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House-hunting can continue during the lockdown thanks to technology

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The covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown has thrust the real estate industry into unchartered waters, but property players are forging ahead to keep the market afloat.

Agencies already trying to navigate their way through difficult seas during the country’s initial restrictions were thrown into further disarray when the national 21-day lockdown was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa this week.

But they say it has not halted their operations completely. If anything, the nationwide lockdown has made them more reliant on technology to facilitate the buying and selling of properties.

“The industry has been very quick to react and adapt so there is no reason it shouldn’t be business as usual. It will just be conducted differently for a while,” says Yael Geffen, chief executive of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty.

Prior to the lockdown people were more cautious about going out to view properties, but the serious buyers were still there. “There is a sense of no dilly-dallying and a heightened sense of urgency from some clients. In fact, some of our branches have recorded record months so far for March in spite of what is happening.”

While the country still has 20 days of lockdown to get through, technology will ensure buying and selling continues. “It’s possible to virtually view homes in as much detail as one could by actually visiting the property, and video conferencing enables remote meetings.

“Documents can be signed digitally and online document storage is also available now,” Geffen says. The property market has not stopped operating, emphasises Mike Greeff, chief executive of Greeff Christie’s International Real Estate.

“This past weekend we still had houses on show, with keen potential buyers. (Last week) we also listed a number of new mandates which shows there are still homeowners wanting to sell.”

Although he does not know what lies ahead, he says the agency remains hopeful. “This is the ideal time for aspiring buyers to start or continue looking because of the 1% drop in the repo rate. The repo rate cut means buying a home is more affordable and more attainable, especially for first-time buyers.

“The Covid-19 pandemic should not deter potential buyers from looking because they can still do so from the comfort of their homes.”

“Strangely enough” and “unpredictably”, Dogon Group Properties conducted a number of viewings over the past two weeks where bullish buyers sought to see how far prices had fallen, says the group’s chief executive Denise Dogon. Dogon believes buyers will continue taking advantage of the circumstances. 

“Some sellers will accept 30% to 40% below their original asking price a year ago. These are the type of sales that are likely to happen.

“In times like these, with all the uncertainty, the one thing that is for sure is that bricks and mortar represent solid security in one’s life. Owning a home is the one solid factor when all else becomes blurred by the times,” says Dogon.

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