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Real estate professionals: how coronavirus has accelerated the digital transformation

Market analysis

22/04/2020

From estate agents to notaries, professionals in the property sectors have all had to adapt to the disruption in their working conditions caused by the health crisis by making greater use of technology.

Will the coronavirus epidemic shake up how people work in the property market? Some professionals think it’s a certainty.

At the webinar held on 29 April on the impact of COVID-19 on high-end housing in Paris, several agents from the luxury real estate firm BARNES talked about the changes to their ways of working.

In order to maintain their activity, they have stepped up their shift to the digital age. Particularly after the double blow of the epidemic and lockdown. “We remained discreet in the wake of initial shock period. We waited for a more auspicious moment to reach out to clients”, explains Richard Tzipine, Managing Partner of BARNES.

Yet timing was tight for the group: as at 17 March, at the start of lockdown, 200 sale agreements had been signed. Consultants thus had three months to draw up the final deed.

Richard Tzipine clarified that “17% were signed remotely during lockdown, and 77% will be signed between May and July”. He also noted a low proportion of withdrawals (6%), due to unsuccessful loan applications. 60% of sale agreements are therefore still ongoing, with signature set for the upcoming months.

New practices definitively adopted

Business has been able to continue largely thanks to the virtual viewings proposed by estate agents. “We have concluded an agreement with a company that has developed this system so as to allow buyers to visit the property online”, he adds. Consultants are also able to go to apartments themselves in order to give clients a viewing via video call.

And these new practices are set to stay: “We will be systematically proposing this process to our vendors in order to save time. It’s a real ‘plus’ that we will continue to promote even after a return to normality”, the Managing Partner confirmed.

Even client themselves are adapting to these new methods on the luxury real estate market. Philippe Joffre, BARNES Director for Paris’ 1st8th and 17th arrondissements, gave the example of a French buyer married to an American. He took the husband on an in-person viewing of the apartment near the Tuileries gardens. “His wife couldn't be there, so we organised a virtual viewing for her, and they confirmed their offer at €5.3 million”, he says delightedly.

Towards entirely digital notarial deeds

For notaries also, the health crisis has accelerated the digital transition. A decree published in early April authorises the electronic signature of deeds of sale for new-builds in France, for which the use of power of attorney is impossible, unlike deeds of sale for old-builds.

Thanks to a system of power of attorney granted to the vendor’s notary and to the buyer’s notary, the transaction can be completed without any physical contact and without having to travel to the notary office. Only a small team of three people is needed to authenticate the deed of sale.

“Electronic deeds have been introduced in 90% of offices”, says Gregory de Simencourt, notary in Paris. “All of the documents are scanned and stored in the cloud. This allows all of the parties to continue working from a computer”, he adds.

But the digitalisation of the profession is not yet complete. Gregory de Simencourt agrees: “Only one out of two offices is equipped for video-conferencing”, for the rest, it will be in place within the next few months”.

© Le Moniteur - published on Barnes Périgord on 22/04/2020

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