With winter dragging on, it’s easy to want to hibernate.
And whether or not people are working from home due to COVID-19, those icy mornings still make the thought of rising to an alarm a nightmare.
But small business owners – also known as the self-employed (one of RAMS’s niche home loan customer groups) – don’t have the luxury of hitting snooze and rolling over.
Having spent much of my career supporting the growth of small business, I know all too well that if you don’t have a plan and you’re not sticking to your strategy, you’re not putting yourself in the best position to achieve your goals or make money.
That’s the bottom line, literally.
Yes, the business support packages from governments and the banks have provided welcome relief for the small businesses doing it really tough. But clearly, many are still struggling. And while there is lots of talk about a COVID-19 vaccine, there’s little visibility on success, and when – or if – “normal” returns. All of this means SMEs have even less free time than before the pandemic hit.
Many prospective homeowners are facing similar uncertainties, making one of the biggest decisions of their lives – buying a home – even more stressful when a lot is going on in everyone’s lives.
But uncertainty creates opportunity.
Perhaps unsurprisingly for Australians, there’s still a healthy amount of interest in the property market.
We’re seeing everything from first time buyers eyeing off potential bargains and those looking for more space with more time spent at home or a different location, all the way to those under stress. To date, COVID-19 has clearly impacted the property market, evidenced by CoreLogic’s monthly house price data which showed that national values fell in July for the third straight month, even before Melbourne’s recent lockdown.
However, estimates suggest activity nationwide bottomed in April and the most recent Westpac-Melbourne Institute Consumer Sentiment Index showed that sentiment among home buyers – albeit below last year’s average – is mixed across the nation and buyer cohorts.
With the survey’s “time to buy a dwelling” sub-index rebounding since April, some buyers are clearly demonstrating that opportunities still exist. Is all the money people are saving from reduced travel and not going out meaning first home buyers are realising the dream of achieving home ownership is much closer and more possible than once thought?
With so many moving parts and ongoing uncertainty, people still need help with the home buying journey.
While the impact of fresh lockdowns and outbreaks remains to be seen, our RAMS lead data backs this up, showing strong customer enquiry results week on week. For buyers – whether first timers, owner occupiers searching for their next home or a place to invest in – it’s worth remembering the process of getting a home loan has gotten more involved in recent years.
Specifically, lenders require more information around income and expenditure to assess serviceability, meaning it’s never been better for customers to have as much information on hand and ready to go, like TV streaming services, school fees and business activity statements, and a mortgage specialist to help them through the process.
And it’s fair to say COVID-19 has only intensified the loan application process for everyone involved.
While no one can control how long the pandemic and related uncertainty remains, successful businesses do respond to changed environments through what they can control. And key for RAMS is supporting our franchisees – small business owners in their own right – through these challenging times, being there for our current and prospective customers, and continuing to deliver one of our core strategic goals: growth.
That’s why we’ve just kicked off a fresh recruitment strategy, planning to expand the size of our network over the next five years.
Despite the exponential growth in digital channels, we pride ourselves on human connection with customers.
In my experience, digital channels and tools are great to bring new and innovative ways to support customers buying a home, with greater levels of information, and it is a very alluring story to tell. But the reality remains that many prospective customers feel like a small lamb in a big paddock when it comes to buying a home, and digital can’t always deliver the comfort, knowledge, detail and interaction face to face service can.
But why would we take the risk of acting now and recruiting at a time of recession and heightened uncertainty about where the housing market is headed?
What we’ve learned over decades of being a specialist in the home loans business is that waiting for the perfect opportunity to do something kills progress. As devastating as the challenges are that Australia is facing, we can’t and won’t wait for greener pastures before striving to achieve our goal to help more Australians into the home of their dreams.
Uncertainty creates opportunity, and the chance to lead. After all, Raymond is A RAM, not a sheep, and successful business owners lead change.
For us, the time is now.