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Pandemic changes the lettings market

01 December 2020 17643 Views
Pandemic changes the lettings market

The last year was one which none of us will forget both personally and professionally. Every aspect of life has been changed forever and the lettings market is no exception. Change was coming for the sector anyway, but the pandemic has accelerated this change and enormous differences have been introduced in six months which would probably otherwise have taken years to happen.

Virtual viewings, the continued decline of the High Street letting agent, the shift from office to home working, and the changing demands of tenants and landlords have all meant that whatever expectations agents had at the start of the year have been transformed beyond recognition by the year’s end.

This has been the most challenging year any of us will have faced and the impact of Covid 19 will continue long into next year. But there have been pluses and minuses along the way. While this may have been a year that many agents would rather forget there are some lessons which can be learned from the impact of the pandemic and how it has transformed the sector for good.

What may surprise many is that I have found that these last few months have proved more, rather than less, stable for landlords and tenants. We have had fewer landlords giving notice to tenants and fewer tenants giving notice to landlords. The importance of stability and having a secure home has never been more important and has been emphasized and reinforced by the pandemic and, I believe, this will continue. Tenants now want much greater stability in their lives and are seeking longer term agreements. Landlords welcome this and agents need to adapt to having much longer-term relationships with tenants.

The relationship between landlord, tenant and agent has also changed. The pandemic has accelerated this process and encouraged, through necessity, the need for greater communication because there have been so many major issues to resolve in a short space of time. This is a good thing, is a positive action in a time of negativity, and should continue in the coming years. Better communication means better relations for all.

The role of the agent has never been greater. So many landlords and tenants are dependent upon receiving the best and most up to date advice possible. The ever changing regulatory and legislative environment with its plethora of differing geographic variations means that just keeping up to date with the current situation is a full-time job. For many landlords this is the time when agents can prove their worth and value to their landlords through this crucial time. There has never been a better time to foster closer relationships with landlords and tenants and simple positive action now will be remembered long after the pandemic has ended.

It should be remembered that the private rented sector (PRS) remains a strong market. The second largest provider of homes in the UK the PRS has grown enormously over the last 30 years and there is room for more growth. You only need to look at the enormous amount of institutional investment being put into the sector to highlight the confidence in the strength of this market in the coming decade.

But it is an increasingly competitive market and agents need to keep ahead to ensure their clients receive the best service. How this service is delivered has been changed by the pandemic and this will continue in the coming years so agents need to ensure they are working with the most up to date software, using an online platform that provides 24/7 access, and professional service delivered locally and efficiently. 

But at its heart the letting business, like any other, is about people and relationships. How we deliver remains as essential as what we deliver. The pandemic hasn’t changed that fundamental.

The coming year, like its predecessor, will be unlike any other. But amid the gloom and doom there can be optimism and opportunity. This is a time when the old way of doing things probably won’t work ever again and we must all adopt new systems, effective methods of delivery, and build new relationships in the coming year.

There won’t be another year like 2020, thank goodness, but there could be an exceptionally good 2021 ahead and beyond with the right planning, organisation, and forethought. The market changes all the time and coronavirus has simply accelerated this change. The best agents will work with their landlords and tenants to recognise and understand this and respond accordingly. The private rented sector is here to stay and for those willing to adapt and be flexible there are fantastic opportunities in the years ahead.

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