THE manager of Michael Poole Estate Agent on Stockton High Street has spoken of the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the property market, as part of a video series called Humans of the High Street.
Luke Johnson has praised Stockton Business Improvement District (BID) for building a community during lockdown that prevented him and other business leaders “going stir crazy” during lockdown.
He believes Stockton BID has given people a sense that they were not alone, whether running small independent businesses or larger service-orientated organisations.
Luke said: “Through Stockton BID, we are all working together and just to see all the local businesses being brought together in a community and just, psychologically, knowing that there are other people working just as hard and finding the same challenges and difficulties has been a huge support.”
He adds Stockton BID also provided “much needed” fun for all the local businesses, recalling an online Christmas event sitting in his office with lights around his head!
On a more serious note, Luke talks about how, pre-lockdown, the housing market was moving online with the popularity of businesses like Purple Bricks and Yopa.
But the pandemic has proven that during a stressful time, dealing with the stressful life event that is moving home and all the transactions that go with that are things people want to do face to face.
That’s why Luke is pleased Michael Poole has actually bought the building on Stockton High Street, so people can choose whether they want to move online or through a physical estate agency.
“Moving house is one of the most stressful things anyone can go through,” said Luke.
“People get terrified and they get stressed and they are dealing with a lot of money and a lot of things can go wrong.
“It could be you’ve got a baby on the way or you’ve got a promotion and it’s all great, you’re upsizing, or it could be that you’ve lost someone and your downsizing.
“Whatever the reason, it’s always quite highly charged.”
Speaking of the building Michael Poole “made a deliberate choice to buy” he added the “beautiful building” sends a clear message that “we are online and we are on the High Street”.
“We are there physically and it’s a confidence thing for people,” he said.
“To say, ‘we are here and we are going to stay here to support the High Street, is really important.
“We are delighted that we did that - we wanted to be on the High Street.”
Speaking of the exciting developments happening in Stockton, he added: “There is a lot coming to Stockton, you can see it, we have got The Globe and the Bike Hub and it all looks like it’s about to fizz and pop – it all looks really good. “
During lockdown, the doors to Michael Poole have been locked, but if people have wanted to make an appointment and see someone face to face, they have been able to.
The clear message has been “we are here to help”.
Speaking of the impact Covid has had on the housing market as “absolutely bonkers” he says that in addition to people realising they need a bigger space for home schooling, working and socialising in their gardens, there is also a “generation bounce” happening, not to mention the Stamp Duty holiday.
He said: “A huge amount of our population are 75 to 80 so a lot of people in Hartburn, Norton, anywhere in Stockton really, they’re at a transition of life and it’s a downsize.
“But if you look beyond that, to their offspring and those aged 40 to 50 we are wanting to upsize, there’s this new generation bounce that’s going on.
“But then on top of that, we’ve had Covid where everyone has had to reassess their lives and households and so you’ve got a generation bounce, Covid reassessment and also the Stamp Duty Holiday.”
This has meant the volume of appointments and viewings has been “absolutely phenomenal” during lockdown.
“I’m glad, because it’s kept me really busy,” said Luke.
“I think I would have gone stir crazy I think with worry over Covid if I hadn’t been this busy.”
Jason Maxwell, manager of Stockton Bid said Estate Agents, banks and building societies play an important part in bringing people back to the High Street time and time again, so it was important Humans of the High Street told their stories as well as the independent businesses’ lockdown tales.
“For a relatively small town, we have got an awful lot of professional services that are populating our town centre that keep people coming back and it’s really important that we have that visible presence from our professional services like estate agents, building societies and banks,” Jason said.
“To keep people like Michael Poole on the High Street is a massively positive thing for every independent business that we have in the town.
“What makes Stockton special is having great business leaders who are passionate about what they do.
“We are building a community – we are pulling people together and making people go in the right direction.”
He added: “We always do better as a collective than we do on our own so all the businesses have to support one another.