03 Sep How The Pandemic Has Changed Our Priorities
Letmojo’s Senior Account Manager Emily Groves takes a look at how the events of the last 18 months have changed the face of the lettings marketplace…
These are strange times. As we (hopefully) move out of the global pandemic that has affected every single one of us over the past couple of years, we can take time to consider the changes which have been forced on us, for good or for bad; the changes we’ve made as our priorities have shifted; and the changes we want to keep as we move forward.
We saw the shift in tenant behaviours first – almost overnight the demand became for 2+ bedroom properties, with some form of outside space, as tenants looked to move somewhere they could have office space or spend lockdown with fresh air. Tenants were no longer restricted by the location of their employment, as the shift to at-home working became normal, and after so long looking at the same 4 walls, tenants were on the move in abundance. Rents have continued to remain high due to the demand and lack of stock this created.
The market seemed to get to a place whereby tenants became priced-out of moving – if they wanted to move to a similar property, they were looking at an extra £100+ a month in rent, especially if the property came with more garden.
It’s not just tenants whose priorities changed though. From a business perspective, we saw other shifts in focus. The furlough scheme allowed for millions of people to be temporarily laid off – which was a huge relief for many companies who otherwise may have been forced into making redundancies. However, no business is an island, and reduced staffing levels had many unintended consequences on service levels. For our agents, we saw them impacted by companies such as utility providers suddenly not being available by phone or being unresponsive, and as for relying on courts and bailiffs…. But it doesn’t do to dwell on the negative – instead we’ll look at what did work.
We saw agents benefitting from more technology-based assistance. We saw people embrace these options with more eagerness than they had previously – instead of sending out paper application forms, using online links; pre-vetting via the online links prior to viewings to minimise on time spent viewing; allowing external companies to take more burden than they had previously as a means to handle lower staff volume, and the need to protect those that were there. It was almost a forced change in some circumstances, but changes that are likely to remain in place.
From a Letmojo point of view, we saw interesting changes within the tenant referencing market. We watched companies evolving in the news, from gathering safety in numbers with acquisitions to staffing issues – and we watched companies driving forward with the technology that agents needed now. The only trouble was, it was often pushed past the point where it was beneficial. We watched with interest as referencing companies embraced the no-contact, computer-led style of referencing, with some charging a premium for agents who wanted people to chase their reference. It helped us to see where our priorities needed to be.
People are messy, it’s the nature of the human race – we don’t all fit into the same boxes or conform to algorithms. That’s why, in an industry moving into an area with less human involvement, we went the other way – our references are chased by phone first and foremost, we’re available if anyone needs to speak to us – be it tenant or agent, and that’s our standard. People assessing people, using their common-sense and thinking outside the box where needed, to ensure we give the best possible service. We use technology where it’s appropriate, but our priority is service – giving our agents a high-quality, stress-free reference at a fair price!