In ‘the old days’, the most common anxiety around hosting a home show day was that there were potential security risks. The tragedy is that those ‘old days’ were literally just four months ago, before the ‘dark days’ of COVID-19. It is no longer just the dodgy stranger that enters a home that is concerning, but absolutely every person that crosses the threshold of a property.
And so it is that In “accordance with health and safety guidelines as published by Government, in terms of the various Regulations as it relates to Section 27 (2) of the Disaster Management Act, 2002 (Act no 57 of 2002) and specific directions as it relates to minimising the risk associated with Covid-19,” Rebosa, the representative body of real estate business owners, has confirmed that “Showhouses are strictly prohibited”.
For how long this will apply is any one’s guess, but in applying the new and very stringent rules about how to show a property in lockdown circumstances, many of these protocols will likely continue and this forever changes the landscape of the show day.
By appointment only
Sandy Geffen, Director of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty says that sanitization procedures will likely not go away, regardless of the level of freedom of movement. “Sellers are scared, agents are scared, buyers are scared, and this is exacerbated by the number of compliance forms and indemnities that have to be completed by all parties before a physical viewing can take place. If these regulations aren’t followed exactly or are transgressed, agents are subject to a fine of R50 000, or a jail sentence.”
Currently, and in the future, Geffen says that viewing is and will be by appointment, and this really only comes into play once all the digital frameworks of property selling have been explored. “Virtual walkthroughs, which may have been an added advantage in the past, are now standard, and although increasingly more homes are being sold without any viewing in the traditional sense, there will be some parties that need to physically interact in a home before committing to a purchase.”
Profiles have changed
The virtual world of home property sales, while not new, is now standard procedure. Agents who hadn’t moved completely over to offering video viewing of properties in their portfolio prior to lockdown have now done so, and what they have realised in so doing, is that the profile of buyers that require a physical viewing has changed. Gerhard Kotze, MD of the RealNet estate agency group says that the existing protocols will likely see only serious and pre-qualified buyers physically shopping around for a property.
“Actually this is a win for all parties involved,” he says. “Potential buyers get to spend hours looking at high-quality online showcases of as many properties as they like, and serious buyers get to view the homes they have carefully selected and can afford. No longer are serious sellers just testing the market, and only pre-qualified buyers will be shown properties reducing any risk of infection to the families of the seller.
“The final win is that professional estate agents increasingly get to do what they do best, which is to match the correct buyer with the correct property and ensure a smooth and painless buying/selling experience.”
“Sellers and buyers are also realising that through a reputable agent, they can have complete access to all the ‘pieces of the puzzle’ necessary to complete a property sale or purchase,” says Berry Everitt, CEO of the Chas Everitt International Group. He likens this to grocery shopping whereby an individual can access all they want at a supermarket rather than going to separate butchers, bakers and greengrocers. “In our market the agent provides entry to a complete ecosystem of services and choices that progress our clients from market intelligence or bond pre-qualification at the start, to the key handover on the day of occupation, and even into the future with advice on possible refinancing or the best time to resell.
“This has changed the world of real estate, and our ecosystem of not only making things simpler, but also much safer for our clients.”
A safer industry
In the safer world being manifested now, Michael Pashley of Harcourts Platinum says even if the show day of the future returned to a similar format of that prior to the pandemic that social distancing rules will remain in place and this will restrict the number of people allowed inside a property at any one time. “But this might also depend on the size of a house. Two people in a 60 m2 flat, for example, is more dangerous than six people in a 1 000 m2 home.
Common sense must prevail, especially for sellers who want to ensure protection wherever possible through high levels of sanitization.
Ultimately the agent will play a huge role in this, but only after the agent has followed through on their normal qualifying procedures, such as guiding sellers in partaking of virtual and walk-through reality tours.”
Guided by online
Pashley’s colleague Ryan Kourie of Harcourts Rhino says it is likely that a reduced time slot of one-hour showings will be popular, and no more than two potential clients at any given time. “This must be discussed prior to viewing so that all parties are aware of the protocols. Property seekers will be more serious. Even now we see buyer patterns changing as they acquire a better understanding of their needs and affordability, which are increasingly being guided by online tools.
“Qualifying questions for viewership will be emphasised , such as agents exploring how many properties the potential buyer/s have viewed virtually, and how definite the interest is in viewing the property.”
New levels in selling
Minimising the risk of infection by using masks, gloves and sanitization procedures when taking a client through the home is going to be with us for a long time, is the consensus. Like his colleagues, Edzard Barnard of Harcourts House of Real Estate says that compliance will remain a big tick box but this has not hindered the market itself.
“As buyers become more virtually inclined and educated, we are seeing the rise of online searches, the highest in some three decades. It has risen to a new level when selling and marketing properties digitally. The more inclined buyers are to adapt to these online procedures, the more they will be part and parcel of the new real estate industry.”
The human factor
Geffen says that she will certainly miss the traditional show day of the past. “It won’t stop people driving around a suburb looking for estate agent signage indicating a sale, but there won’t be the same speculation as previously experienced.”
Diminished too will be the excitement that comes from ‘feeling’ the suburb, the street, and other surroundings that attract potential buyers to spontaneously view a show house. While online and virtual realities tours increase and firm up decision-making, and will drive how we shop for homes in the future, there is one aspect that will be lacking in intensity, that of ‘touch and feel’.
“I think everyone will miss the human aspect enormously.” Says Geffen. “The Geffen and Sotheby’s long history in real estate has always centered on the love, caring and sharing in helping buyers and sellers find and sell their homes. While this remains, it’s taken a different form, which is much harder to do online than it is face-to-face.”
Sellers galvanise change
Tony Clarke, managing director of Rawson Property Group summarises by saying that no matter what is happening in the world, people still need a roof over their heads.
“This means there will always be a market of buying, selling and renting property. At Rawsons we believe that it will be the sellers who end up galvanising change in the property industry, such as insisting that agents use virtual tools to market their homes rather than opening their homes to large volumes of people who may contaminate their space.
Social distancing will continue and lead to the accelerated adoption of services that facilitate streamlined real estate transactions, especially as consumers experience the benefits of selling a home without dozens of show house visitors.
“We have to accept that the world has changed and will never be the same again. We all have to learn to adapt and thrive under these, and future, changing circumstances.”