In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, most businesses within the property industry made significant and decisive moves towards remote working. This was, of course, in order to successfully implement social distancing wherever possible.
While steps had been taken in this direction throughout previous years, the outbreak of the coronavirus saw a major change in the way in which estate agencies operated.
But , what is next for the remote aspects of property sales and lettings now that society is “re-opening” to a significant degree? In this article, we look at the possible extent to which the “estate agent of the future” will function remotely, and how much will be undertaken in-person.
Today’s Remote Working Tools
The role of the estate agent has seen dramatic changes since March 2020. For a start, following the outbreak of the pandemic, there was suddenly a far greater reliance on video conferencing rather than on face-to-face meetings.
Many companies also began to implement additional tools that were designed to aid in the house-hunting process without the need for physical presence, with VR and video tours created to reduce the number of in-person viewings.
E-signatures have become more and more common in the world of property sales too, with varying degrees of security depending on their purpose.
Online chatbots can be installed to respond to basic queries, reducing the volume of emails and calls to which an estate agent would usually be expected to respond.
The result is a far more versatile and adaptable role, as well as greater versatility and independence for potential buyers, sellers or tenants.
So, having achieved all of the above, will there ever again be a call for in-person interaction in this industry?
While all of the tools and resources listed above are likely to remain in place – or become solidified, perfected and further ingrained within the property sector – one necessity persists. House hunters will always want to see properties in-person.
The need to actively visit a wide range of buildings before making a decision may be somewhat reduced – thanks to the implementation of 3D tours and video online – but most prospective buyers will still want to spend time in a property before committing to purchase or rent it.
This is usually in order to more clearly gauge the size or layout of the rooms, check for any structural or cosmetic damage that may not have shown up online, or to explore the surrounding areas.
If only for this purpose, there will still be the need for a property professional to be present in-person – meaning that while remote working may remain significantly in place, it is unlikely to ever constitute one hundred percent of an estate agent’s role.
Moving forward, one key difference in the world of property sales is that there may be less of a reliance on physical estate agency “shop fronts” that clients can visit. Similarly, the growth of virtual auctions is also likely to become the norm (or perhaps some kind of hybrid with the traditional ‘ballroom’ style of doing things.
Even before the pandemic, a huge amount of interaction between sellers, agents, solicitors and buyers was undertaken via email and online – and this has risen still further in recent times.
This means that the estate agent’s window may be a thing of the past, and that we are less likely to see businesses of this kind on the high street. In the future, companies of this kind will probably operate out of smaller locations situated out of the public eye.
Overall, while we are not likely to see the end of in-person interaction between estate agents and their clients any time soon, that interaction may be significantly reduced.
Most work – particularly verbal communication – will probably be done remotely, with the exception of viewings, valuations and other tasks that can only be undertaken in-person.