We have all been through a moment in time we will never forget, the old world has gone and we are now entering the new world. This post is looking at how global warming, Covid-19 and property video tours are all linked.

In the last 3 months the book Black Swan has been mentioned many times due to it suggesting the biggest threat to humanity was a global pandemic. I’m not sure Covid-19 is a black swan as there have been other pandemics, it is to a degree predictable and something which many governments had prepared for (ahem). What about grey rhinos though? Something which you may choose to ignore but are still extremely dangerous.

Firstly a bit of background on this grey rhino. A recent Ipsos MORI survey suggests that 71% of the population feel that climate change is as dangerous as Covid-19 in the long term. The planet is warming due to a naturally recurring cycle, but human activity is speeding the process up 10 x faster in the last 100 years than has occurred over the last 800,000 years as advised by NASA. Their data also shows CO2 in the atmosphere is more than twice as high than it has ever been in the same period. If we carry on as we are this will increase to 20 x faster in the next century and 11,000 scientists recently gave a clear warning of what is to come and how we can avoid it. Interestingly animals feature heavily in both pandemics (AIDS, mad cows disease, hand, foot and mouth disease, avian flue, Ebola, SARS, Covid-19) and global warming (farming practices such as deforestation and resources required to raise and transport livestock/meat). There might be something in that.

Unlike Covid-19 global warming is less likely to affect many in the global north directly at this time. But we are aware that our actions which contribute to climate change are already having a huge, direct and damaging effect on countries and people of the global south. This does not sit well with us. Think about the recent Australian bush fires and the third mass bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef due to rising sea temperatures. Closer to home in the UK the last 20 years have been the hottest on record.

On a more positive note due to the measures Governments took to combat Covid-19 around the world we also had a one off opportunity to see how quickly the environment responds positively to a reduction in human activity. Just improving the air quality is estimated to have saved 77,000 lives globally in the last 2 months.

Renewable Energy gained a lot of ground during lockdown also, with shares performing extremely well compared to the huge losses suffered by fossil fuels. Hopefully this trend will continue – the setup is costly but the on-going costs are remarkably low.

Without doubt Covid-19 has shown everyone how fragile the global market and respective supply chains are and at the same time it has also shown us how fragile we are and highlighted the effect we are having on the environment. As the saying goes ‘the stats don’t lie’ and there are a lot above which should be raising alarm bells. The hope is we start to look closer to home for our food and goods, learn to use items long term rather than throw away and build a society which uses renewable energy rather than adding to that near 90 degree increase in atmospheric carbon in the last 70 years (see 3rd link from top).

But what has any of this got to do with the property industry?

Good question. Much like the positive effect we saw around us during lockdown with more insects, birds, cleaner air, time with our partners & children, reconnecting with nature, benefits of WFH, reduction in day to day stress and so on – every industry has had to rethink how to go about business as and when it could/can go back. Bishop Sullivan is a small but nimble family run business and when Covid-19 arrived it was clear lightening overheads was essential for long term survival. We left our office on 4-APR-20 and working from home has been a very positive experience as well as reducing our daily commutes by an hour and our combined annual carbon footprint by 1,563 kg of CO2.  We also changed our approach to viewings before lockdown started and offered a floor plan, video tour and a social media campaign for each property at no extra cost. Working within Govt guidelines we were able to find applicants with ‘essential moves’ searching for property but with extremely limited options, since viewings were not possible. The change in our approach worked so well we have continued it since lockdown. If you want to see an example video tour click here.

So how is it going now?

When you are buying a property you are looking at an investment which will last 5 – 10 years minimum so ‘trying it on’ is still near essential for most buyers. But for rentals it is more like a 1 – 2 year investment. Applicants can now look at 10 – 20 photos, a detailed description, a floor plan and then finally a 2 – 4 minute video tour before determining interest. We have found 56% of our recent Tenancies were agreed without a physical viewing. We have also found that the age old adage of an average 10 viewings per Tenancy offer is now only 2 – 3 viewings.

Why is this?

Following Govt guidelines we insist on all applicants viewing the property digitally before a physical viewing can be booked. The ‘tyre kickers’ can now look at the floor plan to figure out if the L-shaped sofa or king sized bed fits the respective room, or they can watch the video to find out if the layout suits their preferences. Whatever the reason this ‘new world’ approach to renting means fewer viewings, less time wasted all round, more time at the property for the 2 or 3 serious applicants and a reduction in the carbon footprint for the entire process. Yes we are only one small company, but what if every letting/estate agency put tech at the forefront of the service? Imagine the impact!

It has been estimated that around 26,800,000 physical UK property viewings occur each year. If these were all replaced by digital viewings this could lead to a combined reduction in driving by 659,831,040 km or 87,757,528 kg of CO2 (87,757 tonnes). This is an equivalent annual carbon footprint for 11,800 homes. It is just an example, clearly not everyone will be happy completing a property transaction following a digital viewing but it is clear how tech can revolutionise an industry and help the environment at the same time. While quality may vary the majority of UK estate agents and letting agents have created or carried out a video tour during or since lockdown, it won’t be long until it is standard.

In 2019 the UK Govt became the first major economy to legislate its 2050 net-zero emission commitment. This will require significant changes to the way we live and how we source our energy. ONS state the 21% of the UK’s carbon footprint comes from road transport emissions which also have a negative effect on public health. The Royal College of Physicians advised that children living in highly polluted areas are 4 x as likely to suffer significantly reduced lung function as adults and road transport emissions can be linked to at least 40,000 premature deaths in the UK each year. The property industry is just one cog in the CO2 machine, ironically due to Covid-19 many industries now have a real chance to start changing things for the better.

Just like Covid-19 showing us how the environment has benefitted from a reduction in human activity it has also shown us what is possible if we put our minds to something. Virtual viewings are the new normal for the property industry and just one positive step to reducing our combined carbon footprint.

What could you or your industry change?


If you need any assistance letting your property in Brighton, Hove, Kemptown and surrounding areas or if you just have some general queries please feel free to contact us on +44 (0)1273 646426 or lettings@bishopsullivan.co.uk

Best Regards,


Julian Bishop

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