It’s that time of year when we gaze to the future, when we ponder what the coming year will bring, and when we make well-meaning commitments to do things differently, better, less often or more often.
It’s also roughly eight weeks before we tend to forget about all those well-meaning commitments and revert to the status quo!
We often also use this time of year as a juncture from which to gaze into our crystal balls and make predictions based on nothing more than hunches.
Well, not any more. As 2019 nears, I won’t be dusting off my crystal ball as simply, recent years have taught us to not expect anything – or, in fact, to expect the unexpected! Perhaps it’s time to focus instead on what we do know and the things that really matter in the world of property.
But before I look forward, a quick recap on the past. There was a time when scaremongers predicted the demise of high street operators – events in recent weeks would suggest those predictions may have been off the mark. More on this later.
Meanwhile, since June 2016 we’ve all been surmising what the impact of Brexit might be on the UK’s property market. Indeed, when I came to think about what to write for this article, I did so anticipating that our exit from the EU may be clearer. My point on expecting the unexpected is never more appropriate here - and who knows what may have played out by the time you’re reading this?
Whether we leave the EU in March with a deal or not; indeed, whether we leave the EU at all, the reality is that we’re in totally unchartered territory. No precedent has been set and no-one can say with any level of certainty what its impact might be.
However, even with the passage of time since I last touched on this topic, I remain relatively relaxed. To reiterate my point from September: the property market works in cycles and we’re simply reaching the end of the current one. It’s happened before, and it’ll happen again. It should come as no surprise and it certainly shouldn’t be attributed to Brexit. This is just a case of coincidence.
What all of us within the industry need to remember is that people continue to need a home; a bigger home; a smaller home; a home in a different location – it may not be with the same level of buoyancy as during times of more certainty, but our current political and economic circumstances certainly haven’t eradicated that need. It should remain our focus, therefore, to help facilitate that.
To successfully do so, I believe, entails forging a meaningful relationship with our customers; engaging in dialogue that allows us to understand their needs; and investing the time to nurture that relationship. In a time of relative uncertainty, we need to demonstrate our genuine understanding and appreciation of the market in which we operate and instil within our customers a belief that they’re not simply a number, but a valued partner. I wonder if this is where recently departed others went wrong?
Of course, with uncertainty comes opportunity and as property experts we must not shy away from maximising those opportunities for our customers. I’m a firm believer that now is a great time to consider investing in property or appraising options for re-financing as there continue to be a plethora of excellent deals out there at the moment.
So as another year draws to a close and the anticipation of the coming twelve months teeters expectantly in front of us, I believe all of us in the industry will do well to remember to focus on the things we do know; to remain committed to the things which are important to our customers; and above all else, to refrain from predicted the unpredictable.
*David Westgate is group chief executive of Andrews Property Group