Latest figures show that 57,600 people are still on furlough within the property industry, suggesting that some estate agents are keeping non frontline staff within the scheme.
The figure, which includes those working for housing associations, reveals that despite the current sales boom agents are still nervous about what the future holds.
“One could argue that the property sector doesn’t deserve to benefit from the furlough scheme as it has been ‘open for business’ with SDLT incentives,” says Iain McKenzie, CEO of the Guild (pictured).
“You could easily counter argue that the pandemic has caused a huge backlog of conveyancing completions and poor cash flow.
“The overriding point in my mind is the purpose of the scheme. To protect jobs and business and to stimulate the wider economy.”
One leading Propertymark estate agent, who wishes to remain anonymous, says they are keeping some staff on furlough until September when the scheme is due to end to see the lay of the land then.
At the start of the scheme some 66,700 property industry employees had been put on furlough by the end of March last year, rising to 152,400 by mid may during the worst of the housing market lockdown.
The Guild says it is not aware of any members who still have staff on furlough, but understands if any agents did.
“Whilst the property market is currently booming and properties are selling fast and often for more than the original asking price, the delays in the conveyancing process means that agents are having to wait longer than usual for completions and cashflow,” says McKenzie.
“The current challenges in the property sector are unlike other industries; activity generates potential income not instant income. If a restaurant is inundated with outside dinners, they bank money that night. If an estate agent is in undated with viewings and offers they bank money six or seven months later.”