Coronavirus and real estate: How Brisbane’s adapting to a new world
If you’re waking from just one short month’s coma you’d be forgiven for thinking this is all some very warped April Fool’s prank! The past month has seen your lives filled with news of the Coronavirus and real estate, like all markets, has been impacted in almost every way possible. Here’s a quick insight into the changes Brisbane property owners are experiencing and the ways we’re adapting to serve our clients.
Firstly, (and without adding even a trace of bias or “agent optimism”!), there are still some positive things happening for both sellers and landlords. At time of writing our salespeople have three offers under negotiation. Buyers are still active – albeit in far fewer numbers. Our property management team secured tenants for 37 homes during March. Remarkably this is 5 more than we leased in March 2019 and, while it is slowing, we continue to receive new tenant enquiry (97 of them in the past 7 days).
Here’s what’s changing:
Technology is being adopted at a rapid pace. Our team have been using 360 degree virtual tours in our sales and rental listings for over a year now. They’ve been widely embraced by buyers and tenants who’ve always wanted to limit their physical inspections to the homes that tick most boxes. With new social distancing limitations (and protection of both visitors and residents in a home) our team ramped up the digital inspections even further.
We’ve added informal video walk-throughs. These aren’t intended to be slick marketing presentations, but rather a practical tour that includes short explanation of features and opening cupboards etc that a buyer and tenant would usually do. Here’s one South Brisbane example. We’ve added the safety steps to physical inspections that we can do (e.g. our team confirming everyone’s health status and wearing gloves to open doors etc for visitors) but these are needed far less as we move more online.
A big part of our service to landlords is the ongoing checking of your properties and this became a challenge for us early in March when one of our tenants, newly returned from overseas, confirmed they had the virus. We’ve adapted immediately and now carry out routine inspections with the co-operation of tenants, conducting a video tour with them remotely. This is recorded and a link sent on to our landlord clients – see a small sample from one inspection. So far we’ve had lots of positive feedback from tenants. It’s far safer for them and our team, and our clients are also appreciating the more extensive report than can usually be shared via photos.
In a similar way our team are now carrying out market appraisals remotely. Like an updated sales or rental market estimate? Zoom us! Our sales people are co-operating with tenants to do these for rented property and we’re now also getting calls from owner-occupiers wanting the same service. Stuck at home? Let’s give you a virtual market appraisal!
Already many of our tenants have been stood down from their jobs and are looking to their landlords for concessions – and there’s been some very generous displays of compassion. It’s been really pleasing to see a lot of understanding from both sides. Landlords recognising the challenges tenants are going through; tenants fully aware that landlords have financial commitments and many of them are also losing their incomes. The government support announced this week has been a huge boost and we’re hopeful the $750/week Job Keeper allowance (per person) will go a long way to helping all involved.
We’ve adopted a Temporary Tenancy Agreement Adjustments form to provide a clear method for tenants requesting assistance. This clarifies what steps they’ve taken to seek government assistance and clarifies exactly what they’re hoping the landlord can do. It’s important for all of us to work together – but landlords should reasonably expect tenants to pursue the extensive government support before turning to their landlords for temporary concessions. We did a video this week explaining more of this.
The Prime Minister said on March 22nd that tenancy laws would be changed due to Coronavirus and real estate agents have all been pressing for further details on what that means. We’re working closely with the Real Estate Institute of Queensland to learn what the promised “moratorium on rent evictions” will look like. And we’ll continue to remind both sides of politics that the vast majority of residential landlords are not able to carry a huge burden.
Tenants cannot simply stop paying rent. Without a mutually adopted Agreement Adjustment in place, the usual rent arrears and breach process has to continue and while evictions will be paused (they’re always the last step and not wanted by either side) we know the vast majority of tenants will want to protect their rental track record.
Finally – we are open for business and our full team are working. There remains some buyer and tenant contact work that we continue with but, like most of you, we’re now working from home as much as possible. Over the past 2 years every part of Bees Nees’ software and resources has moved into the cloud and we are adapting quickly to virtual work. Connecting with our clients by email and phone is unchanged and we’re continually in touch with each other, including holding a full team video meeting every morning.
It’s the new normal, working for our landlords and seller clients.