What 2020 Has Taught Me (As A Former High-Street Owner)

By Jane Hill

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Online Lettings During COVID-19: Lessons for the High Street

January 28, 2021 Jane Hill 2 Comments

This post was last updated on September 3rd, 2021 at 10:06 am

Well, what about 2020, eh? I think we can all agree when I say “good riddance” to that one!

Last year, when I told my friends I was joining an online agency, they warned me that my year ahead would be unlike anything I’d experienced as a former high-street owner. None of us realised just how true that would be.

A year like no other

Not even two months into my new role, a national lockdown was announced and in-person viewings were banned until Spring. As an online agency, we were certainly well-equipped for these changes. With all our ‘paperwork’ being securely sent and signed online and the majority of our processes being carried out digitally, our methods were already somewhat ‘pandemic-proof’.

Of course, the temporary ban of in-person viewings was not something we were accustomed to – but we quickly adapted by making video uploads and virtual viewings available.

When I think back to this, I am so proud of how well our team adapted to early on. But it also has me thinking, would my former high-street business have coped so well during a pandemic?

Read more: Lockdown at LettingaProperty.com: How We Kept Our Rent Claim Below 2%

There’s no denying that so many high-street agencies have suffered this past year. After such a devastating loss of income – some have sadly had no choice but to close-up shop for good.

It would be easy for me to carry on with the ‘doom-and-gloom bandwagon’ and harp on about how many high-street shops have gone by the wayside.  However, after speaking with a few of my old muckers in the industry, it seems that many agents have managed to pull through.

But how have some high-street agents survived and others not?

High time for high-street changes

The answer is simple: technology!

We all know that some high-street agencies have a reputation of being “stuck in the past” on the tech front. I suspect that my own agency could have been considered one of them!

But when the global pandemic began, any letting agency that wanted to survive had no choice but to adapt. The agents that were a bit slow out the traps seem to be the ones who have suffered. Yet the progressive-thinking company principals, who were quick to embrace technology (virtual viewings, online valuations, digital paperwork), are the ones who have made it through.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying technology is the answer to everything. Although we’re an online agency, dealing with COVID-19 and all the havoc it’s wrought has been an enormous challenge. It doesn’t matter how high-tech your systems are, living through a pandemic has taken an emotional toll on us all.

But the reality is, we were ahead of the game. LettingaProperty.com has been operating ‘remotely’ since 2008. We didn’t need to completely reinvent our processes, because they were already built with flexibility and adaptability in mind.

We process all our paperwork digitally, so both landlords and tenants can sign from wherever they are – with no travelling needed.

So, with all this in mind, and thinking back to my former high-street agency, I wonder would we have got by?

Read more: Online Lettings As Told By A Former Owner of A High-Street Agent

Surviving or thriving?

We were a resilient and adaptable bunch, so I like to think we’d have made it through. But there’s no denying it would have taken valuable time for us to get up to speed – and likely some redundancies along the way.

Here at LettingaProperty.com, not only have we survived, we’ve flourished. Despite the multiple lockdowns, emergency legislation and a three-month team furlough – 2020 has been a record year for us. We’ve welcomed more landlords to our plans than ever before, and our team is bigger than it’s ever been – and growing!

Read more: Online Letting Agents – What Are They And Should I Use One To Let Out My Property?

Silver linings

If the property industry has gained anything from 2020, it’s that high-street agents have been pushed into the 21st century.

The pandemic has forced traditional agents to rethink their methods: trade their piles of paperwork for PDFs, swap viewings for virtual tours and upgrade their Rolodex to an online CRM. Okay, that last one may be a bit of an exaggeration, but the bottom line is that the pandemic has forced us all into a different way of work – and mostly for the better.

It’s also shown that despite the age-old rivalry between high-street and online, the ‘old boys’ could do with borrowing a thing or two from their tech-savvy counterparts. I still maintain that there’s room in the marketplace for both traditional and online agents. But now, landlords, tenants, and most importantly agents, are realising that the streamlined efficiency of online lettings doesn’t mean a compromise on quality service.

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About Jane Hill

After 16 years of co-owning a successful high-street lettings company, Jane joined LettingaProperty.com ready for a new challenge. As Office and Administration Manager, Jane oversees the day-to-day goings-on in the office, ensures the team are happy and keeps our finances in check.

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