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Agents must adapt quickly to the new normal By David Alexander, joint Managing Director of apropos

28 August 2020 9845 Views
Agents must adapt quickly to the new normal  By David Alexander, joint Managing Director of apropos

 

There is little doubt that the coronavirus has changed the way we live and rapidly created a new normality as different to our lives of six months ago as it is possible to be. What is remarkable is how quickly people have adapted to these changes and how accepting they have been of this new way of living. Dramatic change has occurred, and people have adjusted and made their response as flexible as possible.

The same is also true of the lettings market, which has been transformed over the last six months. Much of this change was happening anyway but coronavirus has accelerated the rate of this change and brought about a transformation of the market in half a year that would otherwise have taken many years to occur.

The way that landlords, agents, and tenants operate was already changing and client demand was driving that change. The High Street model was already outdated in February, and now looks positively archaic. The need for firms to operate from chains of shops located in every city and town has been eroding for some time but it is clear that the pandemic has swept aside this method of service delivery.

Our lives were already moving online, and the coronavirus pandemic has simply highlighted and accelerated this shift. It is unlikely that shopping will return to its old model and the same has occurred with letting. Most people run their lives from their phone and agencies that have a clear, easy to understand online service, which is accessible 24/7, are the future. Supported by on the ground agents to provide essential face-to-face meetings with landlords and tenants backed up by state-of-the-art technology the future of the private rented sector lies in this model.

For landlords, the requirement is access by phone, tablet or laptop to property and tenancy information across their property portfolios; live notification of all transactions as they happen; instant notifications of all viewings and access to feedback from prospective tenants; the monitoring of property popularity; full tracking of tenant applications from submission to approval to check-in; and real-time listing of all income and expenditure ensuring complete transparency on the status of their account. In addition, notification of all property regulations must be available with full visibility of the required certification and expiry dates.

For tenants, the demand is for transparent and stress-free renting. For all ages, but particularly those under 40, everything in their lives is conducted on their phones and they want their property rental delivered the same way. Tenants want reduced waiting times; streamlined and faster applications for properties online and the tracking of application status; the easy uploading of relevant documents; and hassle-free reporting of maintenance issues to ensure quicker response times as well as the ability to view relevant certification. Tenants also want to have their voice heard through a feedback service to ensure landlords and agents are immediately made aware of positive and negative comments and can act accordingly. Tenants must feel confident that they can have their opinions heard and acted upon.

A further outcome of the pandemic has been the rise of virtual viewing. Again, few would have believed that we would so rapidly adjust to such a transformative change. Yet we have found tenants happy to secure properties without setting foot inside them. Indeed, they prefer this method of looking at properties. This then will be the new norm for some time to come as it allows for a safe, secure and easily accessible service which is essential at the moment.

Being able to view a property, secure it and conduct all the required administrative work to move in is something that individuals wanted before the pandemic and now see this as the normal, and sensible way forward in the future. A service which subsequently allows them to easily communicate with agent and landlord means that this means of conducting property transactions will continue.

This latest innovation will be with us for some time to come but we do believe at some point in the future tenants and landlords will return to wanting some form of face to face meeting. Therefore, this combination of effective, easily accessible online access coupled with face-to-face meetings between landlords and tenants will be the new norm in the lettings sector.

At the heart of the modern letting service is the quality of service, the effectiveness of the online platform, and fairness and transparency in information, communication and relations between landlords, tenants, and agents. With all that has happened in the last six months we believe that the changes which have occurred now will produce a more effective, efficient, and better lettings service in the future.

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