clearance rates were high, everything was going great.
"While the approach to marketing a property is changing to adapt to Covid-19, so have our practices. We've been taking all precautions necessary; when we go into a property, we don't touch any personal effects, we're wearing masks and sanitising everything."
With a ban on open homes, agents are now seeing growing demand for private inspections.
"We're still able to conduct private inspections, so we are doing that," says Melbourne real estate agent, Andrew Milne.
"Since we've taken all our open inspections down, as well as auctions, my phone has been running hot with people who want to have a look at properties themselves by private appointment.
Since we've taken all our open inspections down, as well as auctions, my phone has been running hot with people who want to have a look at properties themselves by private appointment.
"We need to obviously adhere to the separation and social distancing rules. We're taking extra sanitary precautions and asking buyers not to touch things when they inspect a home.
"We're finding the vast majority of people are open to that and just wanting to do the right thing. From a practical point of view, we are going back to how things were done in the 90s, which is moving to private appointments and not doing mass open inspections and auctions," he said.
And it's not just demand for private inspections that is increasing either. According to Curdie, 3D virtual tours are also quickly becoming the norm in order to market a property successfully.
"Video is becoming a really powerful tool for marketing a home during a time like this.
"We're seeing a lot of agents move towards 3D virtual tours of properties in order to adapt to tighter social distancing rules. These 3D tours provide really in-depth views of a home along with helpful information around the measurements within a property, down to heights and widths. You get a really good feel for the space within a home, along with beautiful imagery and emotive music. This is powerful for attracting buyers."
Daniel Bolton from Fletchers Mooroolbark in Melbourne is already conducting most of the process remotely, "There are enough resources and tools out there to get everything done remotely.
"The difference between a lot of people is that some will go into a negative mindset right now and say it's all too hard, but good agents will just adapt and find a way. That's what I feel we are doing right now.
"There's a tool that does online bidding, online auctions, online private sales, Facebook Live. We're even doing virtual tours of properties and virtual appraisals as well. It sounds crazy, but everything is possible."
We're even doing virtual tours of properties and virtual appraisals as well. It sounds crazy, but everything is possible.
These new ways of conducting business are also changing buyer behaviours. According to Bolton, with the rise of virtual tours, buyers are able to be more certain about the handful of homes they want to go and view.
"I think buyer mentality will go from visiting 50 different properties to utilising virtual tools to hone in on a small handful they think will suit them, and going to those particular homes on a one-on-one basis with the agent. I think that's probably the direction we are heading in," he says.
According to some agents, the buyers they're seeing are more genuine, they have their finances in order, or they've recently sold and need to buy quickly.
And according to some agents, the buyers they're seeing are more genuine, they have their finances in order, or they've recently sold and need to buy quickly. This new process reliant on digital tools is now removing discretionary buyers that agents may have seen in the past.
Buyer's Agent Lloyd Edge agrees that there are buyers out there ready to pounce. "The buyers that are on the market are those with a little more experience and have had more of a track record buying property because they are a little more confident.
"There will be a few first time investors who already have an approval in place that might expire in the next month or two as well," he said.
Courtney Antico from Richardson and Wrench in Sydney's Bondi Junction says that agents are getting really creative with getting properties sold by promoting to their individual databases, and also forming relationships with Buyer's Agents in the area.
“We currently have two clients currently off market. They don't necessarily want to launch into a formal campaign, so we're contacting our internal buyer database and then reaching out to the local Buyer's Agent who has cashed-up, qualified and ready buyers who want to act now.”
Andrew Milne talks of his real estate agent daughter who is utilising the relationship she has with her database of around 1,000 buyers to help sellers transact off-market.
"My daughter goes to a property, makes a video on her phone, sends it to her database, and maybe 7-8 people will respond saying, 'I want to look at that property' - it's amazing.
"She sells a lot of properties off-market by doing that."
There's one message that rings clear. While agents are adapting to new ways of servicing clients, consumers will also need to adapt to a new way of selling and buying.
"I know we're in uncharted territory… and there are people who've had their livelihoods ripped out from underneath them.
"We're just trying to provide a good service to our clients and customers. The phone is ringing endlessly, and we're really just aiming to give people peace and comfort around what we can do to assist them.
"We are all going to be judged by how we act and behave now, we're going to be judged on the other side of this whole thing based on that. I am trying to be as balanced, wise and as considerate as I can be,” he says.
Ultimately, we're going to get to the same destination, but just use a slightly different path.
Asked whether properties will still sell, "ultimately, we're going to get to the same destination, but just use a slightly different path,” says Milne.
Antico left these wise parting words, "As a seller, you really need guidance, especially in this time. You need to have an agent that is confident in the way they're processing the sale. It's all about the attitude they take to the campaign.
"If you need to sell, you just really need to choose the right agent. When you're interviewing agents, simply ask them, 'what is your selling strategy in this market?'
"You will know straight away whether this agent is confident in their approach and whether they have a solid plan from what they're saying."