Even though shutters have opened post lockdown, and real estate agents are able to go about their business (this week in Spain and since last week in Portugal), it´s difficult to know what exactly is “acceptable” and what not in the “New Normal”. Clear pan European guidelines have not emerged, and even the national guidelines are fuzzy. For example, in Spain the use of masks is not obligatory (except on public transport), however many businesses have their own rules of entry, which often include the use of both masks and gloves.
The absence of clear rules for all means that we will need to adapt to each other´s rules. At UCI, as in all companies, we have published a guide for all employees and collaborators, but we also understand that each real estate agent, lawyer, notary etc. will have their own rules, and each of our clients will also impose their own criteria which we will need to respect.
What seems clear is that many of us will now spend less time at the office, and more time working from home, and many meetings will continue to be “virtual” via zoom, teams, etc. This poses some challenges, but also opportunities. If we focus on the opportunities, as clients are now more willing and able to deal with us through technology after the “crash course” that we have all been involved in over the past weeks, we may spend much less time travelling around ( which takes up a great deal of time, money and increases our carbon footprint), and our physical interaction will be limited to the strictly necessary.
We can use this opportunity to be more productive and to find a better balance between our professional and personal lives. However, for this to happen we have to embrace change, adapt, and learn to thrive in this new environment. We all need to dominate technology now, or we will be left behind. Our key skills from “before the virus” will still be needed though, and we will once again have face to face encounters with our clients, family and friends.
Our sector will inevitably experience some difficulties, but there will also be opportunities as many people choose to live in a property more “fit for purpose” in the new normal. Properties with outside spaces, and space to create a home office will probably continue to be much sought after for some time to come. We do not know if this will be the first of many lockdowns, or a unique experience, but fear runs deep, and people tend to prepare for the worst whenever they can, which will be a tailwind for this specific market of International Buyers.
Additionally, there seems to be much less need than ever before to live near to the office, as remote working is sure to be much more commonplace than ever before. Business leaders have been able to experience first-hand the productivity of their employees and collaborators over the last weeks and their fear of “working from home” being an acronym for a free day off has, in general, dissipated. Additionally, office space is very expensive, and a combination of remote working and office hours means that many businesses will re- design their office space. Many of us should no longer expect a private office, or even our own desk, as is makes no sense to keep a private space for an employee who may visit the office once or twice a week, especially when this visit is more likely to be for meetings that for individual tasks, which can be carried out in the home office.
This is just the beginning of the new normal, so we cannot know exactly what to expect and will need to keep evolving, learning and observing what market trends suit our business needs. Welcome to the future!