Navigating 2020 has paved the way for 2021 and beyond

Steve Moir (pictured), chairman of the Experts in Property network of independent estate agents across the South West

2020 – what a bizarre year! It began extremely positively, the market in our region buzzing with renewed optimism following the years of uncertainty surrounding Brexit. Who’d have thought however, that just a few weeks later, the country would be completely locked down as we found ourselves in the midst of a world-wide viral pandemic?

Terms we’d never used before, such as self-isolation and social distancing have since become the norm, and who would ever have imagined that wearing face masks in public would become standard routine for us all?

We were all concerned with what Covid-19 would do to ours and our families’ health and wellbeing, our businesses, and our sanity. Our personal circumstances are all so different, but from a business perspective, we are now able to use what we have learned over the course of 2020 to operate productively – in ‘lockdown #3’, through 2021 and beyond in this vastly different but not impossible world.

Our team at tEiP HQ (all working remotely of course), have worked hard to act almost as quickly as the Government, to help enable and support our members to continue running their businesses throughout the crisis.

As well as producing and updating policy documents, advising on cost saving measures and negotiating with suppliers, providing guidance on action planning and the approach for discussions with landlords, tenants, buyers and sellers, and sourcing a supply of safety signage and hand sanitisers, we secured immediate access to an HR consultant to advise our members on handling staff and employment, the furlough scheme and the business support available to them in the form of business rates relief, grants and loans.

Technology has been an absolute saviour. We have held emergency and regular virtual meetings and webinars with our owners and managers, which have proven extremely beneficial, particularly for sharing experiences, discussing lessons learned and exchanging ideas and advice. We’ve had guest speakers, seen presentations by potential new suppliers, and we’ve even had a virtual AGM!

Through urgent notices and weekly newsletters, we have kept our agents informed with updates on the ever-changing procedures and protocols for lettings as well as other property-related legislation and regulations, as well as Government schemes including furlough and jobs retention, the Green Homes Grant and the latest Coronavirus advice, and we’ve shared news of new deals struck with providers of products and services to assist in our headlong and all-encompassing evolution into the digital landscape.

We have struck deals with HomeSearch, Goodlord, TrustIST, KeyNest and Vault EA, as well as legal advisors Law Firm Services, and our extensive, subsidised training programme has moved online with Able Agent providing training on all aspects of estate agency, lettings law, best practice and compliance, among other training providers.

Given that digital marketing is more important than ever, we have arranged a social media health check for each of our members, and we’re giving our online marketing presence a boost with an enhanced SMM service. We have also produced a catalogue of fun and informative videos and images, all uploaded onto our new and improved marketing hub and all freely available for our members to use in their own digital marketing campaigns.

We’re extremely proud to have navigated through the challenges of 2020. It’s been a massive learning curve, but we’ve learned more about ourselves – on a personal level and as a network – and our members than ever before and we feel that together, we can look forward to surviving and possibly even thriving through 2021 and beyond.