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How my job has changed in 2020 - August 2020

By Rich Harvey, CEO & Founder, propertybuyer.com.au

Most Australians have seen the way they work change dramatically over the past year thanks to the coronavirus crisis.

Whether it’s working remotely, ditching in-person meetings in favour of video conferencing, cancelling major events or opting for greater flexibility, it’s safe to say that few jobs have been spared from this rapidly moving and uncertain world we find ourselves in.

The role of a buyers' agent is no different.

I still seek out homes, investment properties commercial properties and development sites for my clients and manage the entire process, from the initial search to negotiation, but there are some new challenges involved.

Strangely though, those challenges also provide benefits and opportunities for the people I represent. Here’s how.


It’s who you know…

One of the pluses of working with a buyers' agent has always been tapping into their vast networks to access off-market property deals.

They’re the little gems that never make it to popular real estate listing websites or the front window of an agent’s office. For a variety of reasons, the transactions happen under the radar and the vast majority of buyers miss out on the chance to get in on the action.

This inside knowledge, harnessed over many years, is worth considerably more now than in the past.

That’s because listings in some areas (especially prime suburbs) are down a whopping 50 per cent. You only need to logon to one of those real estate sites to see that the pickings are very slim indeed.

Vendors are nervous. Many feel it might be worth hanging on to see what happens. The economic shock hasn’t been as significant as feared, so there aren’t a whole lot of distressed sales... plus, it’s winter.

For a number of reasons that’ve combined to make a perfect storm, there just aren’t many places for sale. If you’re a buyer keen to move now, you can be left with few options.

Between 30 and 50 per cent of the properties we’re transacting at the moment are off-market deals. They’re fantastic family homes, great first-timer opportunities, and investments with a strong long-term upside or downsizers that my clients wouldn’t have known about if they weren’t working with me. In the development and commercial property market, almost 100% of what I find is off market for my clients.


It’s a strange world

If you’d told me 12 months ago that a significant number of property auctions would suddenly move online, with no one physically in a room with an auctioneer, I wouldn’t have believed you.

But here we are in a place where online auctions have become essential in the market.

But they’re very, very different to traditional auction settings, as I wrote about recently. Buyers can’t read the vibe of the room to get a sense of momentum, what the competition is thinking and how soon things might burn out.

Bidding at an online auction is challenging and you need to complete even more homework than before to ensure you know all of the recent and comparable sales in the area. In addition, localised market trends are changing almost weekly at the moment.

Having a buyers' agent in your corner who is a seasoned negotiator and a master reader of people, even virtually, is a huge asset.

We’re also doing virtual inspections with clients, streamed to their mobile phones or computers, to provide access that’s increasingly tricky to secure. We provide unbiased commentary about what we find and see for our clients to ensure they get the full picture.

These really are strange times.

Remote working hasn’t just impacted the auction market. I’m meeting a lot of clients who are not just physically absent from my office, but from the country. Australian expats stuck abroad who are reassessing their situations in light of coronavirus – and the much more dire economic shocks in the US and UK particularly – are keen to come home.

They’re taking the opportunity to secure their ideal home now so it’s ready when they eventually step off the plane… or rather, out of mandatory hotel quarantine.


The bigger picture

Perhaps the most noticeable change is the need to work with my clients on seeing the long-term big picture.

COVID-19 has been a big shock to virtually every aspect of life. Housing is no different, from the basics like waiting your turn to enter an open for inspection to delays in getting home loans approved.

There’s a lot of understandable uncertainty. What’s going to happen next? Will property markets remain solid?

I believe the COVID-19 upheaval will be temporary for property and demand will rise once more when we’re through the worst of the economic rumbles.

I’ve always been a big believer in focusing on the long-term when it comes to real estate, and right now is no different. Carefully selected properties in good areas with long-term growth fundamentals aren’t going to suddenly be worthless.

In my view, this year has seen buyers' agents morph into property advisors and property strategists. We’re not just conducting a search for an individual property and making a deal happen. We’re trusted advocates for people on a real estate journey.

In these uncertain times, that’s perhaps the most valuable component of the service of all.

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