Majority of agents want housing market shut down to manage virus spread

Almost 3,400 readers responded to a Property Industry Eye survey yesterday which sought to find out whether agents believed that branches should close and a ban introduced on physical viewings, valuations and meetings during the current lockdown.

Some 62% of the readers who took part in the poll, which closed at 7pm yesterday, believe that, given the threat posed by the new variant of coronavirus, it is unsafe for the government to allow agents to continue operating.

When asked whether the property market should remain partially open, as now, with branches able to open, socially distanced physical viewings, valuations and meetings, 62% were against the notion and voted no.

But the outstanding question is whether there is a correlation between having 30% agency owners voting and 37% voting to stay open.

The decision to keep the housing market operational and estate agency branches open, which is a key difference between the existing lockdown and the first one of March 2020, is an issue that has divided the property industry, as illustrated by some of the comments posted on EYE over the past 24 hours.

Meanwhile, a petition calling for the government to close all estate agents during the current lockdown has been launched. It has so far attracted more than 1,100 signatures.

Should the property market be put into full lockdown with branches closed and a ban on physical viewings, valuations and meetings?

Should the property market remain partially open, as now, with branches able to open, socially distanced physical viewings, valuations and meetings?

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67 Comments

  1. Anonymous Agent

    Perhaps showing the results of the survey between agency owners and agents would be useful rather than just asking the question about whether there’s a correlation?

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    1. JamesB

      Well put. I know my staff would also vote to close and I wouldn’t so I’m outnumbered 5 to 1

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  2. AlwaysAnAgent

    How many employees would not want 80% or 100% of their salary for sitting at home? Of course the majority of votes are for free money and no work.

    This is like running a poll for the abolishment of tax.

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    1. Eyereaderturnedposter12

      I’d give my teams a little more credit…

      The vast majority of my staff (with one or two exceptions) are more than happy to be working, using their brains and staying professionally active. I believe that most of them understand that a sedentary “furlough” existence, really isn’t good for ones well-being.

      I hear and see a lot of commentary about “duty of care” to staff in relation to keeping them safe…which is appropriate under the circumstances (it is the law, currently). However, I also firmly believe that the lion’s share of an employer’s duty of care, is to working very hard to ensure that staff actually have jobs to return to!

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      1. JamesDB

        Morning Eyereader

         

        Totally agree with you.  I am an employee (not yours of course), but I voted to remain open and am still happy to be working.  Do I find it odd considering what is going on in the world?? Yes,   Am I grateful to still have a job though… very much yes!

        We are just being super cautious.   Several staff working from home, including the boss and, we are only doing essential visits to properties.

         

        Its each to their own I guess, but I am happy we are still permitted to work… for my sanity!

         

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        1. Eyereaderturnedposter12

          Good man, I’m sure you’re a credit to you firm.

          Absolutely, take all the precautions necessary to allow you and your colleagues feel safe (this should always be a collaborative process), and ensure that high risk customers/staff are identified, and offered alternatives to ‘in person’ meetings/working environments.

          I will add however, (and this is something of a horse that has been flogged to death in recent weeks) the real risk to those of working age and who are in generally reasonable health (I.e. 18-60), from COVID, is really very minimal indeed…so much so, as to make it almost inconsequential. (Cue the dislikes!)

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          1. Industrycommentator

            Agreed with all you said right up until your last paragraph below

             “however, (and this is something of a horse that has been flogged to death in recent weeks) the real risk to those of working age and who are in generally reasonable health (I.e. 18-60), from COVID, is really very minimal indeed…so much so, as to make it almost inconsequential”

            I would hardly describe to those who have lost someone aged between 18-60 due to covid it being – “inconsequential or minimal and your phrase floored to death is tasteless.

            I would ask that you edit and remove your last paragraph.

             

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            1. Dick Value

              So YOU want to censor the truth? Delete YOUR post.

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              1. Industrycommentator

                No desire to censor – I just object to the suggestion that the deaths of those between the ages of 18 and 60 are inconsequential.

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                1. Dick Value

                  But he didn’t say that, did he? Do you lie on purpose?

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            2. Happy Daze!

              He is not saying it doesn’t matter, he is talking about risk. People die in cars but we don’t all vote to ban cars. It’s about ‘consequential risk’. 

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            3. Eyereaderturnedposter12

              Hi Industrycommentator,
              Perhaps I should clarify, that the ”horse” to which I was referring, is the discussion around the real-term risks, of COVID. I stand by my comment that for those in good health, and of working age…the risks are so infinitesimally  minimal as to (in relative terms), be inconsequential.
               
              Please note- This is NOT commentary on death on an individual basis being ”inconsequential”, as i believe should be fairly obvious from my statement. Is it perhaps that you have sought to be offended, by a comment on the realities (appreciating my thoughts do not follow the ‘line’ of the media and Govt.).
               
              You mention those who may have lost someone of working age, and good health…and yes, i’m sure there are some. However, given the numbers of involved it would be statistically remarkable for you know (in the direct sense, and possibly equally remarkable, by association) a single one (not impossible, but highly unlikely).
               
              Every minute, of every day…our brains make multiple risk assessments. Whether it be, switching on the printer (risking a malfunction leading to an electric shock), making a cup of tea (risking burns), driving to work (risking a car accident), standing up (risking falling over), walking a long a street (risking a roof tile falling on your head), and so on. The simple fact is, that there are far greater perils that exist int he world, to which I would imagine you have given far less thought to…since the day you were born. Risk is relative, and to risk closure and job losses, on the basis of minimal risk, is absurd. Would you stop your staff from using cars (as another poster alluded to), because there is a real risk of accident or death?…no, of course you wouldn’t (they would of course, then have to walk to work and appointments, which poses its own risks).
               
              To demand that someone remove a part of a comment, because you have sought to be offended by something you really ought not to be offended by (I.e. reality), is disappointing.  

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              1. Colin Adiuvo

                Re the cars analogy, I think I might if you apply Covid numbers to it. Currently average road deaths is around 1750 (for the whole year) – if we, over a prolonged period, saw upto 500 people a day dyeing whilst on the road that would be a 100x increase.  Based on that I am certain at least for a short while cars might be prevented from being used whilst they worked out what was wrong.

                I get why as an industry people are protecting their own incomes, we will continue to see a drop in call outs as/if restrictions on visiting properties/essential repairs are tightened as i expect but at sometime the greater good wins for me (and no I haven’t furloughed for one day or laid off any of my 80 staff) but its time for a proper shutdown and only moves where people are at risk are allowed, any deals agreed now should qualify for the reduction in SDLT whenever they complete.

                I guess it comes down to 2 sides of the coin – do you believe that we all should suffer in short term for the better end result or perhaps those most at risk should shield so those statistically hugely unlikely to be affected keep the economy going. For me I am the former, call me an old leftie (which I am) as I believe all should be treated equally and we already have a many tiered society with most that suffer not doing so via any fault of their own (I am also aware that is a very unpopular worldview) and the latter view exacerbates it.

                From my experience I think overall the industry has done things in an amazingly safe way but any interactions leave a possibility open for transmission – whilst they have behaved, again imo, appallingly throughout the pandemic the govt do seem to be doing encouragingly well with the vaccine rollout and given that when the top 4 groups have had theirs (end Q1 it seems) and that reduces death rate by circa mid 80% then we can look to rollback restrictions.

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        2. El Burro

          We play it mega safe, far more than supermarkets and other businesses permitted to open. Apart from the benefit to us that work in the industry that other posters have (rightly) mentioned, what about our clients though?

          Many of them aren’t moving through choice but necessity. Relationship break ups (and violence) have gone through the roof, elderly people moving in with family, young families desperate for more space (especially outdoor), people who HAVE lost their jobs/businesses and need to trade down etc etc

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  3. JonnyBanana43

    Poor journalism on the part of property industry eye here… Imagine if one of the mainstream papers got hold of this…?

    Of course most negotiators/admins would like to sit at home and be paid for doing nothing… These types of polls are childsplay – business owners will suffer, branch closures will happen and jobs will be lost if the property market is closed down.

    Simples.

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    1. MattMatt74

      I totally agree, it’s like asking turkeys to vote on banning Christmas!

      Show some real statistics like, how many jobs would be lost if the industry was shut down?

      ALL business support the economy and providing it is safe to do so (and we have shown that it IS safe to do so) then the industry should stay open and keep the wheels of industry turning (some are more essential than others!)

      As a business owner, I’d love to have 6 weeks off on 80% of pay and catch up on all my box sets that i don’t have time to watch……but I live in the real world, where rent will always need paying and staff will want a job to come back to you when they are bored of sitting at home.

      You can’t have your cake and eat it folks.

       

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      1. Happy Daze!

        Totally agree!…. btw yes turkeys should be banned for Christmas:-))

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    2. localagent735

      i think you need to give staff more credit. sales people only get paid if they sell houses. most sitting on 80% of there basic wage is not close to being enough! theres a balance of being safe and having the industry open.

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  4. bestandfinal51

    Offices can stay open or close if they wish – lets be honest, not many people walk into branches in this day and age anyway.
     
    Most modern estate agency’s have the facility and ability to offer remote working, allowing access to their systems – if not, you are living in the dark ages.
     
    The current guidelines allows agents to now do what they wish they could do all along – refuse viewings to those buyers who are “thinking of moving”, “getting to see whats out there” and so on.
     
    Am I missing something? As I see it, managed effectivly, sensisibly and empathetically; contact with any other human being whilst working as an estate agent is far less fraught than visiting the local supermarket to stockpile dried pasta and bog roll!

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  5. AgentOfTheNorth

    I’m an Agency Owner and I would support all my staff who preferred to furlough in the current climate. We gave the option to our team and some chose to do just that. Especially those with vulnerable situations or with children.
    To compare with other industries is not relevant. We are not Key workers, nor are we essential and believe we should be shut down for a short period to allow for the virus to be suppressed further with the hope of returning to some sort of normality quicker. Peoples lives will continue if it means having to wait a month or two before selling/listing/moving.
    I feel, to simply state employees would rush to furlough as a “paid holiday” or “80% for doing nothing” is naive. It shows an autocratic approach and one of someone who is not in touch with their team. We should be supporting them as their mental state and personal preference should be listened to. They should not be expected to work just because the Agency Owner expects them to due time some flakey advice from the Government.

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    1. AlwaysAnAgent

      And it’s honourable to take money from the Government when you’re profitable? Double standards.

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      1. AgentOfTheNorth

        Not sure I mentioned we were profitable? Nor if we were taking money. Perhaps you need to be less shortsighted and respect the decisions of individuals in unprecedented times rather than the “myway or the highway” approach. 

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      2. MattMatt74

        I think you need to have a reality check

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      3. localagent735

        so other industries can use the furlough scheme but estate agents cant??

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    2. JonnyBanana43

      Are you based in Scotland?

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  6. RealAgent

    I have to say this poll has really annoyed me.

    I suspect you would have had very difficult results if you’d said asked for people to vote given the likely outcome  which is if estate agencies shut down, the 31st March becomes impossible for most of our sales pipeline, fall throughs are horrendous, business rates return, furlough is more expensive to the employers than it was, portal costs costs are now back at full levels and all costs are completely different from the first lockdown and so many of those employed by estate agents subsequently lose their jobs.

    Now vote yes or no, but do please also declare whether your still living with your parents!

     

     

     

     

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    1. Manchester Bobby

      brilliant response

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    2. surrey1

      Why would all of this happen in a four week suspension of new business?

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      1. RealAgent

        Well I thought I had already said but if you shut down the market a high proportion of sales will fall through because their motivation to move was highly influenced by the stamp duty incentive and they won’t then have a hope of getting that.  Add that to a sluggish sales start to this year as is, you end up with heavily reduced income for Q1, no new sales pipeline for Q2 and do you really expert firms to suck that up and continue to pay staff happily returning from 4 weeks off and expecting their full wages again?!….. real world my friend

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        1. surrey1

          Your faith that deals being done now will complete in March is admirable. I’ve been telling buyers to factor stamp duty in since November.

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        2. localagent735

          stopping viewings and valuations can happen however allowing the current pipeline to still progress. Allow moves to happen and agents/solicitors to work from home to clear the backlog. best of both worlds while limiting the risk for most

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  7. Typhoon

    There isn’t an industry in the land which if given the freedom to carry on trading but with furlough still available, where SOME of their staff would not be baying to get it locked down.no work and money coming in.  It’s like pressing the self destruct button. When businesses close or are forced to shed staff,  then if those who banged the drum are among the many who lose their jobs, they will then class themselves as victims of unfairness because  they don’t have a job. Crazy world eh. The industry has proved in can remain open and operate in a very covid safe way.  And we have a duty of care to the hundreds of thousands of people needing and trying to move

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  8. Blackcountrygirl1

    As long as precautions are taken and Covid policies followed there is no need for the market to shut.
    In our agency any staff who felt vulnerable have been furloughed but those who are happy to work with guidelines are continuing to do so with 99% of the office based staff working from home. Why in this instance close the market?
    I think there are a huge amount of unhappy employees out there who probably would like to be furloughed but in all honesty that says more about your recruitment and management than  Covid itself.

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  9. zippyea

    And given the choice between continuing to work and dying or passing the disease on to someone who then dies? Let’s get real. This is a highly transmissible virus and we need to remove the opportunity for it to continue spreading as much as possible.

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    1. JonnyBanana43

      Working from home? Persume you’ve not left the house since last March? Anyone of us could die going to Tesco 

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    2. MattMatt74

      errr yeah that is why we are all wearing face masks and keeping more than a meter apart….if you do these things then it is safe to carry on with your life/business.
      You can’t catch the virus by looking at someone!

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  10. SISDAD

    Looks like the public, in the main, are starting to use some common sense, viewings across our businesses are down around 70% compared to December. Valuation diaries died off significantly. Plenty of time to push those sales through before March 31st!

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  11. spin2009

    Housing market has been part of a “bubble” for years – so what’s the problem?

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  12. Tornado

    It has really surprised me how many companies, large and small, have still decided to keep branches open. It’s totally unnecessary in this day and age but probably highlights the lack of investment in tech and the lack of trust they have with their staff. If my sources are accurate then it has been suggested to me that the government know that the risk of transmission in certain industries has proven to be low and therefore can remain open. Interestingly the building industry was among this as well as property. This does make sense to me as a safely conducted viewing/appraisal appointment should carry no risk at all. However I can see that having a number of people in a branch at any one given time has to increase the risk of spread. So in my opinion, work from home and carry out appointments correctly.

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  13. watchdog13

    If you can WFH do. Agents have had plenty of time to set up remote working.

    the next couple of months are going to be difficult and the use of flexi furlough makes sense even for a profitable business . Building a cash reserve is prudent business sense as no one knows what’s going to hit the sector next.

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  14. petsinestateagency

    It is easy to bang the drum for staying open, carrying on with viewings and valuations etc etc when you are not the one who is out there doing it. I appreciate that there are many business owners and managers who do meet the public and carry out appointments. However there are many who do not. If you are in a cosy office and not out there on the front line and so therefore at little or no personal risk, then you should pause and think before advocating that things should carry on.

     

     

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    1. Agentx

      This couldn’t be more accurate.

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    2. Happy Daze!

      ‘The Front Line’…..??…..really ?!

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  15. smile please

    Time for employers to get their ducks in a row, make a note of the militant individuals and if you need to make cuts in 6 months time you know who to send out the door first.

    I would also look to performance manage out when its appropriate.

    1 bad apple spoils the barrel.

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    1. James White

      Possibly the worst comment I have ever read on PIE….

       

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      1. Agentx

        ‘militant figures’ lol what are you even talking about

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        1. JonnyBanana43

          The Scottish communists?

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    2. petsinestateagency

      Militant? Not wanting to catch COVID and/or then pass it on to someone who then may die? Wow.

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    3. AgencyInsider

      Odious comment.

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    4. smile please

      Thought that might ruffle a few feathers.

       

      If employers are providing PPE and sticking to guidelines staff should have no issues.

       

      I bet most employees want paying at the end of the month even if business is not coming in.

       

      Luckily we recruit like minded individuals and have not had any issues, staff are motivated and invested. However reading some of the posts on here, if i was their employer they will be in the ‘firing line’ so to speak when the time is right.

       

       

       

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      1. Agentx

        tube

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      2. Johnhp01

        That is one of the worst comments I have seen. Do you think any of us want this virus?? Do you not think that we would want to work if we feel safe. You can go on and on about PPE but people are still catching it even when in use!! Have had 2 family members have this horrible thing, I couldnt help but comment as you have no idea what your talking about. There are some great people in this industry and you think that performance and lack of desire to work through it is something that deserves a firing line?? You need to look at yourself. You DO NOT know what is going on with these staff members. Some may have underlying health conditions and they are to scared to tell you about due to the fear you may put them in the firing line too. Honestly, people like you cant grasp this.. You comment like your immune, Its not only putting people in hospital at a young age but killing them. People who say, stick the current guidelines etc, please think about it. Would you want your mum and dad to get it from you, could you live with that?? I know that i couldnt and that is for sure.

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        1. Agentx

          Great reply Johnhp01

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      3. James White

        Your post, although sadly misguided, is not about the pandemic really.

        It is about you and your attitude to your employees.

        If you didn’t have anonymity on here I rather think you wouldn’t dare to put it out there…….

        Just a thought…

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        1. smile please

          The anonymity allows me to be truthful and not be afraid to express what others may think.

          My staff have no concerns as they are looked after, but a lot of employees want the month off work at 80% pay ….. I hope for them if that happens they have a job to go back to as thats at least an entire month of no business being done.

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          1. Johnhp01

            You have no idea do you. You keep saying, your staff, your staff. I bet there to scared of you to say anything.. Your an estate agent, not an Army Captain.

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        2. smile please

          And if by a quick google search you are at ‘Belong’ you do not have staff to worry about which is why you may sit on your moral high horse.

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          1. James White

            Yes I am and you are wrong; I have four staff and me.
            Where are you?

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            1. Dick Value

              Maybe he’s looking in Nuneaton.

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      4. James Christchurch

        I pity you SmilePlease – yet it’s your staff I feel sorry for.

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        1. James White

          He or she will Google you next…. be careful

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    5. hgrlet

      “The beatings will continue until morale improves…”

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  16. padymagic

    We’re open, but very quiet, we have new stock on the market but little or no takers. I’ve only been in this business for 40 years so what do I know?

     

    Close for 4 weeks. Give the NHS time to get back on top of this. I read someone saying it wasn’t from going to someone’s house but because they went to a petrol station they got covid. By reducing the need to leave your home you don’t have to go to a petrol station so often either.

    4 weeks is a sensible time frame.

    “If in doubt-Don’t go out”

    The new mantra for 2021 !

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    1. Dick Value

      ‘Two weeks to flatten the curve’, ring any bells?

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  17. Agente Inmobiliario

    Do I want the housing market to stop? No.

    Do I feel that we should (temporarily) stop all new attended appointments, work from home and conduct virtual viewings?  Yes.

    Like many others I am pleased to still be working as we all have bills/mortgages/rent to pay but the messaging from the government is so confusing that clients and peers are confused as to what they can and can’t do and what exactly is ‘essential’ just now.  However, if they truly do want everyone to act as if we have the virus then conducting appraisals and viewings is certainly not in that spirit.  Factor in the demands of the business to build up front end activity and encouraging agents to ‘get out there’ then it’s no longer not in that spirit, it’s downright against it.

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  18. singing agent

    The Welsh Tier 4 lockdown started on the 19th December immediately closing all estate agency offices to the public.  Personal viewings are only available on vacant properties, after people have watched a video tour / virtual tour and submitted a Covid Health Declaration.  With appropriate social distancing and hygiene measures, I see no need to stop carrying these out, as there are desperate tenants and buyers who need to move urgently.  We are allowed to carry out valuations and prepare properties for marketing, but a valuer with PPE meeting one householder inside is very low risk.

    The Welsh Lockdown puts the whole country under the same rules, even though the pandemic has not been prevalent in the sparsely populated areas of Mid and West Wales.  We are still doing some business, but it is very slow and it is much better than being completely shut down for 15-weeks last Spring.  Everybody just needs to be sensible, take precautions and stay safe.  Fortunately the Furloughing rules cover part time working, so getting staff to work every other day is much better for their mental state and it keeps them in touch with everything.

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    1. JonnyBanana43

      Can’t say the way the Welsh outfit have handled it has been great..!

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