There’s no doubt about it, COVID-19, the coronavirus that is quickly bringing the world to its knees, is here to stay – at least for the foreseeable future.
Update: 15th May 2020
While there is still some confusion around the current situation, the Government have been clear that the housing market is once again open for business.
Estate agents in England have been told they can go back to work, providing they follow a number of guidelines. These involve minimising social contact, keeping time inside a property as low as possible, and ensuring certain cleaning procedures are followed.
Make no mistake about it, the housing market is certainly not ‘back to normal’. We’ll be living with the extra safety measures for some time. But, it does mean if you been wanting to move, you can at long last do so.
The article below has now been updated to reflect the change of advice.
Like all businesses, estate agents face an uncertain future. For the good of the economy and the world we live in, businesses are having to find ways to carry on despite the crisis.
That means all estate agents must now properly assess the risk to their staff, customers, and wider public, then put in measures to limit the risk as much as possible.
With a business model that restricts face-to-face contact, online agents will perhaps find this easier to do than their high street counterparts. However, we are already seeing estate agents across the country change their normal procedures to help protect people from coronavirus.
Here is what each of the online estate agents have said they are doing to help combat the spread of COVID-19:
Purplebricks, the largest of all online estate agents were somewhat slow to announce what measure they were putting in place to deal with COVID-19.
However, by 24th March they had eventually announced that they were using “video technology such as WhatsApp, FaceTime, Zoom, Duo and Hangouts to conduct all viewings and valuations until Government guidelines change.”
Following the Government’s confirmation that estate agents could re-open on 13th May, you’ll find the Purplbricks website makes much clearer references to ‘virtual and socially-distanced’ viewings.
However, they still appear to keep any specific COVID-19 references well hidden. There are no clear links to their policies like you’ll find on many of their competitors’ websites.
But, if you search around and check their FAQs, you’ll find they have a blog post here that outlines the extra measures they are taking. Though it doesn’t appear to have been updated since 24th March.
Housesimple have been one of the most proactive online estate agents when it comes to issuing COVID-19 advice.
As of 22nd March, Housesimple had announced a number of measures to help deal with COVID-19 which you can read about here.
The impressive thing is that this page has been regularly updated throughout. On March 25th (as the country entered lockdown) they essentially paused most of their activities. However, they were still able to conduct virtual viewings using video technology such as Whatsapp, Zoom, and Skype.
As of May 14th, the page was updated to reflect the fact that were now open for business once again. The key advice is based on the Government guidelines to:
- Clean your hands immediately before and after the visit
- Minimise contact with surfaces during the visit and clean surfaces such as door handles afterwards
- Leave internal doors open and keep spaces free of clutter
- Restrict the number of people present, if at all possible
The article has quite a good FAQ style to it so it answers many of the questions you might have about buying or selling a property at the moment.
While Yopa were initially a little slow to make their COVID-19 advice clear (they seemed to avoid mentioning coronavirus-related words, they did then publish a more detailed guide as the country went into lockdown.
Since then, they then added a banner to their website that gave visitors an easy way to get the latest information. This linked to this update that has been regularly updated since with the latest information.
Essentially, like other estate agents they are following the Government’s advice. Though we must give credit to how detailed Yopa’s advice is. Both viewings and valuations are covered, with information about how both can be safely carried out.
Another agent who were perhaps slow to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, Doorsteps initially (and somewhat controversially) used it as an opportunity to push a ‘free life insurance advice’ offer.
This was perhaps ill-judged and it was soon replaced with an offer of a free video tour when you sell with them.
Since then, Doorsteps have taken a much more ethical approach to the situation and now have a very noticeable banner at the top of their site. The banner links to this guide which outlines what they are doing to ensure social distancing measures can be maintained.
The guide is fairly well detailed and it’s clear they are now taking the threat seriously.
We cannot find any mention of any extra coronavirus measures that 99Home have put in place. While they already conduct online valuations, they do usually visit properties to verify property descriptions.
Neither the website or social media feeds have made any mention of COVID-19.
easyProperty frame themselves as being able to sell your home from your sofa which obviously sounds coronavirus-friendly. That said, in reality, that’s no different to any other online estate agent really.
The only mention of COVID-19 is one post on their social media feeds about following current government advice, with a link to the official Gov info page.
We cannot find any mention of coronavirus measures on the eSale website or social media feeds.
Hats off to I Am The Agent for being one of the first online agents to clearly communicate what they are doing to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in a blog post which you can read here.
They have also begun offering a 50% discount on their fees to NHS workers. That’s a great offer and one that we haven’t seen anyone else matching – though it could be even better if they extended it to all key workers.
Perhaps slightly disappointing though is that, after leading the way early on, it’s hard to find any up-to-date advice about COVID-19 on their site. We would have expected a clear announcement once agents were allowed to open but, as of 15th May, it hasn’t yet materialised.
We cannot find any mention of coronavirus measures on the Griffin Residential website or social media feeds.
Again, there’s no direct mention of what SellMyHome.co.uk are doing about coronavirus on their website or social media feeds. However, there is a passing mention of using their ‘Virtual Walkthrough’ service to allow people to view your property from home.
We cannot find any mention of coronavirus measures on the Springbok Properties website or social media feeds.
We cannot find any mention of coronavirus measures on the Visum website.
While emoov are not avoiding talking about COVID-19, we have been unable to find any direct mention about what they are doing to help combat it.
The closest we have found is a blog post which talks about the potential impact of coronavirus on the property market and wide economy. There is no mention of any special measures they have put in place to protect people.
Estate Agents Can And Should Do More
We call on all agents, online or otherwise, to act responsibly and immediately publish what they are doing about COVID-19 clearly on their websites.
We will endeavour to keep the list above updated. However, since this is a fast-moving situation, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of our information. If you think something is wrong or missing, please contact us to let us know.
We have also issued our own advice for homeowners who are trying to sell their property (or are considering doing so) at the moment. The advice includes tips you can follow for safely showing people around your home. You can read the advice here.