And so back to work we came. Following the pronouncements of the government, the residential real estate industry was allowed back to work under the Level 3 guidelines and did not have to wait for Level 2.
Never has being back at work been met with such unbridled joy. Many of us will remember those days when we were still at school, and it felt like the Christmas holidays had just started when the first ‘back to school’ advertisements from the stationery suppliers started airing on radio and television. I used to despise the adverts, because they meant my holiday was coming to an end, and I used to purposefully switch off the radio whenever the familiar jingle started.
Forward to the current day. Never have I been as pleased as when it was announced that we could start opening our offices and return to work. It was not only because I recognised a real need to start earning income again, but more importantly, I realised during this lockdown period how much I enjoyed working in the residential real estate market. I had missed my agents, my administrative staff, my service providers and suppliers, and my clients.
I had missed the thrill of closing a transaction, of bringing a buyer to a new lifestyle, of helping a seller to reach a target they had set for themselves. I had missed all the professional interactions that we are exposed to on a daily basis. Lockdown has also made me realise (again) how privileged we are to live and work in this beautiful part of our country.
We had to make sure our office was Covid-19 ready. This encompassed the development of a stringent set of rules and the implementation of protocols which aim to ensure that we limit the spread of this Coronavirus. This is incredibly important because, as we all know, we cannot hope to eradicate the virus in the short term, but we can try to slow down the infection rate to ensure that our medical services are able to deal with it. These protocols do add a few more administrative steps to the processes of selling and buying a home, but following the rules is preferable to not being able to sell properties at all.
The market reaction to the lifting of the estate agency lockdown has been interesting, to say the least. We saw an immediate increase in viewing activity across a range of properties for sale, however closure of transactions has been slower to materialise. Buyers are anticipating a decrease in selling prices, but sellers are still insisting on pre-lockdown pricing. This is obviously a generalisation, but there can be little doubt that the properties that are selling are correctly priced for the current market.
The world post-Covid-19 is also different to what it was before. South Africa has national and regional or local economies. Post-Covid-19 I would like to submit that we need to rebuild our economy from the inside out. Most significant towns within this region are relatively homogenous in terms of being able to provide a full service offering when it comes to transacting real estate. Buyers and sellers should bear in mind that there are economies of scale that arise in transactions where the significant players know one another and understand the local economy. The importance of using an estate agency that understands the local environment is usually understood, but I am often surprised when other service providers (including Conveyancing Attorneys which are appointed by the sellers) who do not have local representation, are appointed.
Please do not for one minute assume that I am saying that a non-local supplier would deliver inferior service in any way, but what I am referring to are the basics of economics. The local supplier who earns income in the local environment is more likely to spend that income in the local market. In other words, when the hospitality industry reopens, who is more likely to be spending money on a meal at your favourite eatery? That service supplier who is based outside Hermanus, Kleinmond or Gansbaai, or that supplier who lives in that town? That is the concept of the local economy. If the local service providers cannot spend in the local environment, your favourite eatery may also not have enough clients, which will mean that you may no longer be able to eat there yourself.
My call is thus to support the local economy – wherever that is for you.
The views expressed above are those of the writer in his personal capacity and may not necessarily reflect the views of Fine & Country as a national and international brand.