New government rules have been announced to ease lockdown restrictions for the property market as renters, buyers and sellers look to move home and view properties; as long as they observe physical distancing measures.
This is long-awaited news for estate agents who can now get back to work and help reinvigorate the economy.
However, property firms have to take extra precautions, including keeping their branches closed to the general public and ensuring they keep a two-metre distance from their clients and prospects during house visits.
Despite the ease of restrictions, it is clear that estate agents will have to evolve to a ‘new normal’ of social distancing measures and provide greater access to online solutions, right from the outset of the customer journey.
In today’s competitive property landscape, the firms that place customer experience and digital solutions at the forefront will succeed. As digital offerings from a variety of organisations become increasingly sophisticated, user demands have risen exponentially. Customers now expect user-friendly services and streamlined efficiency from their property agents from the moment they onboard. And, if they don’t receive this, they can easily turn to a competitor to find what they are looking for.
While many property firms have been in the survival mode during the last 7-weeks of lockdown (and some being forced to close), it is now business-critical that estate agents adopt a more digital approach to client onboarding and remote services, that place customer experience high on their agenda.
There is now pent up demand to move house; downsize or change rental property as we ease the lockdown measures. Agents will need to be able to process these transactions both quickly and cost-effectively to relieve the pressure on their business. A simply to deploy digital verification solution will support firms in riding these inevitable new waves of erratic peaks and troughs.
Branches will still have their uses, certainly in the mid-term (post-COVID-19), but, as the new wave of transacting has shown, the populace is looking for new ways of managing their property affairs and are increasingly confident in adopting remote tools and apps as their concerns over social distancing continue.
The rental and property market has previously been overly reliant on face-to-face verification, whilst being under increasing pressure to ensure veracity, particularly from 5th Money Laundering Directive (5th MLD). The increasing incidence of ‘dirty’ money being used to purchase properties, largely in London and other metropolitan areas, has led to increased scrutiny and the need for companies providing services in this area to be ever vigilant, with watertight processes against AML. Fraudsters are seeing an even greater opportunity during these changing times and are placing an even greater risk on the businesses to remain compliant.
However, NorthRow have a simply to deploy solution that can be used as a PAYG model. Home movers and renters can use the app to verify their identity and provide scans of their ID, removing the hassle of hand-delivering or posting documents. Even better, the technology behind these solutions is much more accurate at spotting fake documents in comparison to human review alone.
Property Agents need to change their processes
Rationalisation of the branch system will come in time, and remote verification is one of the elements that will speed this process, together with the need to comply with existing and emergent regulatory and industry initiatives.
No longer does the high street need to rely on branches to facilitate the face-to-face verification that has been necessary in the past. Agents also need to look at delivering greater efficiencies and how they approach these initiatives, to minimise duplication and rework in their efforts. One of the greatest expenses when it comes to compliance is ‘people’. In the past firms have deployed more people and time to carry out manual checks than deliver digital transformation, but times have changed with easy to deploy solutions that can be up and running in a matter of days, with easy integration into existing infrastructure.
Customer experience now demands change and Agents will need to get on board with digital solutions as a matter of urgency.
Remote onboarding and verification
What has become apparent is that businesses that rely on face-to-face meetings to verify their client’s identity before allowing them to use a product or service is a massive barrier to onboarding.
In these unusual times, asking your customers to come into an office or branch is no longer viable. Not only do today’s customers desire the convenience of signing up to a product or service in minutes from a mobile phone, but with ‘social distancing’ imperatives, it has become key that regulated firms need to respond to this increasingly preferred and socially-acceptable demand for remote onboarding.