It’s now more than three years since the EU referendum result in June 2016, and we’re still no clearer on when we’ll be leaving, how we’ll be leaving or whether we’ll even be leaving at all.
Theresa May’s thrice-defeated Withdrawal Agreement Bill finally put paid to her short and troubled stint in No 10, and now it will be down to the next Prime Minister to achieve what she couldn’t and get a Brexit deal through Parliament. Another option, which proves incredibly divisive, is for a no-deal, hard Brexit.
It’s something the two Tory leadership candidates, Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt – currently waging a month-long battle for the keys to Downing Street – say they will enact if a deal can’t be reached. But critics suggest such a move could be catastrophic for Britain, from chaos at the borders and a threat to peace in Ireland, to rising food prices, uncertainty over citizens’ rights and even another recession if the economy tanks.
What, though, would a no-deal Brexit mean for the property industry? Below, I check in with some industry voices to find out.
‘A no deal may be an opportunity’
“Britain coming out of the European Union without a deal may be an opportunity as I can’t imagine the Treasury increasing interest rates, so they will continue to be low, plus I can also see the government introducing favourable new legislation for homebuilders,” Chris May, co-director of free-to-list property portal Residential People, comments.
“They may also put in place favourable legislation to allow a lot more overseas investment in the UK.”
I asked Chris if an end to the uncertainty either way – with a deal agreed with Brussels or a no-deal scenario – might help to kickstart the UK property market again?
“A lot of homeowners are hesitating and waiting for a final outcome,” he adds. “I can see once this is settled either way that there will be a spike in activity once we leave and yes this will help to kickstart the market. The Tories have always been a party that recognises the importance of the UK housing market so I am sure they will be discussing this in depth.”
Steve Betts, a long-time agent who founded new agency NestledIn in Barnsley earlier this year, is much less optimistic about the benefits of a no deal Brexit..
“If we leave the EU without a deal, I can't see anything positive in the short-to-medium term,” he tells me. “All markets thrive on stability.”
“Without a deal, I feel, at best, prices will remain static and transactions will fall. At worst, prices will drop and transactions will drop too. Much will depend on how quickly the government and the Bank of England react, and what contingency plans they already have in place.”
Is NestledIn itself putting in place any contingency plans to deal with a no deal Brexit? “As we are a new business, we are fixated on customer satisfaction and growth,” Steve adds. “In the event of a no deal, our vision will remain the same. I believe we are in a strong position to weather the storm. We don't have high overheads and have managed to build up a strong pipeline and a relatively healthy stock list leading up to the date.”
‘I want to create a high-tech, high-touch style of agency’
In the Natter, I’m always eager to shout out about the fine work of agents – in particular ones just starting out and making a bit of a splash. The aforementioned NestledIn is one such agency. Here I speak to Steve to find out how his agency started and what the property industry might look like a decade from now.
Why did you start NestledIn?
Since 2005 I had worked for two large independent estate agents. During that time I learnt so much, but started to have my own ideas which I wanted to implement.
In early 2019 I was offered redundancy and saw it as an opportunity rather than a negative. I want to create a high-tech, high-touch style of agency, combining traditional elements of the industry with modern methods such as video and a strong social media presence.
What are the main challenges you've found in getting the business off the ground?
In simplistic terms, brand awareness. I've been used to working for an agency which is known and is often one of the three agents a vendor asks out to appraise their property before going to market.
To get new instructions, leads and buyers, I'm using a mix of old and new methods. We have really pushed social media advertising and combine it with traditional door-knocking and letter drops. Although door-knocking is far from my favourite thing to do, I know we can offer clients real value. That pushes me to walk up to those doors.
How will the property market look in 10 years’ time?
If you had asked me this question ten years ago, my prediction would have been completely different. I certainly didn't expect the rise of Purplebricks, or the demise of Emoov. Back then I thought we would see a huge company like Google or Facebook enter the sector.
I think attitudes are starting to change and what we do is not perceived to be as easy as first thought. In terms of the next 10 years, I think we will see a shift in the way estate agency is carried out. I expect quite a few of the pure traditional agents to struggle and possibly close.
I think a number of agents will start to move away from the high streets and set up on business parks or even run their companies from home. People rarely visit an office to see an agent, so why would an agent incur that cost when they could be spending that money on marketing and getting the vendor a better price?
My aim is to create a hub-style model, with great office staff supporting valuers who will have their own recognised patch. I genuinely believe this is the way forward.
You’ve worked in property since graduating nearly 15 years ago, what are the main changes you’ve seen in that time?
The main changes are the rise of technology and the demise of the local property guide. I don't necessarily see the demise of the local property guide as a bad thing. Buyers could only see one or two small pictures, along with a short description.
The rise of technology has been mainly a good thing. My only reservation is it gives us the ability to hide behind an email or a social media post, rather than picking up the phone. I think the successful agents will always be the ones who talk to their clients on a regular basis.
Thanks, Steve. And thanks to Steve and Chris for their input on the impact of a no-deal Brexit.
If you have your own opinions on the matter, you know where to put them.
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.