How COVID has changed the real estate industry

COVID-19 has changed how properties and land are bought and sold forever.
27-10-2020

Almost overnight in March, tradition was turned on its head when the real estate industry was forced to abandon face to face interactions with buyers and vendors and pivot business online.

So sweeping and rapid has been the change that KR Peters Director Peter Nicolls has seen nothing like 2020 in his expansive 44 year career.

"The first thing that died was face to face meetings, then open for inspections died," he said.

"The days of opening a property and letting all the neighbours in who would like to see it are over. The future is virtual inspections and one-on-one appointments."

Mr Nicolls and his team at KR Peters have embraced the more intimate nature of one-on-one appointments, using them as an opportunity to get to know prospective buyers, their aspirations and dreams.

"We actually get to talk and understand the buyer. If you hold an open for inspection and get 20 groups through you can't ask questions pertaining to everyone's needs. It's impossible," he said.

"One-on-one appointments also give buyers the opportunity to ask a lot more questions. I think the interactions this way are a lot more genuine."

The industry has also embraced Zoom and other online meeting platforms to interact with vendors and buyers.

This has challenged the KR Peters team to do even more preparation and leave nothing to chance.

"These days we have to be prepared to make a sale as smooth as possible. For instance, for some properties we now prepare a building and pest inspection. We see it as taking a holistic approach. The buyer can either rely on our report or get their own done. We're not hiding anything, but it helps speed up the process."

"And now we have contracts and section 32s ready basically from the word go. A lot of the time in the past these were not provided until the last week of the marketing campaign."

"The other thing that has really caught on is online documentation. We can now send a contract of sale by email, the buyer signs electronically and deposits into a bank account. The need to actually have a face-to-face appointment with a buyer is no longer necessary."

Mr Nicolls said the key to building trust online was ensuring processes were as straightforward as possible and giving buyers time to digest contracts and inspect properties.

"At the end of the day the most important thing is still building relationships with people. That will never change."

The digital switch has also had a huge impact on auctions.

Under current Coronavirus rules auctions must be held outdoors and are limited to 10 members of the public. Auctioneers are encouraged to pre-register bidders, hold the auction in the backyard if possible and mark out bidder spots so attendees are socially distanced.

Mr Nicolls said he had been surprised at how buyers have supported online auctions, which allow for anonymity and not limited by geography.

"You can be anywhere which is a big game changer," he said.

"Before (COVID) auctions were traditionally on a Saturday. But now if we get a request for an auction at 6.30pm on a Thursday it doesn't faze us."

"Online auctions have opened opportunities for people who aren't local. You can be anywhere and participate."

With limited opportunity for buyers to inspect properties, the marketing has also had to evolve with 3D walk throughs, virtual tours and videography more important than ever.

Mr Nicolls said the sweeping changes wrought by the pandemic had allowed the industry to "do business faster, smarter" and in a less complex way.

"We are a small, independent agency that makes decisions fast. We can turn the ship around fast. We're really adapting to the current market and its challenges."

"This has been a big year for us. We have actually grown market share and dominance. We have picked up more business and goodwill because we are working smarter, harder and have a united, happy team."

"When we look back at the year we will say it was a hard year, but we took corrective action and thrived."