COVID-19 hit France slightly ahead of the United States and, while the dynamics of the two countries are vastly different, the former actually has a targeted date to re-open: May 11. The date has got real estate activity picking back up, according to Laurent Demeure, founder and CEO of Coldwell Banker France and Monaco.
France and much of Europe has been on total lockdown for the past month due to the spread of COVID-19 and real estate activity has completely ceased to exist. Buyers and sellers could not go outside for any reason and France has an old-fashioned real estate market that relies heavily on in-person interactions.
“For the first weeks, we didn’t have any closings,” Demeure said. “It was very tough for agents, it was impossible to make any closings.”
About three weeks into the lockdown, the country’s government passed legislation to allow digital closings, but that didn’t help activity much, according to Demeure, because people can’t go outside for any non-professional reasons.
“At the moment, we don’t have a market because we are not able to organize viewings and property showings,” Demeure said. “There are very very few deals on the market.”
Now, with the May 11 date on the horizon, things are turning around and that pent-up demand is turning into action.
“In the beginning of the lockdown, the number of leads and website consultations dropped dramatically,” Demeure said. “But this week, because we know the lockdown will end May 11, the number of leads and website consultations increased and is quite near regular times, minus 3 to 5 percent.”
“Now people know they will go out in May and restart the process and look at real estate portals.”
He’s expecting the first month will be a slow re-adjustment period, but then interest will explode. He believes there will be a baby boom so people will be looking for more space, or people will hate their current apartment or home after being locked inside for eight weeks. People will be looking to move closer to work to avoid commuting, or if they realize they can work remotely, they’ll be looking to move out of cities.
Initially, Demeure expects listing prices will come back at about the same level, but quickly drop off in the first month. Many people will likely need to sell quickly, according to Demeure, due to financial harm incurred during the lockdown. But then, he expects prices will rebound and actually rise.
“We expect for 2021, a real boom in real estate,” Demeure said. “We’re going to plateau for three months, but then, in September or October, we’ll have a big increase.”
During the lockdown, Demeure had been advising his agents to be constantly reaching out to their sphere to check-in and ask how they are, or offer to pick things up because they are allowed outside under professional circumstances.
He’s also encouraged his agents to organize virtual events for their block to talk about concerns they have and celebrate the solidarity of being locked down together. It’s a way to take the temperature of what your neighbors feel about their living situation.
Now, with real estate activity set to resume, Demeure worked with a marketing team to create a survey for agents, so they can cold call individuals and ask them how they feel about their apartments, what they would change about their living situation, etc.
Even if just 20 percent of the people they chat with are disgruntled with their living situation due to the lockdown, that is a significant number of warm leads.
“People are happy because they can talk about themselves,” Demeure said. “They are happy that someone called them.”
“Now we know the information before all of the competition if we do that.”