REB’s taking a walk down memory lane, reflecting on the pandemic that turned the lives of real estate agents upside down for much of last year.
This time last year, REB reported on the REIA president’s warning to the real estate industry, as he acknowledged that COVID-19 could have a slowing effect on the Australian property market.
Check out the 15 March 2020 article “Prepare for virus impact on property”.
At the time, Mr Kelly considered it as “more likely our markets will be affected by reduced consumer sentiment than the actual virus itself”.
“It is more likely our markets will be affected by reduced consumer sentiment than the actual virus itself. I am already hearing of many stories whereby potential vendors are deciding not to sell at this time, preferring to wait until things normalise,” he had said in an REIA statement.
On 15 March 2020, the Department of Health had reported 249 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia, and three deaths.
There were nearly 156,000 confirmed cases around the world, according to the World Health Organisation, and almost 75,000 people had recovered from the virus.
On 15 March 2021, Australia was reporting 29,117 cases of COVID-19, with 909 deaths.
Worldwide, cases are now up at 120 million, with 2.65 million deaths reported.
Mr Kelly went so far as to suggest a suspicion that “any reduced consumer sentiment is likely to be magnified in the larger cities than in regional parts of Australia, just as the nonsensical rush to buy toilet paper has been”.
But he was also quick to assure a return to normality: “I have no doubt that once this situation is managed and under control, our markets will return to normality just as they did after the bushfires earlier in the year.”
With the benefit of hindsight, we now know this to be exactly what played out, with real estate agents the country over reporting record results over the latter part of 2020 and into 2021, with capital city median house prices ending the year 6.6 per cent higher.
At this point in time, real estate agencies and networks were already considering new ways of working to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
A week prior to Mr Kelly’s statement being released, McGrath had announced it would trial a safe working environment for its team at its Pyrmont headquarters and six of its Sydney metro offices for 24 hours on Monday, 16 March 2020.
At the time, McGrath’s CEO, Geoff Lucas, explained that while the network had not been internally impacted, it had wanted to “proactively plan and test our operating systems to ensure our business continues to run smoothly and effectively should the need arise to work remotely”.
“We believe this is a prudent and wise measure to mitigate the risks of spread of COVID-19 in light of the World Health Organisation’s advice for governments and businesses to step up their containment efforts,” he had said.
By this point in March, the federal government had implemented a 14-day self-quarantine measure for anyone returning to Australia from overseas.
A ban on non-essential, organised gatherings of more than 500 people was also in place.