The race is back on in the high street – sort of…

The flag's been waved to open the property market starting gate… only, says Nathan Emerson, this time things are somewhat different!

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Think of estate agencies as thoroughbred racehorses about to start the first race at the Coronavirus Derby. Picture those lean thoroughbreds, born sales machines raring to go, snorting and straining. The gate springs open. They urge to burst into full flight, chasing each other down, covering as much ground as possible, yet these spirited horses can no longer gallop at full pace.

Link to Nathan Emerson's Comment
Nathan Emerson

The business owners – or shall we say jockeys in this instance – must rein in their horse’s natural competitive instinct. The jockey must become even more disciplined and maintain a slow leisurely trot… ignoring the baying of the crowd until the track is safe.

No-one can run a pace too fast, for not obeying the new rules could see disastrous consequences with a rise in infections, the race cancelled, everyone returned to lockdown in the stables.

Predictions and hurdles

Go too slow and cash flow predictions for many indicate there may be difficulty clearing the first hurdle let alone the series of water jumps to follow.

Some will stumble, some will fall and never recover. Most will get up and follow the pack. Some started this race before the gun had ever been fired, others are still at the gates having languished in the lush fields of furlough – it has taken time to remember how to saddle up, let alone fit PPE gear and get the old nag going.

Business owners – or let’s say jockeys in this instance – must rein in their horse’s natural competitive instinct.

The new work environment presented our industry with the challenge of significantly shortening the odds. Social distancing means we can no longer have national viewing to transaction odds of 13:1 for sales or 6:1 for lettings.

We needed to adapt a safe bet structure by reducing the number of spectators into the grandstand and ensure the odds of winning are more certain, adapting to use video tours and zoom meetings screening out the non-urgent spectators and reducing physical viewings to only the best candidates.

Three breeds of horses

Firstly, there are the lean and dynamic stallions of the field, consistently first over the finishing line. Highly tuned, they must continually run at a fast pace just to survive. Their aim is to complete the course, turning over everything, covering as much ground as expeditiously as they can.

The second breed in this race are the opportunists. They have an inconsistent gait from race to race and primarily resort to feed from sporadic wins and lucky breaks. Never to be underestimated, they are long term survivors used to harsh conditions who will always be around for an opportune quick win when a fellow competitor slips.

Then there is a third breed, he is not the fastest horse, yet consistently completes every race. He realises the monetary prize for winning is actually the ability to buy hay, but at what expense? The fast horse has burnt excessive calories running at full rate to win his gold, the true cost of the victory is eye wateringly high. High turnover at capacity but crippling overheads regardless.

The sweetest carrot

The opportune horse is hoping to pick up the juicy sweet carrots randomly scattered along the track which may sustain him until his next proper feed. A place victory gives him the financial boost to enter the next race.

The third horse runs a different race, he realises that if he travels slowly he burns less calories than the fast horse over the same distance, he also realises the track itself is actually made of grass and this gives unforetold opportunity. It has young nubile shoots; they just take time to harvest. He takes a step then grazes before moving on. His food is not the juicy sweet carrot, but it is more abundant. His food is not the rich golden hay, but it is fresh and more nutritious. His stomach is full, he has fat on his back and therefore his bank account is burgeoning.

The grass is our marketplace and many of us trample over the course in order to win the glory of the big prize, so much so that we often forget the accumulation of small pieces of business, nurtured and grown, often exceed the other prizes combined. Is today the day to become the third horse?

The stallion may romp home first, but who is the real winner? Enjoy the grass, savour the taste and I promise the dried hay will never taste the same again.

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