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Going virtual… how the market is operating under COVID restrictions

Posted by Clare Connolly on July 6, 2020
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Our Managing Director Clare Connolly was invited on the Ray D’arcy show on RTE Radio in July to give listeners an insight into how she has adapted her business as a result of COVID and what people should know if they are letting or buying a home in the current market.

So what have we done to counteract the effect of the restrictions?

Like all small businesses, we had to quickly adapt and move our business online when COVID-19 hit in March. It was not an easy move. Our business is based on face to face interaction. It’s a personable service including viewings where clients can touch surfaces, open cupboards and get a fully immersive feel for a property.

We adapted and moved to virtual viewings, paperwork is dealt with via DocuSign and lockboxes are available for clients to collect their keys. At the start, it all seemed so impersonal but once we found our stride and got to grips with the technology, we got more creative and ensured clients still received a personable and attentive service even online.

In fact, COVID fast-tracked our business to where we should have been heading anyway. Virtual viewings have improved and are here to stay. They are a great way to showcase properties to prospective clients leading to only genuine interest at physical viewings, when they are allowed. They also lend themselves to overseas clients who are looking to rent in Ireland. We have let properties to clients overseas based on virtual viewings alone. They also work well on social media which we all know is a priority for all businesses with everyone at home and online. Our own presence on social media has considerably ramped up as a result and this is something we will continue to develop.

During this period, the rental market has remained extremely buoyant. We have had a large number of re-lettings for a variety of different reasons. Some tenants are moving back home where they can work remotely and no longer to need accommodation in Dublin, some tenants have purchased their own property, and some are being re-located back to their own country where their contracts have come to an end. Overall, the market is still very strong. Since the beginning of June however, we have found that tenants have been asking if there is any possibility of a reduction in rent right across the board.

Property sales have been struggling since the onset of Covid-19 in March. Agents are really pushing to get sales over the line. Several buyers have pulled out before the sale agreed stage where their employment circumstances may have changed, they can no longer get mortgage, approval or they may be too fearful of the future. In other cases, buyers are asking for a discount, some are looking for between 5% – 10%.  Some properties that have been sale agreed since March have still not received mortgage approval, and for all new applications, banks are no longer giving exemptions.

In March, there were very few mortgage approvals mainly because the efforts of the five main banks were concentrated on offering three month mortgage moratoriums. The banks are offering a further three month extension. This might appear to be very attractive in the short- term but it will cost in the long run when banks re-structure your loan. One positive aspect of the mortgage holiday is that it will not affect your credit rating, unlike in the previous recession.

 So overall, is it a good time to buy a home or should you wait? There are so many factors to consider but it is worth noting, if you find a home you know you will love and it ticks all your boxes – go for it.

Listen to Clare’s interview here

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