Up until the credit crunch, in the main, agents could make a good living from just letting and selling property that came ‘through the door’ – even if it was a digital one.
The market then crashed. Prices fell by 18-20% in most areas but worst still, transactions fell by 50%, with many property businesses and jobs being lost.
Although we have seen a good recovery in many places, according to RICS, the number of properties available for sale is still at an all-time low. With Brexit, talk of a recession and possible stamp duty changes, the likelihood of transactions recovering anytime soon is low.
And, with the Nationwide reporting just 5% of existing homes coming onto the market, without access to new build properties, it’ll be tough for agents to secure the number of homes they need to sell and let.
When it comes to ‘stock’, one of the reasons in my view that agents have a ‘bad time’ in the press is that unlike car and other manufacturers, they have had little or no control on the properties they have to let and buy. Agents can’t just ‘magic’ new stock and offer the range of properties that people want at prices they can afford with a press of a button at a factory.
However, it is now possible for agents to input into what properties are produced and it’s essential we move away from just selling and letting what ‘we have’ and start sharing with our communities the full range of properties that people want, need and can afford.
There are three things agents can and should be doing to start driving the supply that people need, rather than relying on others to deliver:-
By law, local authorities have to produce a local plan which identifies housing need and the supply of land to meet that need over the next five or more years. Some LAs have embraced this, some haven’t.
As an agent it’s essential to input into these plans. You could send out a survey to current and past clients, asking them what housing is required in the next five years by them and their family? Are developers and local authorities missing a particularly property type that you are repeatedly asked for? And rather than someone coming into the office asking for a 2 bed flat for £100,000 or £300,000 and saying ‘none available’ at this price, or no stock on the market, it would be good to capture this ‘missed’ demand on a monthly basis and feed it into the Local Plan team.
New Infrastructure Investment
Although we haven’t had housing policies that have yet resolved the lack of new homes, the idea of linking better access to transport to the development of new homes such as the Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge corridor is a good policy.
At the start of September, the new MHCLG housing team announced a plan to spend £3.6bn across 100 towns to develop proposals for regeneration. They are asking “Communities, businesses and local leaders” to “join forces to draw up ambitious plans to transform their town’s economic growth prospects with a focus on improved transport, broadband connectivity, skills and culture.” And in my view, agents should be front and centre of this initiative.
And I’m not alone, chief executive Iain McKenzie from the Guild of Property Professionals says: “This fund can really help improve our towns and local agents are key to recommend the work needed in their local area on transport, broadband and regeneration that would make these areas more attractive to buyers and better places for people to live.” https://www.gov.uk/government/news/100-places-to-benefit-from-new-towns-fund
Do your clients want their own Grand Design?
Although this may not initially drive business, LAs need to take into account the demand for those that wish to self-build in their area, providing plot sales and more homes to sell or rent in the future.
From April 2016, people were granted a ‘right to build’ which meant LAs need to maintain a list of people who wanted to access custom, self-build or community-led housing. Councils must take this demand into account and help to provide plots accordingly.
If people register here they may get their own chance of a grand designs in the future.
With people moving less often, anything agents can do to support more of the right homes being built in their area and help to make their local communities more attractive, is very worthwhile.