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For every negative there is a positive

KR Peters Director Peter Nicolls, who has 45 years' experience in the real estate industry, says he has never experienced anything like the past 15 months.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been disruptive for business and education, costly for state and federal governments and incredibly sad for those who lost a loved one in the second wave which ravaged Melbourne last winter.

However, as with every negative, there have been some positives to emerge from the pandemic.

One such positive has been the boom in real estate.

KR Peters Director Peter Nicolls, who has 45 years' experience in the real estate industry, says he has never experienced anything like the past 15 months.

Initial fears that the pandemic would dampen demand and cause prices to crash were soon allayed as markets across Australia, both city and regional, rose in successive quarters to record highs.

The Covid crisis also forced the Reserve Bank to lower interest rates to record lows to help support the economy. Combined with government grants like HomeBuilder, low interest rates have further stimulated demand.

The pandemic also forced the real estate industry to innovate and adopt new technology as business as usual was turned on its head by lockdowns, bans on in-person auctions, open for inspection limitations and social distancing requirements.

Agents have been forced to work smarter and Mr Nicolls believes the changes are here to stay.

"As an industry we have been forced to learn to use technology and work smarter over the past 12 months," he said.

"It is now common to market properties using virtual tours, to hold auctions online, to do business via Zoom, and transact incredibly quickly and without having to present in person thanks to programs like Docusign.

"This means agents have been able to create a better work/life balance and spend more time with family and loved ones."

Mr Nicolls said the pandemic had made many people reassess what was important in life, including where they live, providing a fillip to real estate markets across the country as people seek tree changes, sea changes and larger homes.

"People want to buy a home that fulfils their needs. They want to escape the rat race and retreat to their own castle. Others have decided to downsize and travel around Australia," he explained.

"People want bigger homes with dedicated rooms for home gyms, home offices and space for children to do remote learning."

Mr Nicolls said he was relieved that the real estate industry had come through the pandemic unscathed, despite the many negatives associated with Covid.

"People are anxious because of lockdowns and the associated loss of income and consumer confidence," Mr Nicolls said.

"There is an inability to travel outside Australia, restrictions on hospitality, education is harder for students forced to learn online, and the government is incurring massive debt.

"And while rising property values are good for vendors, they do make it harder for buyers to enter the property market.

"Immigration is also down because of our shut borders, which will eventually have an impact on demand for housing.

"Covid has presented incredible challenges and hit some harder than others. But for all the negatives, there are also positives.

"In the real estate industry we need to harness those positives and make sure we take the lessons and innovation forced upon us forward into the future."