A year ago, I sat down to write a letter to our readers. A national state of disaster had just been declared and we were packing up our office to work from home for three weeks.
The gist of the letter was to stretch out a hand of kindness, where you could, to those in your neighbourhoods or beyond who would be most hard hit by a lockdown.
We also did a 180 degree turn on our regular Insider Area pages and turned them into a “Lockdown In ….” feature where, from Langa to Hillbrow to Khayelitsha, we highlighted the impact of lockdown on South Africans and called on you, our readers, to help if they could with certain charities in these areas. As always you rose to the occasion.
Read the latest Property360 digital magazine below
When we packed up our offices for three weeks, little did we realise that many of us would never return to our places of work, that the jobs we had would change and that, when the schools closed, parents would begin months of homeschooling.
The lockdown also meant those who had bought homes or who were about to move were forced to stay put. Relocation was not allowed.
Everyone thought: “Okay, it’s three weeks – we can do this.” Estate agencies shut their doors and closed down their businesses as they were not allowed to operate. And the deeds office closed.
But as the three weeks became five and then the weeks became months, the property industry – which in the meantime had formed the new National Property Practitioners Council, headed by Vuyiswa Mutshekwane – went to war to try and get estate agents classified as professionals and able to work.
We all know the many agency bosses who worked day and night to secure the opportunity for agents to go back to work. This huge effort saw the real estate industry re-open in Level 3 instead of 2.
Property business has certainly been boosted by the low-interest rates, which have been a blessing for the industry and for the many people who have taken advantage of the rates to consider becoming homeowners.
Here at Property360, we took our media business to full-on digital, sending out weekly newsletters, weekly property digital magazines and breaking news daily on our social media and online platforms. Our website tripled its users as we tried everything to keep you informed.
When we were able to get back to print we did so with gusto. Meanwhile, our thriving digital arm continues its upward trajectory.
We have been so fortunate in this time to have formed even stronger bonds with industry heads, with emerging leaders in the industry and with our beloved readers and followers, exchanging emails, calls and doing all we can to ensure we continue to serve our readers and property community.
But the fact is it’s been a hard year for all. Tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs, many have had their salaries slashed and it is not business as usual, even in level 1.
We have all been through a dramatic year of trauma. How we fare going forward, I believe, will largely depend on how we take care of each other during these tough times.