My first 30 days during covid19 circuit breaker

Covid-19 Circuit Breaker: My First 30 Days

The Covid-19 pandemic brought unprecedented challenges and disruptions to our lives, including Singapore’s property market. When the government announced the implementation of the CCB (Covid-19 Circuit Breaker) measures on 3 April 2020, it sent worried waves through the real estate industry.

With physical property viewings suspended and strict social distancing measures in place, property agents, sellers, and buyers alike had to adapt to a new reality quickly.

As a property agent, I navigated uncharted territory during this period.

In this post, I’ll share my experiences and insights from the first 30 days of the CCB. Join me as I take you through the ups and downs of this extraordinary journey.

Discover the lessons and takeaways to help you navigate the property market during challenging times. Whether you’re a property owner, a potential buyer, or simply someone interested in the real estate industry, this post has something for you.

So, let’s dive in!


On 3 April 2020, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced on live TV, the implementation of the CCB.

With the exception of people involved in the provision of essential services, everyone had to stay at home for 4 weeks, starting on 7 April 2020.

With physical viewing of properties disallowed in the next 4 weeks (& possibly longer), these questions ran through my head:

(a) How would the property market react in the short term?

(b) Would the property market crash? Or will opportunities surface?

(c) Would there be any property transactions since no physical viewing will be allowed?

(d) What would happen to the tenants who were either moving out or moving into new rental properties?

(e) Would the government roll back property cooling measures?

This was how the property market unfolded before me during the first 30 days of the CCB.

CONSUMER EMPOWERMENT WEBINARS – ZOOM FROM HOME

🗓️ 13 April 2020 (CCB Day 7)

Before CCB, PropNex Singapore (the real estate agency that I’m with) used to conduct Consumer Empowerment Seminars at the Toa Payoh Office or in showflats.

On 13 April 2020, PropNex conducted its first-ever (and probably the industry’s first) online Consumer Empowerment Webinar over Zoom.

Conducted every weekday night at 8pm and on Saturday afternoons, the webinars covered a wide range of property-related topics that are of greatest interest to both homeowners and homebuyers amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

First ever CCB consumer empowerment webinar
First ever CCB consumer empowerment webinar

Participants who registered and watched the webinars over Zoom, numbered from hundreds to thousands per session.

“I WOULDN’T HAVE STEPPED INTO AN ACTUAL SEMINAR”

In the following weeks, I registered several participants for many different webinars.

One of the participants shared the following with me.

As a result of working from home, he had more time in the evenings and didn’t mind spending it learning more about Singapore’s property market.

If not for the CCB and Zoom, he confessed he would never have attended an actual in-person seminar because he had an innate fear of being asked or pressured to buy things or sign up for courses at seminars. I think that rings true for many.

The fact that participants could Zoom and attend webinars to learn more about the Singapore property market from the comfort of their home made them more open to attending such webinars.

The CCB effectively triggered more consumers to learn more about Singapore’s property market—consumers who would otherwise not have taken the steps to do so.

This young civil servant found the sessions so informative that he roped in 4 more colleagues to watch together.

Many benefitted from the consumer empowerment webinars
Many benefitted from the consumer empowerment webinars
“I WOULD LIKE TO SELL MY FLAT”

🗓️ 16 April 2020 (CCB Day 10)

Selling in CCB
Selling during CCB

3 days later, I was appointed the exclusive agent to sell this flat. It marked the first time I took on a resale assignment without viewing the property in person.

Would buyers buy during CCB? I wasn’t sure. But I told myself to give it my best shot.

CCB EXTENSION

🗓️ 21 April 2020 (CCB Day 15)

With the number of unlinked Covid-19 cases not coming down, PM Lee announced that the circuit breaker would be extended to 1 June 2020.

This extension was bound to happen. Don’t you agree?

DEFYING THE ODDS – BUYING WITHOUT VIEWING

🗓️ 24 April 2020 (CCB Day 18)

This day turned out to be historical and memorable.

For the first time in my career, I concluded a deal without seeing the property, the seller, the buyer, and the buyer’s agent. The deal was concluded over pictures and recorded videos.

It was no shabby offer. It was higher than the last price recorded in March 2020 before CCB and 14.8% higher than the last offer brought in by the seller’s previous sole agent in December 2019.

Successful sale during CCB.
Successful sale during CCB.

So, there were serious sellers and genuine buyers out there who would still transact properties even if physical viewing was not possible.

In the days after, I continued to hear news of colleagues successfully transacting both resale properties & new launches (condos under construction).

Did you try to sell your property during CCB?

Or did you use the opportunity to purchase your dream property while others refused to commit without an in-person viewing?

SEIZING OPPORTUNITIES – RECORD LOW INTEREST RATE

🗓️ 25 April 2020 (CCB Day 19)

Do you have an outstanding mortgage loan for the properties you own?

When was the last time you reviewed the amount of interest you are paying?

Citibank warmed the cockles of the homeowners’ hearts with their latest mortgage loan packages on this day 😍

Citibank mortgage loan package in April 2020. Snapped up within 2 days.
Citibank mortgage loan package in April 2020. Snapped up within 2 days.

The packages were so attractive that they were oversubscribed by day 2.

Are you aware that refinancing your home loan could save you up to thousands of dollars in interest payments per year?

When was the last time you reviewed the amount of interest you are paying?

Contact me, and I will connect you with the mortgage bankers who offer the best packages.

“I LEFT SINGAPORE. SORRY.”

🗓️ 26 April 2020 (CCB Day 20)

I had expected this to happen.

With the economy badly hit by Covid-19, some expatriate tenants would inevitably lose their jobs.

The responsible ones would serve notice and leave responsibly.

But some would choose to pack and go.

Packed and left. Thankfully, this was the only case.
Packed and left. Thankfully, this was the only case.

I was involved in several tenancies where the tenants were affected by Covid-19 and the circuit breaker.

Thankfully, I only had one “packed and left” case to handle while the rest of the tenants negotiated for a proper exit.

TEMPORARY RELIEF MEASURES FOR THE PROPERTY SECTOR

🗓️ 6 May 2020 (CCB Day 30)

The government announced relief measures for the property sector on this day.

These measures included:

(i) Extension of the Project Completion Period (PCP) by 6 months for residential, commercial and industrial development projects;

(ii) Extension of time by 6 months for the commencement and completion of residential development, and sale of housing units in residential development projects in relation to the remission of the Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) for housing developers;

(iii) Extension of the PCP and/or disposal period by up to a total of 6 months for residential development projects under the Qualifying Certificate (QC) regime for foreign housing developers; and

(iv) Extension of time by 6 months for the sale of the first residential property in relation to the remission of ABSD for the second residential property purchased by a Singaporean married couple.

Please see the details by visiting this MND page.

That concludes what I experienced during CCB’s first 30 days.

MY 5 KEY TAKEAWAYS
01

ADAPTABILITY IS CRUCIAL

CCB was unprecedented. Property agents, sellers, buyers, landlords, and tenants all had to adapt to the new reality for business to continue as usual. The importance of being flexible and open to new ways of doing things can’t be overstated, especially during challenging times.

02

TECHNOLOGY CAN BE A GAME-CHANGER

The success of the Consumer Empowerment Webinars over Zoom shows how technology can be leveraged to reach and engage with a wider audience, even when physical events aren’t possible. A valuable lesson for businesses across various industries.

03

OPPORTUNITIES IN CHALLENGING TIMES

Despite the challenges posed by CCB, buyers were still willing to purchase properties without physical viewing. Record low interest rates also presented cost savings opportunities for property owners. This suggests that there are always opportunities, even in the midst of a crisis.

04

COMMUNICATION AND EMPATHY

Without the benefit of physical face-to-face meetings, clear communication and empathy become even more important in managing relationships with clients, especially during difficult times.

05

EMBRACE THE POSSIBILITIES

The successful sale of a property without any physical meetings during CCB taught me a valuable lesson – nothing is impossible. By keeping an open mind and maintaining a positive outlook, we can overcome even the most challenging obstacles.

FINAL WORDS

Covid-19 is now firmly behind us. Looking back, the property market moved in ways most weren’t expected.

Property prices didn’t fall but went from strength to strength, riding on the back of surging demand. I did a couple more remote sale transactions involving new clients who were based overseas. One memorable case I handled during this period involved meeting one of the most hostile sellers I have ever met.

When COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in April 2022, demand was equally strong in the rental market. That led to a sharp rise in rental scams, as scammers took advantage of tenants desperately looking for places to stay.

What were the memorable moments for you during Covid-19?

Contact Jack Sheo

WHAT BRINGS YOU HERE TODAY?

Are you wondering what to do in today’s market?

Perhaps you already have a clear mind of what you want to do?

In my blog, I often share stories of the challenges, triumphs, and lessons learned in my work as a real estate agent in Singapore.

Regardless of your situation, you can use me as a sounding board. I’ll provide perspective and clarity from my experience.

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