#TogetherThroughTheCrisis – Scout24 takes responsibility for the industry
The date is 20 March 2020. The number of people infected with the coronavirus in Germany has reached an initial peak. Strict curfews and social distancing rules are leading to deserted streets across the country. As long as “Stay at home” remains the motto, it’s difficult to even consider apartment viewings. Uncertainty caused by government-subsidised reductions in working hours and fear of job loss have led to more than one move or property purchase being postponed indefinitely. This was reflected in the real estate market as soon as the first lockdown began: supply and demand for residential and commercial real estate fell noticeably in mid-March. Alarm bells were ringing.
Covid-19 immediate-action programme for customers and partners
"To manage the repercussions of the Covid 19 pandemic and mitigate the impact of the crisis on our customers and partners, we have acted quickly and developed a comprehensive action plan,” explains Ralf Weitz, Managing Director of ImmoScout24 and member of the Management Board of Scout24 AG. “One component comprised the immediate-action programmes for our customers and partners that we unveiled in March and April 2020.”
The first programme was based on three pillars:
- Liquidity Plus: the deferral of invoices on request for partner agents to cushion their financial losses
- Listing Plus: free listings offered to private clients to stimulate market activity and demand, as well as to give agents the opportunity to attract new clients
- Leads Plus: free owner leads for our existing partner agents to accelerate the post-crisis relaunch
In April, a fourth pillar was added: Service Plus – our offer to purchase extended memberships at attractive rates or to upgrade to professional membership plans.
The programmes quickly made an impact: “More than 1,300 agents took advantage of our Liquidity Plus offer to have their monthly bills deferred. Thanks to our Listing Plus programme for free-of-charge listings from private sellers, we had an attractive volume of listings in our marketplace. In the first half of the year, the number of rental offers increased by 4 percent compared with the previous year,” Ralf Weitz sums up.
In retrospect, the German residential real estate market recovered quickly during the crisis. Demand and supply were back at pre-Corona levels just a few weeks after the start of the crisis – and in some cases well above them. “We could not have foreseen with certainty at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic that the real estate market would prove so robust and resilient. Therefore, it was important for us to give our partners and customers orientation and to keep the offering attractive for our millions of users”, Ralf Weitz emphasises.
"The fact that most of our solutions are already digital and contactless has spared us major disruptions."
ImmoScout24’s partners and customers not only benefited from the support programmes during the coronavirus crisis, but also from the fact that the platform has been driving the digitalisation of the real estate market for over 20 years with innovative online products. With live digital property viewings and 360° tours, for example, users can view properties from the comfort of their homes. We highlighted these opportunities for socially-distanced viewing even more prominently in listings from the very outset of the coronavirus pandemic. Since May, the ImmoScout24 app has also offered an integrated live viewing option. In addition, as part of our customer profiles and Plus memberships, we offer the digital transfer of documents, a digital application folder, digital credit ratings and digital applicant management. “The fact that most of our solutions are already digital and contactless has been a huge advantage for all market participants during the lockdowns and has spared us major disruptions,” says Dr. Thomas Schroeter, Managing Director of ImmoScout24 and Member of the Management Board of Scout24 AG.
#TogetherThroughTheCrisis: unusual times require strong alliances
Nevertheless, the coronavirus crisis has served to highlight one thing in particular: the steps and processes involved in real estate transactions are still far too analogue, manual and bureaucratic in many areas. In this respect, the entire industry is in urgent need of a digitalisation and modernisation drive. With this in mind, ImmoScout24 has drawn up a position paper together with leading associations and companies in the real estate sector as a further component of the Covid action plan and presented it to policymakers and the public.
In the position paper, under the motto #TogetherThroughTheCrisis, we show ways in which processes and services in the real estate industry and the sector as a whole can be digitalised successfully. Policymakers and public administrations have taken action in some areas in the interim: for instance, the new Act on the Ownership of Apartments and the Permanent Residential Right (WEG) now also provides for the possibility of virtual owners’ meetings.
The bottom line is that there is no avoiding the advance of digitalisation – and the real estate sector is no exception. And there’s still plenty of potential for further digitisation.
ImmoScout24 takes responsibility
“Even though the German real estate market proved to be very stable and dynamic during the coronavirus crisis, we feel that ImmoScout24, as the market leader in Germany, has a responsibility to contribute to a prosperous development of the real estate market. Be it with product innovations, unbureaucratic assistance programmes or joint initiatives with other market players,” explains Dr. Thomas Schroeter. “After all, housing is a basic need, and real estate is an important component of retirement planning. For a healthy and strong economy, we need an equally healthy and stable real estate industry.”
Joint initiative of the real estate industry
The #TogetherThroughTheCrisis alliance is the first industry-wide initiative of its kind. The following companies and associations participated: ImmoScout24, the Federal Association for the Real Estate Industry (BVFI), eBay Classifieds, Flowfact, the German Federal Association of German Housing and Real Estate Companies (GdW), Immowelt, the German Real Estate Association (IVD), Sprengnetter, the German Association of Property Managers (VDIV Germany) and the Central Real Estate Committee (ZIA)
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