Hard not to mention two major breaking news stories of recent days; one directly affecting the property market and one which is certain to have an impact in some shape or form.
Firstly, the collapse of Emoov, which went into administration last week after reportedly running out of money.
While the demise of any business is always sad, particularly for all the staff losing their jobs this close to Christmas, there may be some who are experiencing a touch of schadenfreude towards Russell Quirk given his rather bullish, antagonistic approach in recent years.
Estate Agent Today was at the forefront of breaking the news to the industry, with our editor Graham Norwood doing some sterling work to keep abreast of developments which seemed as fast-moving and ever-changing as the ongoing Brexit negotiations. We had everything from Twitter spats and the founding of new PR firms, to insider emails, talk of the death of the upfront fee agent, Purplebricks and others swooping in to help out stranded sellers and rumours of possible legal action from crowdfunding investors.
Talking of the B-word, Brexit has been responsible for the other major news story of recent days. We continue to be no clearer on what the final deal will look like or if Brexit will even happen at all after a disastrous period for the Prime Minister in her attempts to gain approval for her proposals.
The latest development, of course, is that Theresa May – knowing she was facing certain and crushing defeat – postponed the vote on her Brexit deal and headed to European leaders once again with her tail between her legs looking for concessions to take back to Parliament, especially regarding the controversial Irish backstop arrangement.
Then, on Wednesday morning, news broke that she was facing a vote of no confidence in her leadership after Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee, received the 48 letters from Conservative MPs needed to trigger the ballot.
She survived the vote of confidence - although not exactly convincingly (200 voted for her to stay, 117 wanted her out) - but her authority has been further diminished. This has been exacerbated further by her pledging to step down before the next general election.
We’re now seemingly back to square one again. Hard Brexit, soft Brexit, Chequers plan, Canada-plus, Norway-style, no Brexit at all, People’s Vote – no-one seems to know what’s going on, and the ongoing uncertainty continues to be good for nobody.
While the property industry is resolute and excellent at batting off outside pressures, recent findings from the Royal Institution for Chartered Surveyors (RICS) make for slightly worrying reading. Its monthly indicators for demand, supply and prices fell to multiyear lows in November, with nearly half of surveyors reporting that buyers and sellers are remaining on the fence because of political uncertainty.
RICS also predicts Brexit gloom for the housing market in 2019 if the uncertainty isn’t resolved.
Agents display their talents
On a more upbeat, cheerful note, the annual Agents Giving Ball (now in its fifth year) was held last Friday at the Grosvenor Marriot Hotel in Grosvenor Square.
With the theme of Agents Got Talent this time around, we were treated to singers, guitar solos, poems, cheerleading dance groups and comedy skits, with well-known industry names Simon Whale and Kristjan Byfield in on the action while Simon Bradbury was on the judging panel.
As well as entertainment, the event also included the Fundraising Champions Awards, a three-course sit down meal, a charity auction and a late night disco as the industry came together to have some fun and raise money for excellent causes.
Below is a picture of me presenting the Best Industry Supplier Fundraising Award for 2018 to Richard Tucker, managing director of Relocation Agent Network. RAN won the prize for its #OneThousandItemsofFood event, which saw its members across the UK collect more than 6,500 items of food and vital supplies for the nation’s foodbanks.
Quick shout-out to Peter Knight, too, who has announced he is stepping down as Agents Giving chairman after 11 years in the hotseat. Michael Stoop, non-executive director of The Property Ombudsman scheme and chairman of the TPO Industry Forum, will take over. Agents Giving now raises up to £1 million a year for good causes, and Knight has played a massive role in establishing it as the industry’s leading charity. Hat firmly tipped.
And the leader is…
The festive period always guarantees a feast of football, but there’s only one league that everyone should be keeping an eye on. The Estate Agent Today & ValPal Fantasy Football league, of course! With 139 teams slugging it out for top spot, the current leader is Curlywurly Wanderers, managed by Lee Carey (my brother-in-law!). All entirely above board, I assure you.
Some well-known names feature in the top 50, including Maurice Kilbride in 17th place and Paul Morgan of Farrell Heyworth in 30th place. In the mid-table positions, Kae Travis (founder of online agent MoveSelf) is currently in 58th spot, while Rolf Groenewold, co-founder and CEO of KeyAgent, sits in joint 78th. Doing less well, in the bottom 50, are Karl Knipe in 104th spot and Matthew Fine in 112th position. Sorry guys!
In the best name league, Oldman Asthmatic, Panic at the Isco, Cesc and the City, Show me da Mané!!, AC Me Rollin, Blink 1 Eto’o, Boom Xhaka Laca, On Your Ederson, InSané In De-Bruyne and Lettings Be Avin You all deserve a mention.
We’ll be providing updates as the season draws to a conclusion, so keep your eyes peeled. And, if you still want to join the league, here’s the code you need: 629846-464864.
Local agency to turn 70
I’m always keen to shout out about the work of local estate agents, particularly when they’re celebrating key milestones. Jordan Falco, manager of Paul Wallace Estate & Letting Agents, a two-branch outfit in Hertfordshire, recently got in touch to say the brand will be celebrating its 70th birthday in 2019.
I picked his brains for more details.
Who was your founder and how did the agency first come to be?
Our founder was Mr Paul Wallace, who started the business in 1949 after serving as a Captain in the North Africa campaign during WWII.
How has the agency changed/grown since 1949?
The original office in Hoddesdon high street has moved a couple of times but always stayed true to the ‘High Street’, from one end to the other and now bang in the middle. We also opened other branches in Welwyn, Hertford, Ware, Epping, Waltham Abbey and Enfield, which were later closed as these areas can be managed from the remaining two branches.
Are high street agents the future or will we see more serviced, off the high street hubs?
We strongly believe that high street offices are the way forward, the friendly face, the agent who can pop and see you or you can pop and see, located just a few moments away from where you live. The decline of the high street in recent years has started to undo itself with locals wanting a butchers, greengrocers and especially independent local firms.
Do you still see good levels of footfall in your local area?
We still see fantastic footfall. Hoddesdon high street has two regular markets a week and approximately 80 shop fronts alongside six supermarket chains! The Brookfield office has a second to none location sandwiched between a Tesco Extra store and M&S the other side.
What does the next 70 years hold?
With the rapid advancement of technology who knows, but having us on the ‘High Street’ will always be our way!
Thanks for the insight, Jordan, and enjoy the celebrations next year.
A-Z of the property industry and Xmas pics
Next week I’ll be doing an A-Z of the property industry for 2018. Can anyone guess what the letters B, C, E and P might focus on?
And we’ve seen a brilliant reaction so far to our call-out for your agency’s Christmas pics. Please keep ‘em coming!
That’s that from me.
Until next time…
*Nat Daniels is the Chief Executive Officer of Angels Media, publishers of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today. Follow him on Twitter @NatDaniels.