A day in the lockdown life of an Algarve property agent

 In News, Opinion, Property, Tourism

The Covid-19 crisis has not been easy on Algarve estate agents who pride themselves on the personal touch when dealing with clients. Kerstin Buechner Director of QP Savills and her team put their creative thinking skills into action and rose to the challenge beautifully.

We all watched its slow approach from the other side of the globe but that did not soften the blow when the virus finally crashed onto European shores. The unimaginable distress and suffering it has caused is something none of us were prepared for. There is not a soul alive who has not been affected and our love goes out to everyone who has suffered.
From our south-westernmost standpoint, we watched in quiet awe as Covid-19 ravished its way across the continent and on to the next and we have been so incredibly lucky that it found virtually no footing here in the Algarve. Tucked away in our homes and out of harm’s way, Algarveans have respected the guidelines well and, unusual for the Algarve, provided a very inhospitable place for this virus.
As a property agent in the Algarve with a close-knit team of 21, it has been a learning curve for us all. Salespeople are possibly not the most tech-savvy, and from our first day of lock-down in March (interestingly Friday the 13th), connecting via Zoom and Teams was just the first challenge. The flow of information within our team and between our offices has always been an important contributing factor to our success, not to mention a fun part of the job.

A balancing act

Working from home has created its own challenges and I don’t just mean due to internet speed or lack of. Bored kids and wifi negotiations with moody teenagers, homeschooling, endless cooking, cabin fever, masks and gloves, living alone for so long or spending more time than ever with loved ones, has kept us all on our toes, all while trying to continue working and being productive. We all miss the freedom to travel and meet a friend for a coffee or lovely beach lunch.
But there have been some highs to balance out those lows. Quality time at home has also been enjoyed by our team and many of us have taken the time to reconnect with distant relatives and long lost friends and clients on Zoom, become expert at growing veggies, ironed less and not to mention all the great and exciting intentions we all still have on our to-do lists: workout every day, lose weight, start yoga, improve our Portuguese language skills and, of course, tackle the riveting endless list of DIY jobs still waiting to be done around the house.
The internet, and especially Zoom, has been invaluable and I wonder how long it will take for Zoom to be added to the Oxford dictionary as a way of communicating. After all, “googling” has its firm place in there. However, occasionally while zooming with our colleagues, jokes and banter were often lost in translation and, on a more serious note, added to the stress of our new work environment while we struggled to stay connected.
Ten weeks on and we have settled into our new routines and, hopefully one day soon, we will laugh at the chaos while adjusting to our new lives. Hilarious chaos was certainly taken to a new level when the team quiz (on real estate facts only, of course) actually required two devices each.
Speaking of property, yes, let’s have a moment to reflect on what is going on. We are particularly lucky as we are part of Savills. Savills is the largest global property player in terms of residential property and we benefit greatly from being part of this network of over 600 offices worldwide as it affords us a really invaluable global perspective on our industry. And of course, this is so important to the property market in the Algarve as it does heavily rely on foreign investment.
During the most recent regular Savills webinars, there were some interesting statistics shared on how this pandemic would be affecting buyers and, indeed, sellers. Eighty-six percent of people surveyed said that they believed there would be a substantial long-term increase in the number of people working from home.

Connectivity & Space

And while they sit at home, many are evaluating if their homes are fit for purpose. Statistics show that there is a noticeable increase in demand for properties with a) faster internet connectivity, b) more outdoor space and, of course, c) a separate room for a home office, or two, as the kitchen island will just not do.
And as they ponder what requirements they need in their homes, they are also re-evaluating from where they might be able to work from home.
Portugal and the Algarve have had so much good press over the past few years and never more so than during this pandemic. In 2019, Portugal was voted Best Place to Retire, Best European Destination, received countless golf awards and was voted third safest country in the world! The fact that we have been largely unaffected by Covid-19 has certainly added to making the Algarve a very special, interesting and attractive proposition for many.
During the last few years, there has been incredible demand for property in Portugal. Golden Visas, tax benefits for non-habitual residents, safety, sunshine, etc., have all contributed to its allure. And now we might well be attracting a whole new group of people wanting to work from their home in Portugal. And why not? Local internet providers can compete with the best. Stable connections with 100Mbgts and even up to 1 Gbgts of data is now available to more and more of us. Enough for any household regardless of how many teenagers are in residence.
What has business been like? Year to date, we have had more enquiries in 2020 than in the same period of 2019, which is great, but frustrating for our team as buyers struggle to come to the Algarve to view properties. Unless, of course, they have a private jet at their disposal. Faro airport is currently seeing more of those than ever before. A great indicator of the type of interest the Algarve is attracting.

A changing business?

How has business changed? Our sales team is quickly becoming expert in all things digital! Necessity is the mother of invention and virtual and FaceTime tours and webinars are now the norm. It’s not the same but, at QP, we make the best of any situation and our team has proved worthy of the challenge! Our sales director at the new Marriott-branded W Algarve, where we are the exclusive sales agents, recently presented the new development on a live webinar to which over 350 interested buyers signed up from around the globe, and I wonder if we would have been able to get this type of audience together pre-Covid …
How will the property market fare? The long-term effect of this pandemic is as unknown as the virus itself. However, this crisis is very different in so many ways than the last big one in 2008. Banks were largely to blame then and, even if you wanted to buy, money was in short supply. Today banks are rolling out the red carpet to buyers and lending with exceptionally good conditions. The crisis is sending people into their homes and, if anything, people will be spending on those homes. The secret is out, Portugal has much to offer and the Algarve especially caters so well to the foreign community and we are confident that the property market here will pick up where it left off in February the moment people are free to travel again.
We, Algarveans, know how amazing it is to live here. Forget the climate and all the other wonders we enjoy for a moment and remember the days of commuting to work for hours each day, traffic and crowded public transportation, office hours and lousy northern European weather.
Working from home will come with many benefits.
We are so grateful for the healthy quality of life we enjoy here, and we wish all our clients and friends the very best, health, happiness and time to enjoy the beautiful summer ahead of us.
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