Monday, 19 October 2020

Covid - how has it changed things for the better? Tom of Spencer has his say

What has changed since the first lockdown?  

"Although COVID has undoubtedly been a troublesome time for us all, in a perverse kind of way it has helped me to appreciate things that I probably took for granted before it happened.

"Beforehand, I think we were all guilty about taking our relationships for granted, but having not seen my family and a lot of my friends since Christmas, it made me realise how much I had missed them when restrictions were eased.

"The pint with my mates on a Friday night, the brew with my grandparents, the buzz of going to Hillsborough and the excitement of looking forward to a weekend away are still sorely missed, but I know when they do come round again (and they will), I will not take them for granted.

"I have discovered new music, learnt new skills, read more books and been able to break away into things that I may have not been able to do in the rat race of days gone by before all of this.

"The negatives of this wretched disease far outweigh the positives – there is absolutely no denying that. But it has given me a chance to reflect on what really is important in this crazy old world we live in and for that, I will be thankful."

Tom is in our Lettings Team and has worked with us for some time now - we don't know where we would be without him. 

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Agents now able to return to work - in a fashion. Guidelines attached #covid19 #estateagent

Corona Virus Update from last night and today's news 

Agents have been told they can reopen branches.
The Ministry of Housing has just updated its buying and selling guidance after saying the property market could reopen this morning.
It said estate agents can open for business but should consider how and when to reopen so they can follow Government guidance on safe working,
The guidance said:
  • Agents should ask whether any party is showing symptoms or has been asked to self-isolate before going ahead with any viewing, or visits to offices.
  • Agents should operate using an appointment system for visits to their offices and when conducting viewings.
  • Agents should not carry out any open house viewings.
  • Agents should strongly encourage clients to view properties virtually in the first instance and then only physically inspect properties which they have a strong interest in.
  • Agents can accompany physical viewings and seek to maintain a minimum of 2 metres distance from others wherever possible. Where social distancing is not possible and the visit is within an enclosed space, they should consider wearing a face covering in line with government guidance.
  • Where they do not accompany the visit, they should make sure that both buyers and sellers clearly understand how the viewing should be conducted safely.
  • Agents should not drive clients to appointments.
  • All parties viewing a property should wash their hands with soap and water (or hand sanitiser if not available) immediately after entering the properties, with internal doors opened and surfaces having been wiped down before they enter. Separate towels or paper towels should be used if possible and washed or disposed of safely after use.
  • Agents should do what they can to promote flexibility when arranging move dates, for example advising clients to ensure contracts have explicit terms to manage the timing risks presented by coronavirus.
  • Agents should work with their clients and other agents to broker a new date to move where sales are due to complete and one of the parties falls ill with coronavirus or has to self-isolate.
  • Agents should ensure that any keys are appropriately cleaned before handover.
There is also guidance for sellers when their property is being viewed such as vacating the property, opening all internal doors and allowing access to handwashing facilities, ideally with separate towels.
All parties viewing a property are also advised to wash their hands and avoid touching surfaces.
Social distancing guidelines must be followed during the viewings and there should be minimal contact with the household.
Once the viewing has taken place, the home owner should ensure surfaces, such as door handles, are cleaned with standard household cleaning products and towels disposed of safely or washed as appropriate, the guidance said.
Letting agents and private landlords must follow the same guidance on viewings.
It said:
  • Private landlords and letting agents should not conduct viewings in properties where tenants are symptomatic or self-isolating, or where it has been determined that they are clinically extremely vulnerable and are shielding.
  • In other cases, where viewings can proceed, they should be conducted in line with the guidance on viewings earlier in this document.
  • Any visits to a property must be made in accordance with Government’s guidelines on working in other people’s homes and social distancing.
  • If possible, necessary repairs, gas and electrical safety checks should be conducted in the period between a property being vacated and a new tenant moving in. If this is not possible and visits are needed to an occupied property, this should be done by appointment with measures put in place to ensure physical contact is minimised, for example with residents staying in another room during the visit.
  • Landlords should make every effort to abide by gas and electrical safety requirements. This may be more difficult due to restrictions associated with the coronavirus outbreak, for example where a tenant has coronavirus symptoms, is self-isolating or shielding. Under such circumstances, provided the landlord can demonstrate they have taken reasonable steps to comply, they would not be in breach. Letting agents may also want to consider obtaining landlord and tenant consent for inventory clerk appointments to also occur before a tenant moves in or after a tenant moves out during vacant periods if possible.
  • Letting agents and landlords should take steps to ensure any properties are prepared ready for new tenants, this may include cleaning to minimise any potential spread of the virus in line with Government advice.
  • Letting agents and landlords should consider how best to conduct tenancy check-ins for new tenancies agreed while broader measures remain in place, taking care to follow Government advice on social distancing to minimise possible spread of coronavirus.
  • Letting agents and landlords are reminded of the temporary COVID-19 measures that adjust right to rent checks, temporarily allowing these checks to be conducted remotely. Lettings agents and landlords should consider other areas where in person payments, referencing or checks can be conducted remotely instead and take further advice if required.
We will be reporting shortly to all our clients as to when and how we will be returning to work in the safest possible way for all our staff, clients, tenants, and contractors. 

Watch this space........... 

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Update Interview with Nicola Spencer - Sheffield Estate Agent

Update Interview with our MD, Nicola Spencer

What is currently happening with viewings?
We are not currently undertaking any physical viewings on properties. We do have video tours available of rental properties and of some sales properties, if you are interested in taking a look and registering your interest. We are happily accepting applications on rental properties but are only registering interest subject to viewing (at some point) on sales properties.

Can we put our property on the market just now?
If your property is empty and we are able to safely gain access to the property with no contact, we will soon be able to assess and value your property for sales and rental purposes. If you need a valuation of your property during lockdown, we can do video valuations to give you a really good idea of value and of our services on offer. We are hopeful that we will be able to announce getting back out to properties over the next month or so using PPE.

Are people paying their rent?
We have a large portfolio of property management for investors with single properties, multiple properties and entire blocks of rented property, and we have to say that on the whole the majority of tenants have been paying their rent on time and have wanted to do so. Where tenants have had individual and specific financial restrictions, the majority of landlords have been eager to ensure that they find a way to help out. We can honestly only say that we have seen the good in people during this time.

What’s the future of Spencer look like?
There’s no danger that we will start to do things slightly differently to before, we will have to! The video viewings have been a huge success for rentals and make the process so much slicker and having meetings via Zoom or other video conferencing has made time management solutions look more attractive in some instances, but nothing beats proper human interaction. The offices will remain closed to the public until further notice, but in the background we are busy beavering away trying to get sales through and letting and managing properties the best we can.

Monday, 20 April 2020

Quick interview with our MD #Spencer #Sheffield #covid19chat

Please can you introduce yourself and what you do?

My name is Nicola Spencer and I have Spencers Estate Agents on Ecclesall Road, where we sell, manage, rent and block manage many properties.

What was your initial reaction to lockdown?

We actually locked ourselves down before the announcement knowing that we didn’t want to expose any staff or clients unnecessarily where we could find other ways of running the business. Because my mum has cancer, dad has long term heart conditions, and because we have young children, I didn’t want to place any of my family at risk either and so it seemed sensible to act before the inevitable.

How has your business changed over the past few weeks?

It is strange how adaptable you can be when forced to be, and all the things that you wouldn’t have thought possible, such as remote working, suddenly do become options that weren’t as difficult as you would have imagined. We are still running the business as efficiently as possible, conforming with all distancing guidelines, and are still managing to stay in contact with all clients and to undertake emergency repairs where absolutely necessary. Having to run the business, look after children and not see people is hard, especially in a business where relationship building is so key, but we are hanging our hats on the truth that this won’t be forever and that needs must for now.

How do you see the long-term impact on small businesses?

We can only speak for ourselves here, of course, but the resources that have been put in place from the government should really help us and I can only hope that the property sales market isn’t seriously affected long term, only time will tell. In the short term, we must tighten our belts on spending and find ways to cut back overheads just to ensure the job security for all our staff and to ensure the business can keep going over the next 12 months where income will be affected by the huge dip in sales, we have made the changes needed and are confident that the business is as safe as it can be in these times.

What has been your daily coping strategy in these crazy times?

I’m not great at having to deal with my own company, so working from home and remotely hasn’t been much fun, even if I can work in my pyjamas! It has been nice to find the time to exercise a little more though, and it has been nice to have to be at home and be forced to get some jobs done that have been on the back burner. I am finding the lack of contact with family and friends incredibly hard though and having very little to talk about when I take the time to call or video call seems strange. I can’t wait to be able to plan doing some nice things with the people I love and to get back to a bit of normality. In the meantime the priority has to be keeping those safe that are around me and doing my “bit” to ensure that I don’t let them down.

Letter to landlords - #Sheffield from #Spencer

Dear landlords,

We hope you all keeping well and as safe as possible in these quite surreal times.

Here at Spencer, we are all obviously working within the Government guidelines in regards Covid 19, but at the same time, we are maintaining the highest possible standard of property management as you have come to expect.

We are all working tirelessly to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible for you all, so if you do have any questions or queries, please do not hesitate to contact us. 

Some of you may have noticed that we have been looking to renew some of your tenancies a bit earlier than we normally would. The reason as to why this is simply because the Government has introduced a 3 month notice period, rather than the usual 2 months. Therefore, to protect your tenancies (and ultimately your income) we have made a very conscious effort to make sure we are on top of this. 

As well as this, we are also fully aware that the Government has also introduced new measures in granting mortgage payment holidays. We have found that some tenants maybe using this as a bit of an excuse to ask for a reduction in rent and subsequently using it to their advantage. There are obviously some cases where tenants will be affected financially because of this crisis, but we are making sure that every time this happens we are happy it's a legitimate reason to ask for a reduction to help with their circumstances. So far, its only been a very small percentage asking for such a claim and we are hopeful it will continue in this manner. 

At the same time, we are managing all the usual things that come with property management as we normally would. Whilst we are not doing any physical viewings, we are doing virtual viewings for any properties we have on the market and despite it not being ideal, we are finding this way to be quite successful with lets being agreed fairly quickly. As well as this, we are generating new business too, so there is also a constant stream of properties available despite the limitations of what we can do - which is obviously great news and testament to the lettings department. 

We are also working in such a way that we can still organise emergency repairs to your properties and such legal aspects as annual gas checks, so you know that your properties are legally up to date as much as possible. 

I hope this email helps to reassure you that its certainly business as usual with us and your continued support is always appreciated. 

Keep safe and stay well. 


Tuesday, 24 March 2020

#Covid19Update Offices are CLOSED - All staff working safely from home #spencers #sheffield #wearespencer

Dear All,

Our offices are now CLOSED but staff are ALL still working from home. Our phone lines are still open diverted to all staff, we are conducting valuations via video phone, and all urgent repairs are being undertaken as safely as possible by contractors.

If you have an urgent issue please call us on 0114 2683682 during work hours or my personal mobile number is 07770 768896 if you want to call me, Nicola. We are all working on safe ways to continue key handovers for completions, check outs, check ins, and urgent maintenance. 

My own personal circumstances are that my mum has cancer, my dad has serious heart issues, I have five-year-old twins, and a 94 year old grandma with dementia, all who I am shopping for and trying to keep safe. I am sure you all have similar stories and you will want to keep your people safe, just as I am trying to keep mine safe too.

I would like to personally reassure all our tenants, clients, vendors, landlords, and buyers, as well as future clients, that our business will survive this and that I will do everything that I can to ensure that we are still here on the other side.

Thank you in the meantime for your patience and all of your wonderful messages of support of us at Spencer, we have great staff who are all doing their best for the business, each other, and for our clients, as well as for their families too. These are difficult times but I can promise a “no surrender” attitude to keeping everyone safe as well as to keeping staff and our business running as effectively as possible.

We will maintain our social responsibility throughout this time and will promise our best attention at all times.

Stay safe.

With love and best wishes