COVID-19 And The PNG Real Estate Market

Oct. 13, 2021, 6:52 p.m.


The first case of COVID-19 reached the shores of PNG on March 22nd, 2020 and the number of positive cases reached over 23,000 by October 2021. Although Papua New Guinea has adapted to the pandemic, the economy and real estate sector has of course been impacted.

The routine process of buying, renting, or selling a property - as well as home viewings, interested buyers, motivated sellers, and rent enquiries - were forced to adapt to the "new normal" and the mechanics of the property market have changed.

It’s been challenging, and the vaccine hesitancy has slowed the rollout of the vaccinations in PNG, which got underway in early May 2021 with the support of UNICEF.

How long will the pandemic last? The answer is uncertain. 

Deja vu?

Fortunately, the Real Estate Market has seen it all; from outbreaks, economic recessions, employment redundancies, shifts from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market, lower interest rates, the list goes on. 

How long the virus outbreak will last, no one really knows for sure. Globally there is a recovery but variants of COVID-19 remain a concern. Real estate is also moving - albeit slowly, while the rental market was impacted by the exodus of expats due to the pandemic. The strict travel restrictions in Australia and New Zealand were contributing factors, although these appear to be showing signs of relaxing by Q4 2021.

It is not true to assume it’s business as usual in PNG. Business is continuing, and under the implemented changes to practice social distancing and guidelines from the government and the Commissioner of Police and Controller of the Papua New Guinea COVID-19 National Pandemic Response.

Specific to the real estate sector, this means instead of meeting an agent in person for buying or selling a house, clients have the privilege of video chatting, skyping, or simply chatting via Google hangouts or Zoom. 

A virtual tour might soon become a real estate ritual in PNG. COVID-19 is currently rewriting the book on human interactions and conducting business remotely, so perhaps “virtual real estate tours” might qualify as a new permanent chapter. 

Listing Property in PNG

As a seller, a lot of buyers are looking to earn the homeowner status. It's essential to anticipate your target buyer (and keep an eye on the profile of buyers in PNG).

As long as you understand that if you have a solid reason to sell and you’re enthusiastic about it, then don’t sit on the sidelines. You might end up like the fisherman who let the big fish slip away. 

Remember, a house that’s been on the market for quite some time loses value and appeal. 

Buying Property in PNG

Imagine, with discipline, you had saved up enough to match your down payment for your ideal property. If your home buying plan was to take place before 2020, the future looked promising...until the coronavirus appeared and changed things as we know it.

Should you still wait, or should you go ahead with the purchasing property during the pandemic?

Undeniably, the economic impact of COVID-19 is extensive, affecting everything, from stock market shares to motivated sellers, to the willingness of both a buyer and an agent to attend a home viewing - enough reasons to raise doubts about purchasing a house.

But, like sellers, if buying a house during this period of time is your goal and you’re willing to go the extra mile to achieve it, no matter what, go for it! 

Devise a plan, consider the options that persist with the restrictions, and work towards your goal. Even though viewing a home in person might not be your best option right now, you can always fall back on other viable online media applications to elicit communication and information.  

There is also the possible mid to long term shift in the rental and homeownership situation in PNG. The clear impact of the pandemic on having fewer expat workers could mean that possibly more Papua New Guineans, especially those who may have been promoted into positions previously filled by expats, could be looking for properties it was reported by Business Advantage PNG.

Agents

The real estate market doesn't just collapse in a extreme situation like this. People will still be looking at properties via the internet, and this is where, as a property agent - you want to be prominent. 

From the comfort of a dinner table, lounge room or coffee table, agents can still conduct business with clients online via Skype, a WhatsApp call, Zoom, or a Google Hangout. COVID-19 has accelerated adaption and technologies.

While in-person interactions have been restricted, take advantage of the situation by adapting for your buyers and sellers and also be ready for when restrictions ease in PNG. 

The fact of the matter is, you need to consider all of the health aspects of conducting your work and act responsibly to prevent the pandemic from spreading.

Of note in the business of real estate, if your clients still insist on viewing a home you’ve recently listed, consider the following advice from the WHO:   

        

  

 

Practical considerations

What do you get when you cross a search engine, an email and a website? - Digital interaction - business-wise, at least. There is a raft of paid-for and free digital tools at your disposal which can help you conduct your business remotely and safely, and of course online.

The property market wrestles with both stagnation and slowing demand (just like stock markets). Real estate investors and stakeholders have to keep in mind that a property is both desired, and a long-term investment. 

Imagine not owning a home to quarantine in during these difficult times; what are the risks of you contracting or spreading the Coronavirus? From a social, work, and mental aspect, people have adapted to the situation from the comfort of a home.

The Hausples website search volumes maintain a consistent growth on a daily basis. What that means is that people are still looking for houses to buy and rent, and what better way to do your bidding than interacting with property buyers, investors, renters, sellers or agents - online.

Yes, COVID-19 may be responsible for changing the way the world and PNG operate and interacts, and for introducing social distancing to our vocabulary. Travel restrictions and restrictions of movement in your locality in PNG, may prompt real estate buyers, sellers, renters and investors to avoid engaging in substantial transactions is a real-world challenge.

But digital interaction and engagement will prevail, as far as the continuity of the property market goes.

Here are several practical options you can consider if you wish for your real estate business to endure this pandemic:
  • Virtual tours

  • WhatsApp

  • Snapchat 

  • Video chats

  • Google Hangouts

  • Skype 

  • Video conferencing, etc 

Safety Precautions in PNG

While there's a lot of great information on the essentials you need to know about the coronavirus online, there are some sources that are unreliable. Be careful not to fall for fake news. For well-informed, factual updates, visit official sites or your genuine local media platforms.

Common sense should be the key compass for agents, buyers and sellers in these times, in order to make things work, and even thrive. 

Here’s a few common-sense approaches to staying safe in PNG:
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

  • Washing your hands is an easy yet effective way to prevent the spread of germs. A trick is to hum a favourite song twice to make sure you wash your hands an ample amount of time.

  • If you don’t have immediate access to soap and water, apply an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol.

  • Wear a facemask to help prevent the spread of disease in the community.

  • Cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow, not your hands, if you don’t have a tissue.

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Always ask your client before any interaction about their travel history.

  • Constantly disinfect surfaces in your workplace and home.

  • Commonly touched surfaces like doorknobs, handles, computers, tables, switches, toilets, bathroom sinks, counters, and stationeries are potential breeding grounds for germs. Make sure to regularly disinfect these areas, either in your office or before a home viewing takes place

  • Remember: Cleaning is different from disinfecting. Cleaning merely removes germs, while disinfecting kills germs. For good measure, first, clean a surface with soap (or detergent) and water. Afterwards, you’ll have to use chemicals to kill the germs and lower the risk of infection.

  • Stay healthy -  Get plenty of sleep, physical activity, fluids, and nutritious food to strengthen your immune system.

Helpful COVID-19 Resources for PNG

Be wise and keep yourself updated on the latest safety tips from reputable sources - organisations that can offer health advice on how to protect yourself and your family and loved ones during these times.

There’s no room for panic during these challenging times. In our quest to navigate such outbreaks, like the current coronavirus. Choosing to panic means choosing illogical and negative thinking, follow the official advise and keep safe and healthy.

Here's what the World Health Organization says about overcoming stress:

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