National Property Trade Virtual Roundtable; the impact of Covid-19 and the future of the later living sector
National Property Trade has just hosted its third panel of later living sales & marketing thought leaders for a virtual roundtable to discuss how the sector has fared during the Covid-19 pandemic and what the future might look like.
National Property Trade CEO Cormac Henderson chaired the discussion and was joined by Carsten Swift – client manager at Riverstone; Gary Langford – regional sales manager at Audley; Kelly Stillman – head of national part-ex at McCarthy & Stone, and Simon Dickinson – sales & brand director at Signature Senior Lifestyle.
Here are some of the key discussion points:
- Demand has picked up significantly over the past few months and while there are fewer customers in-market than pre-lockdown, those who are interested are more serious about moving. There has been a positive early response to the opening of the sales suite for Riverstone Fulham for example
- Senior living customers are coming around to utilising online platforms and virtual tours but the physical aspect of sales will always be required
- The currently active prime London sales market will have a direct correlation with later living sales success
- Collectively promoting the safety of later living communities – infection rates are vastly lower than the wider national average
- Downward shifting demographics; for example the typical age of clients at Audley has dropped from their 80s to 70s, with interest also coming from those in their 60s who want and don’t need to move. We are slowly catching up to the more aspirational markets of the U.S, New Zealand and Australia
- Marketing budgets are ramping up again including increased usage of television advertising for some operators
- Word of mouth and referrals remain vital – so customer storytelling and case studies should be central to all marketing activity
- There is increased investment in technology and innovation that allows better connectivity for residents and the creation of happier, healthier communities
- Good news as a marketing tool – for example Signature’s Facebook Live videos with MasterChef winner Jane Devonshire hit 1m views and circa 10% of current enquiries come via social channels
- Overseas interest remains mostly confined to central London – primarily those who are moving back to London and have family here who they want to be close to
- Part exchange is a key benefit for operators – many customers moving to later living developments haven’t sold a house in decades and don’t want the hassle of the open market
- There is a need to balance on and off book part exchange – off book frees up the balance sheet and allows money to be invested in new developments
- Government policy has been confusing for care home operators with no clear direction – should there be a bespoke task force?
- Overall there remains an undersupply of later living units across London and the UK and there is a need for the industry to collectively educate consumers on the breadth of product available
Despite the current pandemic and its associated challenges, there was a shared sense of optimism for the later living market. Covid-19 has accelerated trends and forced operators to bring forward innovations with a renewed focus on customer wellbeing and experience, while investment in the sector continues to grow and consumer awareness of the different segments of the market is also increasing. It is clear the sector is playing its part, however there remains a clear want for central and local government policy to catch up and help to facilitate the delivery of these vital new communities, which bring far reaching benefits to society.