covid-19 | Tue 17 Mar 2020


As news of the global coronavirus epidemic continues to dominate mainstream media we are witnessing the devastating effects on the global economy as well as the all-too-real impact on our daily lives.

Boris Johnson has now announced a number of new behavioural expectations for the nation to uphold in a bid to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus throughout the UK.

People have been encouraged to limit all but necessary social contact and to avoid large gatherings, social events and offices. People have also been advised to limit all but necessary local or international travelling.

These are unprecedented times and such drastic changes to businesses operating procedures have never been seen in this country.

But how will the property industry cope with these drastic changes? As the world shuts its front doors and businesses scramble to adapt, many are looking for support on how to maintain business continuity in these testing times.

Property owners or property investors will certainly be observing the situation carefully.

There is no doubt COVID-19 has meant all businesses have had to look closely at their operating procedures as self isolation becomes increasingly apparent and businesses plan to adapt accordingly, Oliver Bernard’s own strategy included.

Is this the start of a home working revolution?

As we discover new efficient ways of working, one can’t help but question the future need to travel to work other than for the need of a face-to-face meeting.

There is no doubt vendors will begin to limit viewings within their homes as government restrictions are implemented, therefore the biggest challenge we will face as an industry is sharing content from a home, virtually.

Reports in PrimeResi Journal state that the number of property viewings has tumbled by “more than 50%” in the last two weeks. It is these challenging times that push us to adopt innovative measures.

In addition to recent government advice, The NAEA and ARLA property regulatory bodies have strongly encouraged agents to begin to utilise virtual viewings of properties as part of their business procedure. It is advised that agents now begin to display their properties using 360-degree video in order to connect with potential customers and plan for the long term continuity of their businesses.

Whatever you feel the future holds, I do feel there is one technology solution that is here to help reduce the impact within our industry and that’s Vyomm.

As people are confined to their homes and unable to travel, UK businesses must now direct their attention to their online sales outlets. The importance of remote viewing of a property has just been made that much more important for industry professionals.

Oliver Bernard Private is in a select group of super prime Mayfair agents using Vyomm's unique Property Showcase tool. It's the closest “digital experience” one can have of the home and surrounds without a physical viewing. Have a look at one of our newest property showcases they have done for Oliver Bernard in Covent garden here.

We believe Vyomm will be an important partner in helping the industry immobilize a viewing showcase from home. I have always been an early adopter of change and Its time for our industry to stand up and make a change!

Immediate Industry Impacts

The number of Chinese buyers in the prime real estate market in London has reached record levels over the last few years, growing at an exponential rate. A report from Harrods Estates has shown their Chinese clientele rise from 2.5% in 2016 to 20% in 2019.

During the early onset of the coronavirus, Chinese prime real estate investors were not able to get to the capital due to a large number of flight cancellations. Property completions suffered as a result, although many will be deferred for a later date.

The travel restrictions have spread rapidly to almost all countries. In the last few days, it has been confirmed that the number of infections outside of China has now exceeded the number inside China.  Europe has now been described as the epicentre of the pandemic.

Development firms have felt the main brunt from the initial setbacks. Many of these companies opt to put on exhibitions in order to connect to potential buyers. The fear of the spread of the virus amongst large gatherings of people has resulted in the events sector being put under immense strain and many exhibitions cancelled as a result.

Interestingly, there have been some elements of the market that have benefited from the global situation. Rupert des Forges, Knight Frank, has advised that their Internet searches for London property have seen a substantial increase as a result of the quarantining, particularly in east and west London areas, with an increase in activity of almost 60%.

Juwai, the international property website for Chinese developers, has attributed their boost in online enquiries down to the fact that people in China are not leaving their homes and are subsequently spending substantially more time online.

Juwai also reports that Chinese buyers historically make 60% more buying enquiries in the weeks following the Chinese new year, as people research property in overseas locations they had visited during the holiday periods. This trend now amplified by those choosing to spend more time at home voluntarily as a result of the virus.

Bricks and Mortar - Proving Appealing Future Investments

What is perhaps more important is how people's general attitudes and behaviour toward their investment portfolio in the longer term may change. Oliver Bernard Private offer property consultancy advice for property in the UK, we predicted that the panicked economy and investors will look for property as a stable and safe investment in the current economy. We are firm belivers that fear is clearly an epidemic. This has gripped financial markets since 2001 and escalated in 2008. That’s really defined how people trade. We predict that as a result of the increasing volatility of the global economy investors will begin to turn toward safer and stable long term assets, such as property.