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‘People want to move faster’: How buying a home has changed during Covid-19

Covid-19 has changed all of our lives, from the way we work to the way we socialise. It has had a huge effect on every single sector in this country, including property.

o, if you’re thinking about buying or selling a house this year there are a few things that you will need to consider first.

To find out more we decided to catch up with Anthony McGee, chairperson of REA. REA is Ireland’s leading property group of chartered surveyors with 50 branches throughout the country.

Anthony and his team have been closely monitoring the property sector throughout the pandemic and have been able to adapt to meet the changing demands of their clients.

Here are just a few things that have evolved in recent months.

Rural regeneration

Since March, REA has noticed a growing demand for properties in rural areas. According to the REA Average House Price Index, prices in the country’s regional towns have risen by almost 1pc in 12 weeks to €163,345, compared to less than 0.5pc experienced in bigger population centres.

“Habits are changing,” Anthony explains. “People are looking to move outside Dublin where you can buy homes cheaper and rent for cheaper too.

“People who commute from places like Athlone and the west of Ireland are now saying, we can work from home. This is where we want to live. We want to see our kids before they go to bed. People want a certain standard of living.”

Remote working has also caused a surge of buyers looking for extra room that can be converted into office space.

“We see a lot of buyers looking for a spare room that can be used for an office, or an attic that can be converted,” Anthony states. “People want to know if the broadband speeds are up to scratch or if there is a park beside where they are living. Things have changed. People value their time more. People do not want to be stuck commuting for two or three hours a day.”

Online auctions

Estate agents are also using online tools more and more to help people to find their dream homes.

“There was always going to be online sales but it has certainly been accelerated because of Covid-19,” Anthony explains. “We have launched BidNow which is our online auction tool. That has really catapulted the sales on online auctions to a huge market.”

The BidNow platform allows agents to sell properties in alternative ways to the traditional model. Agents can now offer properties for sale via individual or group online auctions, host live-streamed in-room auctions or online private treaty sales.

Potential buyers are also able to tour properties virtually from the comfort of their own home.

“We’ve got 3D imagery, we’ve got online videos so people can see the whole interior, we’ve got 3D designs of the property as well,” Anthony explains. “People can get a real feel for a place. The way property is being sold and the way that it is being marketed is changing all the time. It’s incredible that you can sell property and rent property without the client ever actually standing in the property.”

New safety procedures

Like every other industry, the property sector has implemented new safety procedures when conducting meetings and in-person viewings.

“In REA we take every possible precaution,” Anthony explains. “We use hand sanitisers, gloves, masks and so on.

“There is 15 minutes between property viewings where we clean down touch points etc. It’s incredible how it has become so normal. We do this on a daily basis now.”

Speed is paramount

Despite the current pandemic, REA has found people are keen to move quickly when purchasing or renting property.

“The thing with Covid-19 is that we don’t have a finishing date,” explains Anthony. “This could go into next year, maybe even longer. So, people have to adapt. People want to buy homes, people want to sell homes, people want to rent property. As an industry, we have to make ourselves adaptable. We have done that to a huge extent.

“On the sales we run through BidNow for example, once the contracts are signed we generally look to close 28 days from that date which is really fast. Normally that could take eight to 12 weeks but now people want to move faster. People want keys in their hands.”

Rising shortage of properties

Unfortunately, this large demand means that properties are becoming harder and harder to come by. 

“At the moment, there’s huge take up on existing property so we will see ourselves running short of property in the near future,” Anthony states. “For example, new homes. The country’s developers delivered a 10-year high of 21,241 new homes in 2019, according to the latest figures from the Central Statistics Office. The number still falls short, though, of the proposed 34,000 units the Central Bank estimates will be required every year between now and 2030 to meet future demand.”

Are you thinking of selling? Contact REA for a pre-sale valuation and they will be able to advise you on which sales method works best for your property.

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