Breaking news has just confirmed that the real estate industry will be resuming operations under Level 3 lockdown on 1 June. The announcement has been met with widespread relief and excitement from industry professionals, as well as buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants who have been left in limbo since 27 March.
According to Tony Clarke, MD of the Rawson Property Group, permission to operate under Level 3 is the result of extended lobbying by the industry. The Rawson Property Group’s contributions include the formulation of proposed workplace plans and viewing safety protocols now adopted as the official stance by the Real Estate Business Owners of South Africa (REBOSA). Clarke himself was also responsible for a widely-shared open letter to President Ramaphosa, which has assisted in opening an ongoing dialogue with key decision-makers.
“Real estate is such a huge contributor to the South African economy, and the source of countless jobs, both directly and indirectly,” says Clarke. “We felt it was our duty to bring these facts and figures to the attention of the ‘powers that be’, and make sure they fully understood the repercussions of not allowing real estate to operate – safely, of course.”
While Clarke is delighted with the resulting decision to reopen real estate under Level 3, he says the discussions with governing bodies are far from over. Our goal is to have the industry formally reclassified as a Level 4 service to ensure vital continuity should hotspot flare-ups cause a return to stricter lockdowns.
“We don’t want to end up in a situation where new leases or sales are paused halfway through the process because we went back to Level 4 lockdown and buyers, sellers and tenants were left to their own devices with no professional assistance,” he says. “This was a major issue with the original lockdown and we want to do everything we can to make sure we don’t end up there again.”
Clarke is optimistic that the government will hear reason on this matter, saying they have been “very receptive” to input from industry experts so far.
“Safety is obviously a major concern, and we’ve been engaged in a lot of discussion around ways to implement social distancing and stringent hygiene protocol during all real estate activities and transactions,” he says. “Our Rawson safety protocols have now been adopted by REBOSA as the industry standard, and we urge all our fellow real estate professionals to implement them in their own businesses.”
According to Clarke, modern real estate is actually very well equipped to operate with minimal face-to-face engagement, making it one of the easier industries in which to prevent potential virus transmission. He says real estate brands like Rawson Properties have already been fine-tuning their digital tool suites to facilitate more comprehensive virtual services than ever before. These include virtual valuations, virtual show houses and live virtual tours, all of which will continue to be leveraged to minimise human contact when the industry ramps back up to full operations.
Certain activities like home inspections, however, can only be done in person, with appropriate social distancing procedures and PPE in place.
“We’ve been working around the clock as an industry to create the safest possible plan of action to allow people to put a roof over their heads without risking their health and safety,” he says.
“I’d like to thank the Banking Association South Africa, mortgage originators and legal fraternities who banded together in support of our lobby to date. I believe we are extremely well prepared to reopen under Level 3, and I am confident that the government will take note of our safety measures and seriously consider our bid to keep real estate open under Level 4 as well.”