‘I don’t have a crystal ball but I’m sure we will end up stronger than before’
In the first of a new series featuring the district’s estate agents, we speak to Daryll Digpal, MD at Beadnall Copley
The last few months have been a strange time for everyone, and there’s not a part of the economy that hasn’t been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
But the property industry was one of the first to come out of lockdown, and its performance since May 10, when the restrictions eased, have taken many by surprise; within a month, sales in most of England had rebounded to pre-Covid levels.
“There’s been a surge in activity and we’re actually busier now than we were before lockdown,” said Daryll Digpal, managing director of estate agent Beadnall Copley.
“From January to June we’ve effectively jumped a quarter and we’re now going from strength to strength.”
In fact, although new sales ground to a halt in spring, the company was kept busy in other areas.
“During lockdown we weren’t able to do viewings at all, because they were against the Government guidelines,” said Mr Digpal.
“What we could do was progress sales.
“So where we had properties that were under offer or close to exchange, we could move those along and get them completed.
“Also, the lettings market hasn’t really been affected as much, and there’s been plenty of work still to do on the maintenance side.”
But that’s not to say that the company has had an easy ride.
Half its staff remain furloughed and health and safety remains a priority, especially in an industry where face-to-face meetings play such an important role.
“We’re arranging more viewings, but we’re extremely careful,” said Mr Digpal.
“In the office, we’re socially distanced and there are barrier screens at every desk, and when we’re out and about we wear masks and gloves, and use hand-sanitiser.
“I visit 30-plus people a week, in their homes, so I’m almost ‘over the top’ when it comes to taking precautions, but I think it’s very important – for me, for my family and for our customers.
“Lots of our personnel are still on furlough. If just one of our working team fell ill, all the rest of us would have to stop work too and self-isolate – but then we could bring in the ‘subs’ off the bench.”
The virus has not just left its mark on working practices – it has also changed customers’ priorities. Over the last month, surveys have shown that the nation, tired of lockdown, and craving space. One poll found that a whopping 85 per cent of people now want a garden.
“The town centre is still popular – a lot of people still want to be able to get to the shops and amenities on foot – but it’s outside space that has really taken off,” said Mr Digpal.
“It’s now definitely in the top five things on people’s wish-lists, which it didn’t use to be.
“If people had nothing before, they want a balcony now; if they had a balcony, they now want a garden. And if they had a garden, they want a bigger one.
“It’s probably also why older vendors are now tending to be much slower to downsize – they’ll lose that extra space.”
In such uncertain times, predicting the future is a risky business, but Mr Digpal remains optimistic. The company is dealing with the current challenges and he feels sure it can survive, and thrive, well into the future.
“We’ve been through tricky periods before,” he said. “We had the financial crisis in 2008, but it didn’t affect us too much. That was supposed to be a ‘once in a lifetime’ event, but here I am at a mere 38 years old and we’ve already had Brexit and now Covid.
“People will always want to buy houses, and we’ll still be here to chaperone them through that process.
“I don’t have a crystal ball, but I’m sure we’ll come through it and end up stronger than before, just as we have done in the past.”
Name: Beadnall Copley
Number of branches: 3 – Harrogate, Wetherby, Ripon
Number of staff: 18
Managing director Daryll Digpal says: “Our network of three offices does really well for us. If one of the offices hasn’t got what a customer is looking for, we can talk to them about what the others have.”