Surveyors have been given advice to safely carry out valuations, house viewings and moves are again permitted, and estate agents are reopening.
The government’s plan to see more businesses return in July has also given some insight into when society might resume on some level.
This week, Mortgage Solutions is asking: Have you or do you plan to adjust your business scenario planning now the lockdown timeline has been announced?
It’s positive but there are so many variations and things that can change. A month is a very long time and two months is even longer. The announcement didn’t fill me with much confidence for the future.
However, they’ve given us more information around furloughs and how that will work going forward. That’s useful for business strategy and gives us some insight into what we can do and plan for.
What’s also good is the fact they have started helping out smaller businesses with a rapid way of accessing loans by guaranteeing 100 per cent of the small business loans up to 25 per cent of a firm’s turnover. That will give businesses and owners more confidence.
In terms of business opening back up, I fall on the cautious side. I think this conversation might be premature. Where we’ve seen countries take a stricter approach and open things back up, there’s still been a resurgence in cases.
It doesn’t matter what the government wants to do, the virus has its own plan. Deaths are still high, and infection levels haven’t dropped much – that needs to stabilise first. It is good there is a plan, as that was needed, but I don’t think it’ll be business as usual in August or September.
Overall, I’ll remain cautious. As long as we can survive and cut costs, I’ll remain cautious.
Whilst we have an outline roadmap for easing lockdown, the phases outlined could still be subject to change if we see the ‘R’ number accelerating.
At Chadney Bulgin, we are keeping a watching brief, particularly on the factors that can impact activity levels moving forward.
Initially, surveyors being able to start valuing property again has been key. We have seen many lenders further develop their desktop valuation capability, and this has clearly been helpful, but to start to return towards normal activity levels, a return to physical valuations is necessary.
Similarly, to release the pipelines will require allowing completions to progress. This may take some creative thinking to ensure social distancing is observed, but is not beyond the realms of a formal process.
We know that lenders are understandably concerned around credit quality, and in some cases, criteria tightened, so yet a further unknown to be thrown in the melting pot.
So, trying to plan into the short term, let alone the medium is extremely difficult. Staff continue to work well from home, and many advisers have their rate ends to discuss with clients, resulting in both remortgage and product transfer activity.
The all important question remains when, and by how much activity levels will increase, to be able to ensure resourcing is properly matched to demand.
With the latest government announcement, we are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. That said much of the planned opening up is based on the future spread of the virus.
People who expect that as a country we will be similar to pre–lockdown by this summer, in my view, will be disappointed.
Whilst the virus is among the population, people’s hesitance of being close to others will remain, irrespective of government guidelines. Social distancing of some sort is very much here to stay.
We have converted from a face–to–face to telephone and Zoom operation and cannot see us returning to our offices any time soon. As a company, we will of course always put the safety of our clients and staff first.
There is very little that we cannot do remotely and as a company we will be following the government’s guidelines on the way we work.
The opening up of offices is likely to be very gradual with some staff returning whilst others still working from home. I can see that those needing to use public transport will be the last to return. We have started to plan how we can make our offices safer for those that return first.
Right now, we are concentrating on providing the very best remote service to our clients but we cannot wait to be able to go back to face to face meetings and that more personal human interaction that we have all missed so much.