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Antony Antoniou – Luxury Property Expert

Unsafe to return to work: Most agents are worried, polls show

Unsafe to return to work: Most agents are worried, polls show

A series of polls taken by Estate Agent Today suggest substantial numbers of agents remain uncomfortable about returning to trading even with safety measures in place.

A poll earlier this week – just before lockdown was lifted on the house sales and lettings sector – asked: Is it right to re-open a High Street branch now?

The response, on over 800 individual votes, was a clear 66 per cent against opening now and only 34 per cent in favour.

EAT also undertook a poll yesterday (24 hours after the industry lockdown was lifted, but effectively the first day of trading for most agents that chose to open).

This poll related to Dexters estate agency chain in London, which had its branches open but felt obliged to let people know that local managers were taking the temperatures of staff in a bid to ensure the workforce and customers alike felt safe.

The poll asked: “If an agency has to check staff temperatures, is it right it should be open at all?”

Some 57 per cent voted for the option: “No, it’s too early to open”.

Once lockdown was lifted, many agents took to EAT to comment that they were concerned at the move.

Gavin Scott-Brooker of Cheshire surveyors’ firm Brooker and Co wrote: “We are surveyors…. we are deeply concerned about the release of the market…. it’s just too soon, and there is insufficient data to prove it is safe to operate. A number of our colleagues share the same view. We have elected to stay closed until June at the very earliest.”

Removals operator Matthew Lock commented: “Removals companies and estate agent share the feeling if not safe to see own family, then it’s not safe to go and see someone else’s. Councils still not open. So why should removals firms and estate agents be the guinea pigs?”

One agent said: “I’ve been emailing and calling clients and asking if they are OK to take viewings and the overwhelming majority are saying no. We’ve been working from home mostly and will continue to do so with only opening a couple of hours a day and then only because we are responding to what others in the town are doing.”

Notwithstanding the reservations of some agents, there appears a strong appetite amongst the public for a resumption of business.

Dominic Agace, chief executive of Winkworth estate agents – which has 60 offices in London as part of a 100-branch nationwide network – reported a significant uplift in interest on Wednesday, when the industry was allowed to return to trading.

Compared to the same day the previous week sales instructions were up 255 per cent, sales applicants up by 73 per cent, lettings applications were 61 per cent up, and valuations were 244 per cent up.

“Offices had lawyers getting in touch to pick up on frozen transactions to move them forward again. It was our second highest day for valuations so far this year.  We also had a 35 per cent increase in traffic to the Winkworth website on the previous day” says Agace.

On Wednesday OnTheMarket saw traffic and leads up as much as 30 per cent against the previous day; these reached levels not seen since before the COVID-19 restrictions.

Meanwhile Carter Jonas says it saw email enquiries surge 116 per cent, telephone enquiries rise 72 per cent and viewing requests increase 40 per cent.

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