The GCQ Plan of Action by Eddie Santos

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There’s no going back to the way things are after the current pandemic. The coronavirus outbreak is a marker in our historical timeline, signaling the beginning of a new normal. For businesses, this means adjusting to quarantine measures. But more than that, the greater challenge is to find new ways to add more value to services in that transition.

In the third episode of Lamudi’s new series Broker Central: You Ask, Experts Answer, Eddie Santos, Master Franchise Owner of RE/MAX Philippines, talks about the new normal and the new opportunities that come with it. Here are some of the questions you asked and he answered:

How Can Real Estate Businesses Cope with the New Rules and Regulations That Come with the General Community Quarantine (GCQ)? 

Since there are still a few restrictions under the GCQ, social distancing, proper hygiene, and greater health consciousness will be part of the new normal in real estate, Santos noted. 

In this regard, his team has already prepared a set of guidelines on how to go about their operations, specifically conducting showings. “This will [involve] bringing alcohol, wearing gloves, maintaining social distancing, doing proper appointments. No surprise appointments shall be made. Everything will be done with proper notice,” he shared.

Given the restrictions on travel and gatherings, Santos said that technology will be a big part of their processes. “This is a time where we adapt the use of technology even more, and embrace it. Many of our listings will go online. We will do more electronic, online meetings,” he mentioned.

Optimistic about the government’s assistance, he hopes that the Registry of Deeds will make it easy for real estate professionals to arrange legal paperwork. He floated the idea of having a similar procedure used by the National Statistics Office, filling out forms and paying online, and then receiving the documents electronically or through a courier.

What’s Your Plan of Action Once GCQ Starts?

Harping on the guidelines he mentioned, Santos said, “When we go on showings, we’ll try to maintain a good distance between the buyers and sellers. When we do contract reviews, everything will be done electronically. We can review contracts online via Zoom or Facetime. It’s an ever-changing landscape, as far as closing deals is concerned.”

Engagements with government entities will be done online as well to reduce physical contact with people, he added.

Are You Currently Conducting Property Viewings?

Following the stay-at-home policy of the government, Santos mentioned that their team isn’t doing any property showings, at least physically. What they’re doing instead is maximizing online platforms to show the properties. “Some of our agents have electronic photos and digital videos. They keep themselves busy by actually submitting this to our buyers and potential lessees,” he noted.

June to August is especially a busy period for the rental market, since this is the time when international schools start a new academic year.

Aside from photos and videos, the team uses 360° tours. “We actually prepared for this as far back as three years ago. We did not foresee COVID, but what we foresaw was the change in the way things are being done. We have virtual tours, 360° cameras,” Santos shared.

Still acknowledging the importance of physical viewings in the age of everything digital, he noted that the real estate profession is necessary nonetheless in the aspect of having a personal touch on services. “The role of the real estate agent is to hold hands with the client every step of the way,” Santos mentioned.

What Advice Can You Give Property Buyers During the Time of COVID-19?

To avoid major headaches when purchasing property, Santos gave three tips for first-time buyers:

  1. Shop around and do your research. Check if there are major developments, say, transportation systems, road links, or schools, near the property you’re eyeing. Assess the reputation and track record of the developer. Consider your budget.
  2. Bargain, but don’t bargain too much. It’s good to negotiate prices, but do it in moderation. Otherwise, you might lose a good property.
  3. Get the services of a professional real estate agent. While this is costly, it’s more expensive to have an unlicensed broker, since they’re not skilled to negotiate the deal and it might take them a while to have documents processed. With a professional agent, you wouldn’t have these financial headaches.

What’s the Effect of Technology Now in the Real Estate Landscape?

Having started in the industry in 1997, Santos has seen how real estate changed through the years, influenced by the advent of the internet, mobile phones, and online marketplaces, such as Lamudi. He recognized that all of these technologies make the job a lot easier. On the part of the market, it helps a great deal in property hunting.

“Through technology, you can gather comparable prices of properties in the same neighborhood or area. [Brokers] can send contracts in a matter of minutes because many of them are on file,” he said.

He added that technology, such as the 360° tours, gives property seekers an idea of how the property looks like, saving precious time and resources as people are able to filter out choices from the get-go.

What’s the Role of a Real Estate Agent in the Time of COVID-19?

“In purchasing a property, a real estate agent will be your best friend. They will guide you through the intricate process of selecting the house or the property,” Santos mentioned.

At the core, real estate agents play two roles, according to Santos: problem solver and financial advisor. In the former, a professional irons out issues regarding the property, covering clean titles, sibling disputes on the estate, tenant’s vacation of premises, and more. In the latter, a professional gives advice which investments are worth taking, especially when there’s a crisis going on.

How Can Real Estate Investments Provide for Those in Their Retirement Years or Those Paying Off Expenses?

Financial literacy is one of those things Santos teaches his team and clients, equipping them how to make money work. He said, “The reality is when we get old, we’re not as mobile as we are today or as hardworking as in your youth.” That’s why he believes that saving should be invested in income-generating endeavors.

“I will be more biased in investing in properties that are rentable compared to raw land, because in properties, such as condos or houses, you get monthly income. This is what I mean when [I say] having your money work for you. In fact, I would suggest buying a property — if you could afford it — every five to eight years. That should be the goal,” Santos mentioned.

With this set-up, a person will most likely have seven to 10 rental properties by the time they retire from work, he said. This offers huge financial security, covering possible medical expenses during this time.

This is true in the event of global crises as well. Compared to insurance, cash is more accessible in property assets. “Your real estate will be there to rescue you when you need it most,” Santos mentioned.

In case you live through your retirement years healthy and free of illness, the cash from your real estate can be used for leisure, traveling the world with your grandchildren, he said.

He likewise noted that real estate is a legacy. It could be passed on to children and loved ones. The bottom line is, property investments are worth it.

What Are the Real Estate Opportunities in the Time of GCQ?

Real estate prices have been going up in the past decades. The crisis today gives room for relatively lower costs. Santos pointed out, “There’s some opportunities right now for prices to be given at a discount.”

He added that the national government’s project Build, Build, Build, rolled out way before COVID struck, presents investment opportunities, as more projects get completed in the coming months.

The young population of the country could contribute to a growing real estate sector even under GCQ and beyond. “Many of the twenty-four-year-olds will begin buying real estate properties, as they begin to have their financial affairs in order,” he noted.

Did the Interest of Seekers Change During the ECQ?

There’s a growing interest in the countryside. Santos enumerated, “These are Laguna, Pampanga, the fringes of Quezon City. There’s a lot of activity there right now.”

Before, Filipinos used to live with their parents until they get married. Today, more young people are adopting shared living arrangements with friends, moving out of the family home prior to tying the knot and embracing independence. This, according to Santos, forms part of the current trends in real estate.

What Would Be Your Parting Words for Real Estate Brokers and Property Buyers and Investors?

Optimistic about the industry, Santos said, “For those worrying about their investment, let me tell you this: you will be able to weather all these because the Philippine economy will be able to bounce back a little faster than our Asian neighbors. 

“The credit rating agency, prior to the COVID lockdown, has given the Philippines a BBB+ rating. This is pretty much a report card on how well the economy is managed.”

A huge funding source is likewise available. Santos shared, “We have our all-time high $87B in international reserves. The highest ever in the Philippine history. Those are international reserves that we have saved for rainy day.”

Raising a proposal, he appealed to developers to delay depositing the post-dated checks of buyers, considering a moratorium on payments. He also called on the government to award a lower mortgage rate of about two to three percent for first-time homebuyers.

For aspiring real estate professionals, Santos encouraged joining their growing network of brokers and brokerage firms.

In the end, he emphasized the importance of bayanihan during this pandemic. “Let’s continue to help one another and continue to spread kindness into this world.”

He added, “All these shall come to pass. The best years of our lives are still ahead of us.”

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