It is reported that thousands of agents across the Country have been sent home due to Covid 19 like a large percentage of people across all industries. A few agents are still working however, the majority have been furloughed under the scheme set up by the government, meaning branches all across Britain have been closed. However, the main question at the moment given the uncertainty is how many will re-open?
The terminology furloughed basically means that staff are at home but not working and that’s the main difference from been made redundant as they are able to return to their job. Under the scheme individuals are able to claim 80% of their normal salary from the government, up to £2,500 a month and this as it stands does not have to be paid back at anytime.
Although you can understand why estate agents have taken this measure to reduce their overheads as much as possible during these times, have many acted too rationally leaving their businesses exposed to offering bad service.
Granted there isn’t going to be many people wanting to place their house on the market at the moment and viewings can also only be done virtually so will be significantly lower to normal. However, there are those customers who have agreed a sale on their property and therefore require a high level of customer service, probably more than normal.
The government recently announced that people should put any move on hold unless they have exchanged contracts. I believe people who have agreed a sale will require more attention than they normally would. We all know 99% of the articles we read at the moment is negative news so surely it is imperative that agents try to keep both vendor and their respective buyers as positive as possible. If one of the parties allow the negativity to take over their mind there is a strong chance they pull out of the transaction. Furthermore, banks are under an enormous amount of pressure at the moment so having an agent on hand on completion date may also be more important than normal in case there are issues with the lender releasing the funds.
Here at FastMove we can tell you first-hand this has happened once already within our business. We had a completion set for last Friday, with all parties packed up vans booked etc. However, the monies for one of the buyers never arrived from the bank leaving everyone immensely anxious and frustrated. As we are still operating with a high percentage of staff, we were able to speak to everyone concerned to put plans in place and get over the issues. However, we cannot say the same for some of the other estate agents and solicitors in the chain. There respective vendors ended up calling us for updates and guidance as they were unable to get through to their agent or solicitor. We will not mention their names for professional reasons but would gladly clarify if you want to call us.
It’s because of the above agents may find they have reacted too quickly by furloughing too many of the staff leaving their business in a vulnerable position. It only takes one transaction to go wrong to have a huge impact on the agent’s reputation. Therefore, before agents decide on their structure during these hard times they may want to sit down a spend sometime as to how many staff they are going to need to ensure their service standards are maintained.
At the moment the scheme lasts until the end of May but I am sure the government will re-address this if things take longer to return to normal.
Let’s hope whatever the agents put into place they are all able to re-open their doors in whatever level of capacity.