These are strange times indeed. As the child of teachers, one thing I knew from a very early age was that I NEVER wanted to be a teacher. Yet here I am, teaching the full year 7 curriculum to my 11 year old, Gruff, (woodwork through the medium of a word search). And I’m an estate agent trying to make sense of working remotely from home.
Necessity being the mother of invention, Christie Residential are having to reassess how we can provide a service that is fundamentally people based in the face of social interaction being off limits. In this unprecedented situation we have to take the gift of time that has been given, to assess how we work and the services we offer.
Above all else, we want people to know that we are open for business. But how and in what form? The lockdown has proven to be a big “PAUSE” button that has been pressed on people’s lives. This has been felt acutely by our Purchasers and Vendors who had been expecting to move in the a matter of weeks. A great deal of my time has been spent chatting through various scenarios with people particularly as the Government advice was taking shape. The reality is that with only very few exceptions, moving will have to wait. It has been good to have these conversations though even if the message is not what people hoped. It has emphasised people’s basic good nature and pragmatism and their appreciation for the advice we provide.
Everyone has understood that we are all in the same boat and in this together.
Despite the social distancing at the heart of the Corona Virus pandemic, it is in many ways a shared experience. Solidarity in the challenges of looking after vulnerable members of society whether they are family or clients. We have always felt very strongly that Christie Residential should have a community presence and we are currently considering what we can do to thank the keys workers who have played such a vital role in the Corona Virus response. Our lettings department in particular have a close connection with Nevill Hall hospital with a great many of our current tenants forming part of the front line there.
Ultimately we at Christie Residential need to look to the post-lockdown future positively and with that in mind we cannot forget about our future clients too. This is where our approach needs to be more creative and the message emphatic: “We are here to help you move”. Now if you think that sounds counterintuitive then you are probably right. But we are here to be a source of advice and we will give this generously. While valuations are obviously off limits we can certainly offer preliminary appraisals over video call that will allow us to keep our buyer database informed of new opportunities that are on the horizon. I don’t think I’m alone in having become much more comfortable with video calls in light of the current situation. Previously the very idea of them gave me the fear. But barriers have come down in light of Corona and that provides us with an opportunity to extend the services we offer. This approach is also where an estate agents earns their keep. The assumption that the internet is the only method of selling your home, particularly given the preeminence of Rightmove, can be misleading. Allowing your agent to use the simple art of conversation to create a buzz and a sense of anticipation can be hugely effective and it is where we excel.
These are unprecedented times, and while the immediate future remains uncertain, the longer term will see normality return. It is possible people will be apprehensive at first and that will be where our empathy and experience will be called upon to help guide people back into the market. One thing is certainly true; the joy of social interaction, unlimited by social distancing will be like nothing else. I am flirting with the idea of introducing a new company policy of welcoming people to our Cross Street office with hugs but maybe that would be too much. It is a source of acute sadness that we cannot deliver the face-to-face service we so pride ourselves on at this time, but we will be resourceful in what we can offer to our current and future clients. And optimistic that we will be able to do it in person soon enough.