An estate agent’s firm has apologised for an advert in which it called coronavirus a “blessing in disguise” for its effect on the housing market.
The promotional leaflet by Manchester-based JP & Brimelow begins with the headline: “Has Covid been a blessing in disguise for Chorlton and Old Trafford?”
“What a year it’s been for everyone in Chorlton and Old Trafford,” the pamphlet reads. “So much uncertainty, so much worry about jobs and of course concern over health.
“However, the property market has actually fared very well this year. More of us have spent more times in our homes, and I think it’s fair to say that the role our homes play in our lives has increased greatly in importance.”
One Old Trafford resident told HuffPost UK they were “furious” when they saw the advert, which had been delivered as part of the post on Monday morning.
“It’s just so crass and insensitive,” they said. “I’m currently recovering from Covid which was one of the worst experiences of my life. How someone can trivialise it and use it to sell houses is beyond me.
“I also just feel sorry for anyone who has lost a loved one and had that drop on their doormat.”
They added they hoped JP & Brimelow would apologise for the leaflet. “I’m really not a person who gets angry about stuff, but this just touched a nerve.
“I get everyone is just trying to survive and I know they are a local business but you don’t feel they are part of our community if they send things like this.”
The company later apologised for the “clumsy” messaging, adding it had “wanted to share a bit of positivity”.
The advert elicited a similarly furious response on social media, where users called it “disgraceful” and “tone-deaf marketing”.
“That is an appalling title,” one person wrote. “I would rather my property price stayed the same or even refused rather than have Covid.
“The amount of people that will have died, lost businesses and their properties in the area... but don’t worry everyone, for those of us that have enough to hold on to our houses through this will be able to sell up for a nice fat profit.”
The advertisement went on to describe the effect of the coronavirus lockdown restrictions and chancellor Rishi Sunak’s stamp duty holiday on driving up house prices in the area.
“Given the year we’ve had, the change is very impressive indeed,” it reads.
“When you account for how unstable the year has been in so many sense, it’s all the more remarkable how the property market has performed. The market has lots of things on its side, not least that real estate is universally seen by investors as a safe-haven.”
Greater Manchester Tenants Union said JP & Brimelow had “shown their true colours” by calling coronavirus a “blessing in disguise”.
A spokesperson continued: “As a result of the pandemic over 800,000 are in rent debt and facing eviction, and almost 100,000 have lost their lives.
“This attitude does nothing but widen the gap between the propertied class and renters, the latter of whom have been abandoned and forgotten about by the government during the pandemic.
“Renters need a cancellation of rent debt, an extension of the eviction ban in all cases, and an end to Section 21.”
The pandemic has so far resulted in the deaths of almost 100,000 people in the UK.