Only 51% of estate agents met their sales target last year, down from 69% in 2019 but 500 estate agents told Lightstone Property that they expected 2021 to be significantly better with 81% believing they would meet their sales targets this year.
While property sales were down last year, Hayley Ivins-Downes, Head of Commercial at Lightstone Property says the pandemic forced estate agents, who were surveyed towards the end of 2020, to accelerate the digitisation of services which impacted a range of activity.
In a positive development, estate agents said 14% of buyers purchased properties without physically viewing them, double the recorded in pre-Covid-19 years. Despite social distancing and lockdown restrictions, agents were still able to maintain and to grow their client base and to improve relationships.
Fewer sales and the digitisation of operations had a negative effect on staff numbers and 25% of agencies said they had to retrench employees. Estate agents were hard hit on a personal level with 68% saying their personal finances were directly impacted.
However, it is not all bad news as 18% of responding agents said they were busier than before while 7% said properties were selling well due to the ‘buyer’s market bargains’ available. This buyer’s market is expected to continue this year and 59% of estate agents believe sellers will have to accept reduced prices if they are to succeed in moving their properties.
The changes in the real estate industry have made property investment more competitive with 26% of estate agents saying their companies had already recovered and just more than half of the respondents (51.4%) believed their company should recover this year. Nearly 23% said recovery would take longer, if ever.
“Though there is no doubt that Covid-19 had a challenging impact on real estate agents, the majority of those in the industry have maintained a positive outlook for the year ahead. 2021 will bring challenges, but the advances and adaptions to the digital environments and tools alongside this sense of optimism, will ease the journey ahead” Ivin-Downes concludes.