Diary of a London estate agent during lockdown: virtual viewings and valuations gather pace as buyers and renters seek outside space

Monday

During the last six weeks my commute has been dramatically reduced as I pass my daughter’s school (the living room), my son’s prep school (the kitchen table) and reach my desk (the conservatory). I log in and jump on my Zoom call for my morning team meeting.

The team have a daily video catch up at 9am, discussing what’s happened yesterday and the plan for today. We also share any issues so we can all help to find the solutions collectively. Throughout the day each department will have their own calls to update each other on deals agreed and new instructions.

The lettings team have a nice problem today. Over the weekend they have been inundated with enquiries. This is the third week in a row with a spike in enquiries from eager people looking to move.

Tuesday

The sun is shining so I make my morning Zoom call from my lockdown-improved, well-tended garden. I am sure I’m not the only one who has discovered a new love of gardening.

Our customers are looking to change their norm going forward. Requirements have varied from people wanting an extra room for an office, or a garden or terrace for outside space, while others are looking for a pied-à-terre so they can cut down travel time or work from home. Everyone we speak to is striving for a better standard of life and wellbeing.

Wednesday

A lot of people want to know what will happen to the property market going forward. Will prices drop? Will renters still want to live in central London?

Well, I know there is pent-up demand from years of Brexit uncertainty – and many are motivated to make the move they may have been putting on hold, with enquiry levels up week on week.

Today my team spoke to some students of high net-worth families who are already looking at securing accommodation for the next university year. This will be a welcome indication to landlords that there is still a strong market, which is actually not that surprising with some of the best universities on our doorstep.

Virtual viewings are the “new norm”. Just before lockdown, we filmed video walk-throughs of our available stock in order to be able to showcase our properties remotely to prospective tenants and buyers.

We do a lot of new homes sales and have been selling off-plan for years, but for pre-owned stock this has rarely been the case, until now. These days we jump on a Zoom call, share our screen and walk through each property with customers. We use our 18 years of market knowledge to discuss the local amenities and travel links, as well as hidden local gems.

Thursday

I’ve had two calls, one from an anxious potential landlord, the other from a lovely long-standing client, both regarding getting their property on the market when lockdown ends. I tell them the good news that since lockdown we have seen a 40 per cent spike in online activity. This just confirms that many are thinking of moving and while spending more time at home, they have a great opportunity to carry out detailed searches.

On our video call, my client spins the camera around and we walk around her home so I can see the latest improvements she has made.

There aren’t many local buildings or apartment blocks we haven’t sold a property in over the last 18 years, so being able to use a bit of tech and a virtual tour can help us get to an accurate price quickly. She agrees there is no point in waiting and we proceed in getting it on the market immediately.

Friday

Good news today from the lettings team – they have agreed two deals from a walk-through virtual viewing. Meanwhile, Spencer in sales has two American buyers keen on a penthouse with a wraparound balcony at a new-build development in Fitzrovia. Robert has some new instructions from landlords who have been impressed by our social media and informative videos during this lockdown.

Tech will have a big part to play in the future of the property industry, which has been positively pushed into adopting new methods earlier than planned.

Clients report that they are enjoying the face-to face interaction, which builds a greater rapport as opposed to just phone or email contact. It’s also helping us to understand their needs better.

With social distancing continuing post-lockdown, I imagine virtual viewings will cut down the need for so many physical viewings.

Once restrictions are lifted, I’ll miss this easier commute and making calls from my garden. I won’t be the only one who feels this way and that in itself will bring about the new world order – and keep us estate agents very busy after lockdown when the market rebounds.

I’m off to have “Quarantinis” now – a virtual drink with my team via Zoom, to celebrate the wins and share some old-fashioned office banter – cheers! Stay safe and a big thank you to the NHS.

Jonathan Hudson is founder of Hudsons estate agent in Fitzrovia, W1