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Furlough system ‘must be reformed’ to help estate agents survive market restart

The Home Buying & Selling Group says Chancellor must remove three-week furlough rule to enable staff to be moved into and out of system on a weekly basis.

Nigel Lewis


A group of leading industry organisations involved in every aspect of the property industry has written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak to ask that the furlough scheme be modified to cope with the re-starting of the housing market.

Written jointly by Kate Faulkner’s House Buying and Selling Group representing estate agents, lawyers, search agents, valuers, surveyors, energy assessors and removal companies, it says the current furlough system isn’t flexible enough.

It argues that staff can only be moved into and out of the furlough scheme at three weekly intervals, a rule that will prove problematic as demand ebbs and flows during the housing market revival.

Those who have signed the letter, which includes NAEA Propertymark and RICS, believe there will be a spike in activity in the coming weeks as the 450,000 home moves locked by Coronavirus are released, but that this will be followed by a lull as the market rebuilds.

The group is therefore asking Sunak to modify the furlough system to enable staff to be moved in and out on a weekly basis to deal with the highs and lows of consumer demand.

“This would allow employers to deal with the expected spikes in activity without risking unmanageable staffing costs once the spike has passed,” the letter says.

Mark Hayward imageMark Hayward, Chief Executive of NAEA Propertymark, says:We’re supportive of enabling the sector to perform in a flexible manner, during these uncertain times.”

But Neil Urch of Somerset agency HouseFox.co.uk, says he will be fully staffed as of June 1st and that his company is advertising locally to get more hands on deck.

“I agree with the ‘spike and lull’ theory to a certain degree, and that’s why we’ve been busy getting video tours completed for all of our properties in case we go back into lockdown,” he says.

May 27, 2020

One comment

  1. Furlough is in some ways a bit of a sticking plaster – with completion likely to be 50% down on last year, gaming the difficult cash flow situation by having ‘people in and out of the real estate businesses’ is not really going to be so useful.

    As ever a very myopic approach from some in the industry, a bit like rearranging the deckchairs on a very famous ship built in Belfast many moons ago, just as it crunches into a very big iceberg.

    What is needed is some bigger thinking, and bigger leadership around the real estate sector, which itself is at a crossroads here in the UK, both from government and those in high office in the industry.

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