Here are our top tips for navigating the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
1. First and foremost, stay informed
This is a quickly evolving situation. The most accurate and up to date information will be available on your government’s website and/or media centre. For Australians, those links are:
- New South Wales
- South Australia:
- Australian Capital Territory
- Western Australia
- Northern Territory
- The Australian Federal Government
and for our New Zealand users:
- The official website of the New Zealand Government
Updates specific to the real estate industry can be found here:
2. Communicate with your clients
The REIQ has created a set of template letters for property managers. So far, there are template letters to:
- notify landlord clients that on-site property inspections have been suspended and to advise of alternative measures (get the letter here)
- remind tenants about upcoming inspections and request confirmation that all tenants are healthy (get the letter here)
- send to contractors and tradespeople to determine if they pose a potential coronavirus risk (get the letter here)
If you’re operating outside of Queensland, those letters still contain useful information and are a great starting point to help draft your own. Sales agents, we still recommend picking up the phone and having a chat with everyone you can reach. There are bound to be some questions about the property market that need answering. For any paperwork that needs signing, now’s the time to use one touch technology like Docusign (if you aren’t already). However, with the amount of current information (and misinformation) currently circulating, it's important we all stay in our ring. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has already had to warn each real estate institute in Australia that it will act against agents who advise tenants to apply for early release of their superannuation to help them pay their rent. So, this is just a quick reminder to never give unqualified financial advise. Leave the financial advise to the certified advisors.
3. Get your Work From Home policy shipshape
To continue to work effectively, your agents and admin support teams need a quick, clear business response. What time does everyone need to check in? Which tools and channels are you using to do this? Where are you logging information? How are you keeping in touch with each other? Communicate this in a staff policy. Here’s ours, for reference.If your bricks and mortar office is still open, it doesn’t hurt to remind your staff of the precautionary measures they can take. Queensland Health have released a series of posters you can download and display around the office.
4. Take extra precautions at private inspections
On 24 March, the Federal Government reported the latest casualties of the coronavirus pandemic: open homes and in-person auctions are now banned. So, it's private appointments and virtual bidding only from now on.The REIA has asked all agents:
- to put in place the appropriate safeguards, as recommended by the health authorities (such as Queensland Health). That means no more hand shaking, keep a safe distance apart, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds and provide hand sanitiser where possible.
- to run auctions via telephone bidding or one of the online auction platforms. Check out Gavl.com and Anywhere Auctions.
We’d highly recommended asking all of your colleagues to read the REIQ’s Coronavirus Toolkit, which outlines some precautions you can take to keep your clients and staff safe, and provides answers for some of the trickier questions that may arise (such as “What should do I do if a seller refuses to allow me to open their home for inspection?” and “What can I do if a tenant refuses to pay rent?”). For our Australian users, the federal government has put together a COVID-19 training course. It only takes about 20 minutes to complete, and at the end you’ll receive a certificate which you can share with your clients to show the precautions you are taking. Please note that in New Zealand, everyone is currently required to stay at home. Only those who work in essential services can continue to operate (at least, outside their homes)—and real estate services are not considered to be essential . The Real Estate Authority has issued some helpful guidelines on what you can and can't do, what to do about current listings and a suggestion about new listings.
5. Be open and honest with your sellers
This is a new situation for all of us. Things are changing daily, and you are not expected to have all the answers. For now, you can let your sellers know that if their property was listed on realestate.com.au between 1 March and 30 June 2020 and it doesn’t sell, you’ll be able to re-list it at no extra charge. Or, if your sellers need to withdraw their property from the market, you will be able to re-list it at no extra cost within 180 days. You can read more about that here. At the moment, the Australian property market is alive and well. Take heart in what Tom Panos has to say. Your business has weathered the GFC, and the bushfires. You will get through this. The way we buy and sell property will just look a little different.
6. Understand the potential (financial) impact on your business...
It’s important to consider all possible scenarios—including the worst. What is the most vulnerable position your agency has the possibility of being in? What are the protective measures that would need to be taken to avoid that? If the worst case becomes your reality, what is the protocol? Preparation is key. If you have time, we recommend listening to the Elite Agent X John Knight podcast about business resilience in the face of coronavirus, which covers topics like wages, tenants in arrears and possible levers you could pull.
7. … and keep your eyes and ears open for help, when it comes
The federal and state governments have announced a number of stimulus packages. The details of those packages will become more clear in the coming days and weeks, however we all need to keep ourselves informed. Your business, your family and your friends may be eligible to receive financial assistance. We’ve summarised the current measures in two separate blog posts, one for Australia and one for New Zealand.
8. If you can, use this time to improve your business
If you have the capacity - a slowdown in other parts of the business presents a great opportunity to spend some time on the things that are usually pushed to the bottom of the pile. Selling processes, staff training and so on.It’s also important to consider how your agency is going to operate over the coming months, and provide a sense of support when your clients (and staff) are faced with more uncertainty than ever. To help you do this, we’re recording a series of eight free videos to teach you and your team how to get more from Rex—so that when things do pick up again (and they will, because everyone needs a roof over their heads!), you’ll be ready. Keep your eyes peeled. Rexopoly will land in your inbox soon!