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Jonathan Rolande: It won’t be politicians who get us out of this crisis

The National Association of Property Buyers’ Jonathan Rolande gives his take on why it’s those working across the sector who will help drag us out of the current crisis - not warring politicians. 

There is one question I am being asked more and more at the moment: Is now a good time to buy or sell a property?


Now, I know as well as anyone just how difficult it is to predict what might be about to happen in the property market but what we can say with certainty is, at the moment, we are certainly in a buyers’ market. 

Whenever prices are subdued or there is the threat of a sustained period of reduced prices, those buying a property suddenly become very important to all of us. When competition is reduced bidding wars and block viewings are consigned to history. 

Buyers become our new best friends.

However what really troubles me are the increasing number of headlines I’ve read this week which indicate homeowners are being “forced” to accept lower offers on their homes. 

There will of course be a small number of people who are forced to accept a lower offer due to immediate financial circumstances. But that always exists. The biggest danger right now is creating an environment where property-owners feeling pressured into thinking they are part of that ‘club’. 

As a sector, it’s tempting to see the short term benefits of keeping sales going by helping clients sign off on reduced offers. 

But we will escape more quickly from this crisis if we are able to support property owners to secure deals which maximise every last penny from their property. 

Keeping listing fresh with new photos, suggesting improvement works to clients – decluttering and the like – it just wasn’t that important a year ago. Now that everything has changed, we have to also change. Re-learn our job even. No longer is it enough to stick a new listing online and wait for the viewings. It’s going to be all about adding value to everything we do, for every seller. Do that, and the sales, and the higher offers will follow.

As is always the case I fear we can’t rely much on our political leaders to help us out of this mess. 

One thing that really caught my eye this week was the row between Angela Rayner and Oliver Dowden, who were both standing in for their bosses at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

They used the property market as a weapon in their weekly joust, with Ms Rayner quizzing the Deputy PM on the mortgage scheme to help borrowers that so far at least, does not seem to apply to landlords struggling to pay a loan on a Buy to Let. 

Many landlords are passing on hefty increases to their tenants to cover recent rate increases and Ms Rayner seems to want the scheme extended to landlords to protect their tenants, Mr Dowden dodged the question, referring instead to other measures that help the property market and more general successes in the economy - the benefit of which most of us are yet to feel.

Right now we are in a curious situation where Labour want to see landlords protected, albeit to protect their tenants and the Conservatives are reluctant to do so, further fuelling the argument that the Tories are anti-landlord. A reputation they have done little to dispel of late.

Ms Rayner then reminded us that Labour would end so-called no-fault evictions (Section 21) to further protect tenants. This is not strictly true. The issue right now is this – landlords are increasing rents or evicting tenants to sell up. Banning Section 21’s would not stop that, tenants can still be turfed out if the property is being sold but in the mind of politicians, that fact seems to get blurred. 

What’s more, would offering the same rights to landlords under the mortgage scheme avoid rent increases or evictions?

I think not.

Yes, the ability to go interest only, speak to the lender without fear for your credit rating or to extend the term of the loan would be helpful to those really struggling to make payments. 

However, all but the most charitable landlords would still aim to increase the rent as far as the market would allow knowing full well that their repayments were going to rise again soon anyway, once the grace period ends. 

The mortgage scheme wasn’t intended to be used for landlords, it was introduced as a way to avoid mass repossession, a way to kick the can marked ‘election defeat’ down the road and hope something turns up in the meantime.

The sad fact is, would-be tenants set rents, and landlords usually just accept the highest figure they are offered. The issue with spiralling rents, housing shortages and homelessness are deep-rooted and won’t be put right because lenders take a friendlier approach with their customers. 

Both parties know it, but neither so far has the political will or the billions available to really fix the issue.


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