Speaking from Auckland, Ray White Ponsonby director Gower Buchanan is quick to reassure his Melbourne colleagues there will be light at the end of this tunnel.
Six months on from Stage 4 lockdowns he notes business is tracking nicely, but there was a period of significant adjustment.
Unlike Melbourne, where people look likely to still be able to move house and relocate, when restrictions were announced in New Zealand, it effectively brought a complete halt to the entire real estate industry.
Wherever people resided on the date restrictions were brought in, they were forced to stay. No removals, no relocations, no keys handed over…nothing.
Attention instead turned to staff welfare and honing the sales pipeline, in the knowledge people would indeed need to shift when lockdowns lifted.
“In New Zealand, people weren’t allowed to move house, because while settlements could take place, the whole world effectively stopped,” Gower explains.
“It was like we all agreed to share in the economic disparity.”
This disparity resulted in some nimble thinking, and while Melbourne’s situation might be different, Gower says there are key points to take away.
“It comes down to lots of communication between agents and their clients, and a different approach to service,” he says.
One of the biggest questions that remains is what if someone has their current premises under contract but they need to find somewhere else to live, either in the short-term or more permanently? How will they find a property to rent or buy when inspections look to be out of the question?
Gower notes that’s where nimble thinking comes into play.
“Now’s the time to work with colleagues across different brands on behalf of your clients, securing them a short-term rental or a longer-term purchase with delayed settlement.
“Options could include a vendor who has sold a property renting it back from the buyer until lockdown lifts,” he says.
“It comes down to communication and servicing people’s needs, going above and beyond to meet them.”
That might mean an agent taps the office rental database, liaises with buyers and sellers to achieve a suitable contract outcome, or renegotiates a settlement timeframe to better reflect the environment.
But ultimately the aim becomes more wholistic and about service rather than sales.
Meanwhile, Gower explains it’s still important to tend to the pipeline, reassuring prospective sellers there is opportunity to take their property to market, albeit differently.
“You can arrange video viewings of a property but with the stipulation in-person inspections are only available after lockdown ends.
“You can insert clauses into the sales contract that a sale is conditional upon in-person viewing after lockdown ends,” Gower said.
“You can help buyers and sellers who were going to come to market anyway by reassuring them they still can but it might be different.
“My main tip is to remain calm and confident in the knowledge this too will end. There is light at the end of the tunnel.”
Gower notes one trend that quickly became apparent post lockdown in NZ was that people were still in search of properties to buy.
“There was not a lot of stock on the market, but buyers who had sold their properties needed a property to buy,” he says.
“That meant there was not a lot of stock but there was good demand. Therefore, prices remained solid and some areas even grew.”
In the interim, Gower notes this is the time to tend to your team and look to the future pipeline.
“It’s a time to get your ducks in a row,” he said.
“We found the first few days were about making sure family life was safe and secure. The next were about making sure work life had structure, including plans, communication and a sense of purpose.
“Then it was about building on team strengths and acknowledging when one member is down another will be up but that will alter over the period ahead, so a buddy system was really useful.
“Ultimately you’ve got six weeks ahead to reformat your operation. For us it was a time to commit to building stronger relationships. So, we each tapped into our database and started relationship-building with five or six people each and every day.”
New Zealand experts…have you got a tip to offer? What helped you through Stage 4 lockdown? Comment below or share your best advice at [email protected]