Steven Wayne MD of Benjamin Stevens Estate Agents explains why his firm is refusing to take people to see properties and how he views the crisis as an opportunity, not a threat.
People keep asking me, what will all this mean for the future of your business? Will the property market ever bounce back from this? However, the most common question I’m being asked is ‘Can I arrange a viewing?’ It’s absolute madness!
Sure, I could take the view that by saying no, it’s a potential sale or let that I’m losing out on, but Covid-19 and the hold it’s taking over the UK, is bigger than that. Ultimately, health and safety must come first.
I launched Benjamin Stevens Estate Agents 16 years ago in 2004. Together with my amazing team of loyal staff, I have developed the business which now consists of large sales (residential and commercial), lettings and property management departments spread over three branches, as well as a large, well established, Block Management practice.
Since we shut the doors to are offices, and therefore put a hold on any face to face viewings of any properties, I have been running my business from home, single handed.
It taken me back to a time when I had first started my business with no staff to worry about and having complete control over everything. After 16 years and a team of 17 estate agents, eight block managers, I’m back to just me, which is quite liberating
It’s a unique opportunity and one that I plan to take full advantage of. Those agents who don’t do the same, simply won’t survive this lockdown. I want to use this time to look at all aspects of the business and figure out how we could be running things more effectively. I need to hit the ground running when we reopen.
Some agents are still doing viewings. I think is irresponsible and dangerous, but I can testify, the calls keep coming in from people who want to view. I just ask if they have seen the news lately?
What I am doing on a day to day basis is just working to keep the rents coming in and dealing with all the daily enquiries surrounding this.
Then, of course, there is then if the issue of tenants phoning attempting to not paying their rent. Some have genuine reasons and issues and to those people, we are here to help, but there are also a lot of people trying to take advantage of the situation.
When I explain that they will still need to pay eventually, and that whilst their landlord will defer some of the rent, it’s not going to be free money, they suddenly change their tune.
Off the hook
My phone simply doesn’t stop. In the background I have the screaming of my 6-week-old and 2-and-a-half-year-old, I wonder how anyone works from home!
It’s certainly not something I could do forever, but we are trying to make it work. On the positive, this time with my family is special, and the chance to take a real look at my business costs, is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
I’m learning a hell of a lot already and my business will be a very different place when we return.
I firmly believe there will be a real appetite for people to move once everything gets back to normal. Perhaps not immediately, but after a few weeks I think we will be in for a really busy end to the year The only question is, can we getting going again before my wife murders me?!