Earlier this month, we were delighted to agree to speak to journalist Isla MacFarlane from the online industry magazine Show House about the coronavirus crisis for their latest Podcast episode. We discussed how Harvey Homes is responding to the crisis, how we are supporting our customers and what impact it will have on the wider market.
We highly recommend that you listen to the Show House Podcast here, but if you can’t find the time then here is a summary of what we talked about:
What advantages are there in being a small housebuilder in these unprecedented times?
We’re more fluid and flexible than bigger housebuilders i.e. there’s less red tape with us. This means that we have been able to respond to guidelines quickly and efficiently.
Operating in this manner has always been part of our ethos because we recognise that buying a house is very often the biggest thing people do. This means they deserve to experience the highest level of customer service possible.
We’re very special in that we are a family business and therefore we always prioritise families and understand their needs. We like to think that we carry this through even to the initial conception of our houses. This is because we always design them with families in mind, to foster and encourage quality time together.
What measures have you taken to respond to the crisis?
Initially, we made the decision to close the show home at Swan Green in Knutsford when the restrictions on movement in the UK were first brought in. We had realised that this was an action we were probably going to have to make at some point so in advance of this we organised for a company to come and film at the site and create a virtual tour round the show home.
This video is available on our website and social media channels and has allowed our customers to still view the show home which is great after all the hard work we put into making it. It’s been encouraging to get lots of great feedback from this.
Harvey Homes’ customer care and sales teams are still fully operational and are available to talk to interested buyers during the day and in the evening by appointment only. Everyone has their own phones and laptops so moving into remote working was a smooth process and our service remained fast.
The power of video chat has been really apparent for us as a team and I think we’ve actually ended up having more meetings and being more efficient over Zoom than we are normally! We’ve been able to work together as a team really well and come up with some great ideas together.
Construction at the site has now halted as we are putting the safety of our staff and customers first. We’re obviously still listening to government advice on a daily basis and will be able to respond to any new guidelines quickly and efficiently.
The good news is that we’re still taking reservations and getting a good volume of enquiries. There’s a lot of negativity out there at the moment but I think that it’s a time for people to stay level-headed and calm. You’ve got the find the positives in a bad situation wherever you can.
For me, a big positive is the way we’ve come together as a country. It has been amazing sitting on my balcony while listening to the applause and appreciation for the NHS. They’re the real heroes here. The applause is something really special to hear
What immediate impact have you seen on your business?
The immediate impact is obviously the temporary closure of the show home and the halt to construction on site.
It’s a shame that we can’t showcase our properties as well as we would like to – especially as our open house weekend was so successful – but we need to remember that this is only temporary, and it will go back to normal.
We’ve changed focus a little bit recently in regard to our social media and marketing in that we don’t want to keep sending out sales messages to our customers. Instead, we want to engage them and support them through this time. With this in mind, we’ve launched a competition recently that is for children and families to design their perfect lockdown home (details here). We want to help keep people sane and happy!
Do you think your business will be permanently altered by the current circumstances?
It’s hard to say for sure at this point, these really are unprecedented times. It is unlikely that any business in the UK will be unaffected permanently in some way.
I expect that the coronavirus crisis will forever be built into the history of Harvey Homes. Hopefully this will be because it will be an example of when we were able to overcome adverse conditions and remain strong and focused.
In the short-term, we are currently going through an ‘adaptation’ period. It is likely that we will experience another one of these when restrictions are lifted.
No one knows how long this current situation will last for, but we do know it cannot be permanent. We have to stay positive and support others who need it.
We’ve got some exciting developments in the pipeline and nothing is changing in relation to them. It’s very much business as usual and we are looking forward to announcing these in the coming weeks and months.
It will probably always serve of a reminder to companies across the UK to remain focused. For Harvey Homes, this means that I’m enjoying focusing on the site we’ve got. As an example, it means that I can really give every customer and enquiry extra attention. We had an enquiry recently from a lady who couldn’t envisage the garden space and views from a particular plot. To help her, I went to site (following government guidelines of course) to take photos and videos. She thought it was great! This is one of the great benefits of being a small housebuilder.