What is the biggest change you’ve seen in the agency industry during your time at TPO?
For me, the biggest change has to be technology, its rapid evolution, and its function for agents in the everyday running of their offices, including how they manage and process transactions. Of course computers were around and used in the workplace when I joined TPO, but the amount of information available to agents was restricted, whereas now transactions are fully documented and managed online.
Another notable change has been the decline of financial institutions owning estate agents. In 2003 this type of ownership had already started to weaken and we began to see a real increase in the amount of new agencies starting up. Today’s industry is somewhat different and the dynamics have changed. Larger chains are acquiring more and more offices and there is now a real emphasis on the lettings side of the business, which is of course in line with the rapid growth of the private rented sector. Looking back ten years or so many sales firms didn’t even have a letting and management department, now they’re regarded as necessary to provide a full rounded service and a regular income stream.
As well as developing their business to suit the market, an increasing number of estate agents are now operating a franchised business model, mainly to benefit from a large trading name and back office facilities.
Also in 2003, before the financial meltdown, mortgages were easier to come by and financial checks were much less rigorous. There was little or no emphasis on money laundering and ID checks.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing agents in the current market?
Agents face new challenges all the time. With the industry moving and developing so quickly, agents have to learn to adapt and progress with it. Currently, the extra time taken between agreeing a sale and contracts being exchanged is one major challenge. The competition in the market place between high street and online agents is another and the debate around this is likely to continue for quite a while.
Agents are also being challenged by a current supply and demand imbalance. It’s been reported that demand for property has increased in recent months, but the number of homes coming on to the market has remained at a record low. Obtaining a sufficient level of stock of properties for both sale and rent is causing problems for the majority of agents all over the UK.
In the more expensively priced areas, particularly in London, the new stamp duty charges are having a negative effect on whether homeowners move or stay in their present property. In addition, the changes to taxation and stamp duty for ‘Buy to Let’ properties will probably mean that smaller landlords will either exit the market or not have the appetite to buy more and increase their portfolios.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to Gerry Fitzjohn as he takes over your role?
Gerry has served on the TPO Board since 2000 and has been Vice Chairman for the last five years. He is highly experienced and therefore needs no advice from me.
However, if I was highlighting what I feel to be one of the more important aspects of my role, it’s to keep in contact with as many agents as possible, be able to take their views into account and advise how to comply with an ever increasing number of regulations and directives. I believe the first TPO Conference organised in October by Gerry was a really helpful step. I know there are plans already in place for this to be repeated next year which is great news and I wish him every success with this. I have no doubt that it will be bigger and better.
If you could change one thing about your time as TPO Board Chairman what would it be?
It would be for the regulation requirements of both sales and lettings to be under the same legislative umbrella and for the rules to apply to the UK as a whole. The Estate Agents Act 1979 is now outdated and, in my opinion, new consolidating legislation is required.
What will I miss about being involved with TPO?
One of the greatest things about my time at TPO has been the contact with so many people in and connected to the industry. I shall miss that tremendously, but I still hope to stay in touch with everyone for a while yet.