HomeEspaña has begun to reopen its offices and return to work, in accordance with Spanish Government guidelines. Founder Kieran Byrne discusses how we plan to move forward.
I’m delighted that HomeEspaña is now welcoming customers back again, and the team and I are excited to be back at work, helping our clients with their property needs here in Spain.
We know you have lots of questions about ‘what next?’ so I’d like to take this opportunity to explain how HomeEspaña has responded to coronavirus, and give my own perspective on the property market on the Costa Blanca.
But first, a personal reflection on our experience of the crisis.
My journey with HomeEspaña has been a long one, starting back when I opened our first office in 2002, so I’ve navigated lots of ups and downs over the years – including the 2008 financial crash. But nothing has been quite like this.
Twelve weeks ago, as the health crisis escalated in Spain, we were forced to furlough many of our valued employees and close the doors of the HomeEspaña offices. A small group of us continued working (from home), keeping in touch with clients. Buyers and sellers were anxious for information, and we had many clients who had found a property, paid their deposit, but were unable to finalise the purchase because the notaries (who oversee the signing of the contracts and the completion of any sale) were closed.
It was a difficult time, watching the situation unfold in Spain and around the world, but we knew we had to stay calm, keep customers informed, and prepare so we were ready with a plan when the crisis was over, so we could protect jobs and livelihoods, and return to doing what we love – helping people realise their dream of a new home in Spain.
Now, after this unprecedented period for the whole country, Spain is slowly beginning to reopen. Buyers have been able to complete their purchases. Property-hunters are returning to their searches. Sellers are resuming negotiations. And at HomeEspaña we are reopening offices, bringing staff back to work where we can, and a resumption of activity and house sales has commenced.
The crisis has certainly had a significant impact on our business. Activity stopped for the best part of 10 weeks, and we’ve spoken to plenty of buyers who have, understandably, put their plans on hold for now.
But, on a more positive note, new activity seemed to be gathering pace towards the end of May. We had 110,000 visits to our website last month, up from 65,000 in April. Still some way down from a high of 230,000 visits in February, but it’s an encouraging sign.
We’re now speaking to a growing number of new customers whose choices have been directly influenced by their experience of lockdown. People who have re-evaluated their life-plans, and who want a different lifestyle in a new location. Some explanations we’ve heard repeatedly from customers over the last few weeks:
With all this in mind, we’ve restructured the HomeEspaña business, introduced new systems and working practices, and modernised how we work. So whilst we emerge smaller than before in size, I’m confident we’re coming back stronger, and ready to help our clients with the things that matter to them.
We’ve also expanded our horizons to welcome more customers from the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Scandinavia, alongside our traditional markets in the UK and Ireland. Our staff are already speaking to many of you who have firm plans to come and visit as soon as you can.
Whatever happens, it’s a new world, and one thing that is certain – we all need to be careful and adapt to new ways of working. Our reopening plans have focused on ensuring we have safe, hygienic offices and working practices. Our teams will be conducting regular cleaning and disinfection of our branches and cars. All staff have access to testing facilities on an ongoing basis. They will be required to wear face masks and gloves as long as we’re advised we need to.
We’ll do more viewings remotely, and more contract work electronically. You can see our full commitment to Health and Safety practices here >
There’s one question I’m increasingly asked: “Can I get a bargain due to coronavirus?”
It’s no surprise that after a global crisis like this, the expectation of buyers has been that Spanish property prices will weaken. A survey of our customers intending to purchase this year revealed the average expected price drop was 10%, with some expecting as much as 20%.
On the other hand, existing sellers we speak to, by and large, don’t need to sell in a hurry. Owners are now looking at their balconies, gardens and swimming pools with renewed enthusiasm.
Some motivated sellers recognise that in the immediate aftermath of this situation, an eye-catching price-drop might secure a quick sale, so there will be a small pool of bargains to be had. But where owners are in no rush to sell, they are more likely to wait, so buyers should not expect to see immediate 10% – 15% price discounts across the board.
Based on the level of activity we’re seeing now, we expect prices to settle down later in the year, and if the current rate of interest from buyers continues, demand for quality properties in good locations could even outstrip supply, giving a boost to prices.
Like most of the staff at HomeEspaña, I fell in love with Spain and have made a fantastic life here – with family, friends, and our business. The weather, food, the buildings, the culture – all these things attract thousands of new homeowners to Spain every year.
We know the coronavirus is going to change things for a while, but I have no doubt Spain will bounce back, just as we have. Everything I’ve seen during this period, how people across Alicante, Valencia and the whole of Spain came together to overcome adversity, has made me even more proud that HomeEspaña is a part of these communities.
Now our energies are fully focused on doing the things that matter for our customers again. And at times like these, experience really does count. We’ve been helping clients since 2002, and we’re ready and waiting to help you now. We look forward to seeing you back in Spain soon.