As of Thursday 5th November, England entered its second national lockdown of the year. In a bid to curb the rising cases of coronavirus across the country, the government has made the decision to revert back to stricter restrictions. Despite the impacts of the first national lockdown, the housing industry managed to remain somewhat stable. However, a second national lockdown provides more uncertainty, and what that means for property managers in the housing market.
A country-wide lockdown began on Thursday 5th November, lasting until Wednesday 2nd December. Areas such as non-essential retail and leisure facilities will close, along with heightened social distancing measures. As such, people are encouraged to avoid unnecessary travel and work from home where possible.
The impacts of the first lockdown on the housing market became evident. The likes of estate agencies and maintenance contractors were required to close offices and significantly increase their distancing capabilities.
At the start of the summer, agents and the like were allowed to re-enter offices. This contributed to a sustained period of growth for the housing market as pent up demand grew. Ever since, the industry has experienced surges across the board, from tenant demand to maintenance requests. This boom in activity has led to cautious optimism rising amongst housing professionals.
How the Second Lockdown differs
Fortunately for the housing industry, the closures witnessed during the March lockdown won’t return in the second lockdown. Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, has stated that the property market can continue operations.
During the first national lockdown, estate and letting agencies were required to close their offices. This resulted in the surge in online viewings that we have seen in recent months, as in-person viewings were restricted.
In contrast, the property industry will be able to continue operations during the second lockdown, albeit while following COVID safety guidelines. Industry experts have welcomed this decision, which marks a clear difference between the two lockdowns.
Mark Hayward, chief executive of NAEA Propertymark, said: “We welcome the news that the housing market is to remain open throughout this second lockdown period.” He continued, “it is essential that all agents continue to play their part in reducing the spread of the virus through following all relevant guidance.”
Estate and letting agencies will stay open across the lockdown. This means that prospective tenants and property managers will be able to continue viewings. Previously, virtual viewings became the sole method by which prospective tenants could view a property.
During the next lockdown, both virtual and in-person viewings remain possible. However, online viewings are highly encouraged where possible in efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Being adaptable is crucial
News that property managers can continue to operate during the upcoming lockdown will provide much needed relief. The sector, like every other, has faced significant challenges in 2020.
What was so impactful about the first lockdown was that it was unknown territory for the vast majority. No one knew what was around the corner, when restrictions would be lifted and what the subsequent effects would be. This forced property managers to adapt.
With working from home becoming the norm, embracing technology became an expedited and, for many, necessary shift. The surge in online viewings, as mentioned, has sustained throughout the year. This provided a boost to property managers as they know that they can adequately continue viewings virtually.
More agencies found themselves forced to change and adapt. This was particularly significant for agencies’ financial processes and systems. Centralising and streamlining financial management with property management software has provided managers with more flexibility and security in tracking reconciling payments. As a second national lockdown looms, property managers have experience in where inefficiencies may lie and areas that can be improved.
It is not surprising that rent arrears have increased as the year has developed. Many people have experienced increased financial hardship and heightened job insecurity as a result of the pandemic and the associated lockdowns. A particular period of note was the initial conclusion of the government furlough scheme. Not knowing if they would return to their jobs or receive additional support, people requiring rent payments breaks/extensions increased.
In a measure to provide further stability, the government has extended the furlough scheme. What this means for property managers is that communication between landlord and tenant will be more important than ever. During the first lockdown, communication became paramount, but it hadn’t been fine-tuned to match the climate.
This time around however, property managers must build on what they achieved earlier in the year. Many housing market professionals have used the lockdowns to identify how they can improve their systems and processes. For rent payments, bringing in advanced automation and streamlined financial structures has encouraged the growth in communication and efficient portfolio management. This will provide property managers with extra support and strengthen potential business growth during another national lockdown.