Although the 24hour sterilisation process has been reduced and is now taking place between 10pm and 6am, life as we knew it certainly hasn’t gone back to normal. We find ourselves in an excited/nervous state; excited because we can finally leave the house but nervous because we’re still restricted and Covid-19 is still a harsh reality.
So, how is this affecting the real estate market?
Well, the first point is that we are open and our agents are out conducting viewing appointments. However, we are operating with safety protocols in place and adhering to guidelines set by the UAE government.
Allsopp & Allsopp currently have 4 offices in the UAE, with our Jumeirah Golf Estate, Springs and Palm Jumeirah offices all situated within malls. Our doors are open but only for 30% of our agents and staff in each office. We’re all used to the buzz of busy offices and lots of activity, so it certainly feels a little strange with the reduced numbers. We’re all wearing masks which is an oddly funny sight and none of us have ever washed or sanitised our hands so much. All offices have been disinfected by a team who appeared to look like a cross between beekeepers and the ghostbusters!
We look to operate on a rota system as much as we can so that all of our agents and extended team have the opportunity to get back to a sense of normality and for them to be able to get out of the house. A major concern for many people in the world is the mental effects that ‘lockdowns’ can have on people, so we look to be mindful of this and to support our teams wherever we can.
Writing from our HQ in Business Bay, I stand in front of what I would describe as a temperature radar when I come into the building, when I come into our office, when I go to get a coffee and when I go down to the supermarket for lunch. This was quite intimidating to start with but surprisingly, I’ve got used to this relatively quickly and don’t think twice about it now!
In terms of property viewings, all of our agents have been instructed with strict protocol. We look to do as many virtual viewing appointments as possible with clients - we have over 1,000 listings with 360 tours so we can jump on zoom, share our screen and walk through the 360 tour of the property with the client -to help narrow down the amount of physical viewing appointments we have to do.
When we do do a viewing appointment, we ask clients to postpone if they are feeling unwell or have been in contact with someone who is feeling unwell, face masks must be worn by all parties, hand sanitiser must be used before entering and on exiting the property and where possible the agent will remain outside the property whilst the client enters and looks around - if the property is lived in by the owner or a tenant then this isn’t normally an option. We also look to ensure a distance of 2 meters apart is adhered to at all times, we ask clients not to touch any surfaces without wearing gloves, and rather than talking extensively about the property on the appointment, look to do so via a phone/video call afterwards.
As for market appraisals and mortgage appointments, we still look to do as many of these as possible virtually via a video call. We’re determined to keep hold of practices taken up during the 24-hour sterilisation drive as they work extremely well and, used correctly, are often the most efficient way of doing business. During the 3 week 24hour sterilisation period we conducted 677 virtual viewings and 472 virtual market appraisals - extraordinary when these practices were non-existent only a few weeks before.
In terms of contracts, we look to do as much as we can online. Tenancy contracts are done digitally and EJARI’s are all registered remotely. We still have to collect and deliver rental cheques but we follow protocols very similar to those of physical viewings. On the sales side, the contracts are done electronically and we look to complete as much of the sales process as possible remotely, assisted in this by the Dubai Land Department along with some banks and some developers.
In summary, we are working hard to make the most of the situation that the world currently finds itself and working hard for our clients, a lot of whom do have pressing needs. If tenants can’t rent a property they run the risk of being homeless. If a landlord can’t collect rent, then they run the risk of not being able to pay their mortgage, If a seller can’t release much-needed cash from their property, there are a few potential knock-on effects. The job of a real estate agent is in no way an essential job, but we do essential work.
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