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Agents start to feel impact of coronavirus

By Lyall Russell
11 March 2020 | 11 minute read
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Real estate agents across Australia have started to feel the effects of the coronavirus on their businesses.

Real estate trainer Tom Panos turned to Facebook this week to ask his followers if the virus had impacted them.

Many have been lucky, and it has been business as usual, but many shared the impact it has had already.

“I have had two clients put their purchases on hold this week,” Christian Stevens wrote.

“We had our main buyers for a property both made redundant at their shipping company, so they had to pull out of the sale,” Bridget Kemp said.

Terry Cooper has not had his work disrupted, saying he has had good numbers at open homes and stable buyer and seller activity.

But it is a different story for Sunny Gandhi, who has had a drop in the number of people going through open homes.

The latest update from the Australian Department of Health from 10 March reported there are 100 confirmed cases of the virus in Australia, and it has caused three deaths.

As an attempt to reduce the spread, the Australian government has travel bans in place for China, Iran, South Korea and Italy.

“The aim of these measures is to slow the importation of COVID-19 cases into Australia to enable preparatory measures to continue and to enable a public health response to the initial cases,” a release from the Prime Minister’s office stated.

Additionally, the government announced a $2.4 billion health package to protect Australians from the virus.

“This package is about preventing and treating coronavirus in the coming weeks,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

“Our medical experts have been preparing for an event like this for years and this is the next step up in Australia’s plan.”

As technology advances, digital solutions for cloud-based real estate operations evolve, and the challenge for business owners is knowing what there is and how to leverage it, LJ Hooker COO Ruth Trewhella said.

“COVID-19 presents a good test for us in the processes and technology we have been reviewing and implementing over the years,” she said.

“Advanced platforms like Microsoft Office 365 gives teams the opportunity to work remotely and not be bound by physical infrastructure, while Workplace by Facebook gives them the opportunity to communicate and collaborate nationally.”

One way LJ Hooker embraced technology is through its Vendor App, which allows agents to communicate with their clients in real time without the need for physical interaction.

“In turn, making the transaction of real estate more efficient no matter the macro-health environment,” Ms Trewhella said.

During this time, smart decisions need to be made to maintain business continuity, LJ Hooker network chief Graeme Hyde said.

“For property management, some offices are confirming renters’ health status prior to routine inspections; in sales, some are registering people prior to home viewings; and in business operations, they are assessing what work-related activities can be conducted remotely if needed with the knowledge of what platforms are available to ensure it’s business as usual.”

As some agents have already felt the impact at open homes, online auction platforms want to reassure agents they have a second option for their auctions to go ahead.

“Many purchasers might be hesitant to attend auctions in the current atmosphere of uncertainty, and they don’t have to. Agents can run an online auction right now, or they can conduct a live auction with buyers anywhere in the world in real time,” Realtair CEO Peter Matthews said.

“These are not the circumstances we based the development of our product on, but we are confident that our digital solutions will assist our industry to overcome this current adversity,” AuctionNow founder Damien Cooley said.

Agents start to feel impact of coronavirus
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