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Let's not stand back and blame the market for inactivity

Despite seeing the word in many industry pieces, using ‘crisis’ to describe anything related to the UK housing market at present seems especially crass when there are so many genuine crises in the world at present. 

How can we witness what is happening in Syria/Iraq and the rest of the Middle East at present and truly believe that, in comparison, our industry woes are anywhere near a ‘crisis’?

In one recent article I read in relation to the UK housing market I was informed by the writer that not only was there a housing crisis, but a housing supply crisis, and added to this, a rental crisis in London. 

Whatever your take on what is happening in UK property, I think we could all agree there are problems to be solved rather than a crisis to be endured.

One of the stories in question related to the recent regular monthly missive from RICS which predicted house price increases of 6% this year boosted, it says, by an increase in mortgage availability. I’m not at all sure this is as strong as it suggests – inflating the overall demand for loans, and being bolstered by a severe shortage of housing supply for sale.

Those of us working in the agency world will know only too well that the supply of properties for sale is not where we would wish it to be and certainly the UK has plenty of catching up to do when it comes to constructing new homes. 

However, this picture can be very different depending on where in the UK you are based. For those agents in the South East and London who may well be feeling an acute shortage of supply at present, can the same be said for agents based in all other areas of the country? I suspect not.

In essence, we work with what our chosen locale throws at us (and do our best to engineer better opportunities) and we have to make it work regardless of what is happening in other UK locations. 

If you have a lack of instructions today, then one key factor is likely to be the amount of local consumer activity and consequent gross market share available to you. But great agents also pay close attention how they are faring in comparison with their nearest competitors – do they appear to be in the same boat or do their portal contents and front windows look far healthier? 

In this business, competitor analysis is incredibly important not only because it can give you an overview of your entire market but also because it enables you to benchmark your business locally. 

No agency is an island – there will be few agents in the entire UK who are not competing with at least five other agencies and now, when you factor in those who are ‘online only’, you have an additional highly-competitive field to consider.

Tracking the performance of your business directly in comparison to others can give you a whole new insight into your service levels and the ability of your firm to get its message across and secure new business. 

Blaming a poor supply of stock on the market is one thing, but it can’t be the only reason for success or prosperity. Why did a competitor secure the instruction last week? Why were that competitor and others in the running for that valuation to the exclusion of others? Is your marketing effective enough? Are you there at the forefront of local householder’s minds when they are considering buying/selling/letting/renting? 

As we all know, part of the battle is getting the marketing mix right and one of the reasons existing agencies look to become part of a bigger organisation such as a franchise is due to the support they get in this area. 

Many smaller agencies in particular often have staff trying to be all things to all men and it’s a simple fact that many of the most successful agents may well not be expert marketeers. 

Having highly specialist and experienced resource to hand via a franchisor can make all the difference especially when you are faced with the barrage of marketing literature and activity that many agents are quite rightly generating.

While we may not have the supply we all desire at present there are always opportunities for agents to seek and win more business. Understanding how you fare compared to your competitors is certainly a way to provide ideas and impetus to take them on and beat them, and by utilising the right marketing you will stand out from the crowd and increase your activity levels as a consequence.

The crucial thing is not to stand back and blame the market. Inertia gets you nowhere.

*Rob Clifford is a Director of Central Lettings Solutions and Chief Executive of Century 21 UK, both part of Shepherd Direct

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