Sealed with a key! How one agency is still securing tenancies despite lockdown

Sealed packages and video messages may be the stuff of crime thrillers but it is keeping one agency going through the pandemic.

Centrick, which is headquartered in Birmingham and has offices in London, Solihull and Nottingham, has secured 42 tenancies using virtual viewings – made before lockdown – and contactless handovers in the three weeks since the coronavirus lockdown was imposed in the UK.

It even managed to help an NHS pharmacist move into a new rental property Birmingham’s city centre.

The family-run agency said it has another 40 tenancies in the pipeline.

Properties can be viewed through Centrick’s website or Rightmove and Zoopla using video tours created by its own staff.

Viewers are guided virtually through the property, using WhatsApp or FaceTime, answering any questions in real-time.

All documents are delivered, signed and returned digitally.

The key and the handover documents are sealed in a pack on moving day and deposited in a secure location, which the client is then given access to, with no human contact

James Ackrill, chairman at Centrick, said: “The team is always looking at ways to innovate and improve customer service, so we already had virtual tours for our larger high end properties, but Covid-19 gave us the push that we needed to extend the service and make personal virtual viewings across our portfolio fast.

“We anticipated lockdown a few weeks prior and knew that, whilst thrown into uncertainty, there would likely still be demand for house moves especially those of key workers whose circumstances meant that they needed to be closer to work or away from families to keep vulnerable members safe.

“Times like these really are sink or swim for businesses; not just financially but when it comes to employee engagement.

“Our directors and managers are coming together to ensure that everyone is up-to-speed with what’s happening in the business and wider industry, reaching out for new ideas and inspiration to keep everyone on board throughout the uncertainty.

“With our own internal challenges happening at the same time, including our high street branches closing their doors to fit Government guidance, the virtual viewings have also been a great way to keep our team motivated.

“Whilst I wouldn’t, for a second, suggest that we don’t have some difficult times ahead, pivoting the business helps show our team that this is temporary and that Centrick is determined to come out stronger.”

See an example of Centrick’s virtual video tour below.



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  1. jackoTLG

    We stopped because that’s what the gov guidelines said we had to do?! Only contracts already entered into could be completed. So I don’t get this.

  2. Woodhen

    Can I ask who creates the video….who physically checks the photographic ID to ensure it is the same person….who goes to the closed office to collect keys…..who checks property is clean and ready for a tenant….who does the check out of the previous tenant. 40+ properties lying empty ready for tenants to move in??

  3. HonestAgency

    So to recap. One of your employees makes an “unnecessary “ journey to do the “virtual” viewings. I’m assuming more than once per property.  They then touch every door handle In the property whilst walking through. They eventually need to fuel up due to multiple “unnecessary” journeys bringing them in contact with others.They then make another unnecessary journey leaving the keys they have had their hands all over in a secure place. The tenant who should not be out and about then collects the keys and enters the property forgetting to wash every surface and keys that your member of staff has touched blissfully unaware they have just taken part in an illegal activity. Please don’t sell this as “innovation”. We are all in the same boat here and have all had this idea. Let’s just hope one of our brave nurses and dcotors don’t see this and think that this how little our industry feels about their sacrifices that we boast how we have found a loop hole. We are abiding by the Law. Yes the LAW. I think PE should be careful they are not seen to condone this.

  4. Queenbee

    I agree with the other 3 comments made here, we have all clearly been told to stay at home and only go out if it is essential. I therefore consider this agent is breaking the law and this practice should be stopped immediately.

    1. porkpie

      I don’t think there is a law that says estate agents can’t do this is there?

      I don’t condone what they are doing BTW, I just don’t think there is a law especially if the government are saying people can move house in critical circumstances.

      1. HonestAgency

        Covid-19 Act 2020
        What it means for the public No person may leave the place where they are living without a reasonable excuse. Reasonable excuses include: obtaining basic necessities to take exercise either alone or with other members of their household meeting a legal obligation, including attending court or satisfying bail conditions seeking medical assistance attending a funeral moving house.   (All ready agreed prior to lockdown caring for or assisting a vulnerable person who is someone: aged 70 years or older / under 70 years old with an underlying health condition / pregnant

        1. porkpie

          You conveniently missed out the bit about travelling to work unless you can do that work from home.

          1. Woodhen

            So they have 40+ critical pre lockdown agreed tenancies in place. So why do you need videos if all meet gov criteria

          2. HonestAgency

            I didn’t convinently leave out anything. That’s a copy and paste from the Covid -19 transcript. Traveling to work means to the office not conducting your general business or surely every single tradesmen in the UK would be working as normal. 

            1. porkpie

              But there is nothing in the actual law that says tradesmen cannot operate. They are (quite rightly) choosing not to. 
              What I’m saying is, what they are doing is undoubtedly wrong on the face of it, and not to be lauded, but saying it is illegal is wide of the mark. 

              1. HonestAgency

                If the Police have the power to stop, question, fine and send somebody home who they deem to be making an uncessary journey (which they do under the Covd-19 Act) under what jurisdiction are they doing this if not Law?

                1. porkpie

                  If you are stopped by the police on your way to work, you will not be fined. This is in the NPCC guidelines for officers released last week.

                  1. Woodhen

                    An agent visiting a property is classified as an inspection and non essential. The Gov guidance specifically mentions no inspections or viewings which goes back to my first post…who produces the video without visiting the property?

  5. Happy Daze!

    My question is why PIE, who are always keen to reveal anyone’s wrongdoings, would promote this awful ‘profit over life’ attitude..??  This is clearly dangerous to others, going against the governmental guidelines and shameful i.e. nothing to brag about!

    All businesses are suffering right now and everyone can find a ‘loophole’ to flout the situation but we’re all in this together and the quickest way to get this over with is to respect the advice we’ve been given, no matter what the financial loss… which will never equate to the loss of a life.

    Shame on James Ackrill and PIE…..clearly a mate of yours!


  6. BenNorthEast62

    For me, the most important thing for a rental viewing is getting a measure of the potential tenant, gut instinct goes a long way.

    Showing someone a video of a property, they are happy to take the property but other than referencing can you ensure you are putting the right tenant in your client’s property?

  7. DASH94

    It’s not necessarily profit over life – that’s unfair IMO.

    We have key workers moving around that need accommodation and domestic break-ups – including due to violence in the home and unsafe living conditions that need re-housing.

    Its not a black and white issue, and there are ways to go about it within the guidelines.


  8. Woodhen

    My experience of domestic abuse victims is that security and privacy is of the highest order and dealt with by social services who have a supply of agents who can provide scatter properties. With regards to health workers there is an endless supply of properties available from caring landlords who are providing accommodation for free. In your area are the hotels not taking up this demand as well.

    Try another couple of excuses to justify non compliance and put people at risk

  9. forwardthinker

    Surprised PIE posted this. Flies totally in the face of ARLA advice which is direct from the government.


    1. DarrelKwong43

      is that the same ARLA who quoted a top civil servant, saying all offices had to close, no movement whatsoever, then sent out emails to that effect a few weeks back?  which was (a) wrong and (b) they have not named the civil servant

  10. Woodentop

    Ah ah, form filling is not lettings management. This practice should be stopped, you cannot meet due diligence requirements to protect the landlord who is always at risk. There is only one way to do lettings … PROPERLY. Virtual tours is only advertising.

  11. fluter

    Be interesting to see how many of their staff are Furloughed and how many still working?

  12. Sally Holdway

    Aside from the argument about whether this should be happening right now (no IMO) I do think that this is helpful information about how we can be developing new ways to work once lockdown is relaxed.  The reality is that we will still be managing the covid risk for many many months to come until we have either a vaccine or a cure; so working out how to do things like ‘contactless handovers’ are going to be helpful.  Can we apply the same logic to sale and purchases?  Aside from key handover, what else can we do in a ‘contactless’ way?  How else can we mitigate risk?  Could local estate agents and local cleaning companies come together to offer Completion Day Covid Cleans,  perhaps?  It would mean buyers having to wait another hour or two before they got their keys, but in the scheme of things, at least having all surfaces, door handles etc disinfected might be another way to mitigate risk.


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