20th Mar, 2020
Within a matter of days, I have seen my business transform and I am working tirelessly with my team to keep operations running smoothly and relationships positive.
We remain strong and I am incredibly proud that through transparent communication my team have instantly risen to the challenges we have ahead of us.
Our main areas of focus are changing daily, however we felt you may like to know just a few of this week’s tasks.
Paul (Head Valuer) – Paul has been visiting properties where safe to do so to create videos in readiness for the likely event of viewing times being limited. Paul has also assisted in showing people around rental and sales properties sooner than initially planned to support earlier rental move ins and property sale completions.
Valuations are continuing as normal with additional precautions and many of our prospective vendors request their property be placed on the market quickly so that it can be viewed online when an increased population are off work scanning the big property portals.
Paul remains placing properties on the market for sale and for let although slightly speedier!
Ashley (Lettings Advisor) – Ashely is reviewing all tenancy move in dates and where possible bringing these forward to ensure our tenants and landlords are able to continue as planed with their tenancy. She is overseeing our available rental stock and working with landlords to ensure everything is being done to encourage the take up of properties promptly – we are pleased to report we are still taking holding deposits daily, although we do expect this level of interest to decrease over the weeks to come.
Tayla (Sales Advisor) – Tayla is reviewing every ongoing sale agreed and working hard with vendors, purchasers, solicitors and those in any chains to try and bring exchange and completion dates forward before further movement is restricted. This is at the request of the majority of our vendors and purchasers who are very positively still very keen to get into their new homes!
Tracey (Sales Advisor) – Tracey is working to support both our lettings and sales team in all aspects of our daily enquiries and offering support to many concerned clients. She is organising a significant amount of viewings where safe to do so and accommodating different dates and criteria to suit all parties. We are also reviewing all properties that remain available for sale and are providing advice to our vendors where appropriate.
Emma (Property Maintenance Manager) – Emma is frantically trying to complete a number of works that our rental portfolio require both old and new. We are still playing catch up with a lot of properties, still just drying out after the storms a few weeks ago as we reported a 100% increase in works during this time. We still have gas certificates, electrical certificates and many more daily tasks to complete to safeguard our tenants, landlords and our landlords investments, as well as new legislation coming out this year surrounding EPC’s and electrical certificates which appears to still be going ahead. We predict a 70% – 80% increase in workload to organise access for works through an initial 8 week period.
Gwen (Accounts Manager) – Gwen is collecting daily rents, checking works orders, managing client money, registering bonds, returning bonds and doing all those fiddly, detailed bits that are not my skillset! Her meticulous calculations and balancing will be ever more essential as we enter this uncertain time.
Rebecca (Assistant to Managing Director & Business Support Advisor) – Back soon…….we are counting the days!
Amy (Managing Director) – At this present moment I am not always sure how my day will look. I am reviewing hourly updates from ARLA and UK Government with regards to pretty much everything as we currently anticipate the highest rent arrears we have every experienced as well as an increase in complexity surrounding property essential works and access. I am providing short training sessions and updates with all my team daily and changing and creating policies daily.
I also take responsibility for remaining strong and positive, along with my amazing team at Applegate Properties who have already begun the rise to this challenge. They have volunteered flexible working, additional hours, some less hours, good ideas, cost saving ideas, revenue generating ideas, practical advice and hard work.
Oh yes, and I now don’t have a nursery to take my daughter to which I am sure many people can sympathise with.
I have always invested in our systems and support which therefore means that, if required, our whole organisation can work from home without any disruption including telephone calls being answered and transferred between colleagues. Whilst there may be the occasional dog barking in the background our processes including Data Protection, security and excellent customer service will continue as usual. We have been practising full lock down for some weeks and confirm everything works perfectly.
Additional systems are also being tested for virtual team meetings to promote wellbeing and face to face interaction if need be.
We hold daily update meetings with our whole team as quite frankly this can be a worrying time for anyone in employment. Our openness with those employed and sub-contracted only supports a motivated and happy environment.
We have taken extra measures within our office environment including additional cleaning and wipe downs, extra spacing between workstations and a re-configuration of reception to promote social distancing.
Property viewers are limited to maximum of two people and questioned regarding any signs of symptoms for the virus. Hand sanitizer and Dettol wipes are present at every viewing and shaking hands in a no, no.
Our systems encourage those to self-isolate if required as they can still work from home if they so choose.
Properties for sale
We have seen an amazingly positive response from so many purchasers wanting to be in their homes sooner and we are working hard to support this. We will still be working with the majority of solicitors to continue to progress all recently agreed sales too, although we predict viewings to decrease.
We anticipate there being a high volume of calls from landlord and tenants over the next few months and clear communication will be essential. For those landlords who have our Platinum package at 14% plus VAT management fee your rental income is protected and paid out usually after the first four weeks. We can confirm that this package is still currently available, however there is a £130 set up charge and claims cannot be made for 90 days. Please contact us if you would like to discuss this.
We will ensure our team here work with all tenants to complete questionnaires surrounding their circumstances as it will be essential to offer them guidance and support and agree payment plans rather than promote non-payment. The Government have now announced that three-month mortgage payment breaks will be extended to buy-to-let mortgages although we appreciate not all landlords have a mortgage. We await additional information surrounding those employed and self-employed in order for us to guide our tenants accordingly.
Eviction notices will not be able to be served for a three-month period, however we need to work closely with our tenants to offer payment plans and ‘payment where possible’ plans to limit the debt they incur. There is no doubt that these circumstances are exceptional, and the global economy is suffering already, however with our proactiveness, support and expert decision making we feel confident we can support all parties through this. We ask that those landlords who use us to manage their property do not contact their tenant direct as we need to log all calls and conversations for the best possible outcome.
We do not anticipate all tenants will be unable to pay rent or fall into arrears, however we have no doubt that these next few months will be the hardest we have ever or will ever work through.
We are following the advice of ARLA and the UK Government to ensure safety guidelines and property conditions remain adhered to, however we will not be able to instruct contractors to visit properties where a landlord float is not held on account and so we ask that landlords speak to one of our advisors or me personally surrounding this and ideally top up in advance to limit delays in works being booked.
It is time to come together and maybe even learn new ways of being. We also wish to reach out to any of our clients who may be alone to make contact if at any point they need a voice on the end of a phone or some form of support, even if not property related.
We kindly request that you be patient with us, we are learning a new way of working, a new way of living and a new way of coping. We assure you we are working hard and will cope well.
Best regards and well wishes
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