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By Nat Daniels

CEO, Angels Media

OTHER FEATURES

Property Natter – the A-Z of property for 2021 

It really is beginning to look a lot like Christmas – just a week to go now. Presents all wrapped and ready to go? Or time for a last-minute rush to the shops? 

With the year nearly wrapped up, it’s time to look back on what we’ve learnt and the seismic shifts from a property perspective that have occurred in the last 12 months. 

As is a now (sort of) annual tradition, I’ll be using my final Natter of the year to run-through an A-Z of the property world in 2021 – from Boomin and Countrywide to devastating IT hacks and changing models of agency. 

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Without further ado, let’s go. 

A is for Agents Do Charity – it’s been utterly heart-warming to see, even in the darkest days of Covid, how the industry has taken to the challenge of raising money for charitable causes. Sometimes we can get too bogged down in serious news and the petty competitiveness of agency, but our weekly article is a regular ray of sunshine shining a light on the fine exploits of agents – who too often have an unfairly bad reputation. 

B is for Boomin – it can’t be anything else, can it? The divisive portal, launched by the Bruce brothers of Purplebricks fame, finally arrived in April this year after months of intense speculation. It continues to divide critics, but a true reflection of its performance probably won’t become clear for a few years yet. 

C is for Controversy – the reputation of agents is already poor and was given a further kicking by two high-profile incidents earlier this year. One involving a ‘thug’ agent who harassed Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty in a park, the other a Savills agent who posted racist abuse on Twitter after the Euro 2020 final. Both men were sacked, but the lasting damage to the agency profession was already done. 

D is for Douglas and Gordon – the well-known London agency was purchased by rival Foxtons earlier this year, in what was seen as a major coup. 

E is for estate agent fees – this is the issue that never goes away, one that agents and the industry love to talk about. One agency just this week revealed that it charges buyers not vendors, and is to expand its services, but this model is one that continues to generate a lot of criticism and questions among the agent community.  

Foxtons – the famously Marmite brand had been taking a bit more of a backseat in recent years, but was back to its old bullish ways with controversy surrounding furlough payments and changes to the board. The recent reappointment of industry veteran and former managing director Peter Rollings may be designed to calm the waters again.  

G is for the Great Suit Debate – with Covid leading to a rise in home working and a shift towards more casual attire, the big debate around whether agents should dress in formal wear or not reared its head again and continued to split opinion pretty much down the middle. 

H is for Hunters – the historic agency was snapped up by the Property Franchise Group earlier this year, but has remained firmly independent in its outlook, led superbly (as always) by Glynis Frew. 

I is for Independent Agents – whether it’s singing estate agents, estate agent poets, or agents thinking and doing things differently, there is such a variety of brilliant independents out there who don’t get the credit they deserve. I hope EAT, and this column especially, plays a small part in redressing that balance. 

J is for (good) Journalism – journos get as much of a kicking as estate agents when it comes to public perception, but they play a crucial role in breaking news, holding government and organisations to account and spreading the word about the good our industry does. We’re delighted to have Graham Norwood and the editorial team here at the Today sites steering the ship in the right direction and keeping us all informed, educated and up-to-date. 

K is for Kicking The Can Down the Road – yes, the last few years have been unique and the number one priority has had to be battling the pandemic, but the total lack of progress on RoPA, rental reform and long-term change to the home buying and selling process has been frustrating and worrying in equal measure. 

L is for Lost Reputations – before the start of this year, you’d have struggled to find a bad word said about the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), which seemed to have an unblemished reputation and a level of trust that other bodies would kill for. But a major finance scandal shook the organisation to the core and gave its once excellent reputation a battering. It has since made attempts to regain trust by apologising to those whistleblowers whose actions uncovered the scandal, introducing a new code of conduct and carrying out a top-brass overhaul. 

M is for mergers and acquisitions – the first half of the year seemed to suggest 2021 would be the year of the merger, with a host of high-profile M&As. The biggest of which was Connells purchasing Countrywide, the final nail in the coffin for the brand that had once been the UK’s biggest agency group.  

N is for New Models - the self-employed model appears to have taken off in a big way this year, in part due to Covid. eXp, led by Adam Day, and Keller Williams are the main proponents of it, but there are other names, too. The model has its very vocal critics, but also an increasing number of supporters. Interesting to see how this plays out in light of Purplebricks’ troubles.  

OnTheMarket – 2021 could be the year OnTheMarket came of age, with the canny appointment of former agent Jason Tebb really helping to reshape and propel the portal forward. This successful rebrand was completed when OTM recently revamped its website to get shot of any final connections with its leadership and strategy of the past

Purplebricks – earlier in the year, the controversial website was winning plaudits for its Team GB advertising campaigns and seemed to be back with a bang in terms of marketing and bold claims, after a period in which it had been strangely quiet. However, the last few months have seen the company lurch from one crisis to the next, with scandals concerning tenant deposits and workers’ rights, and a rapidly falling share price. It also made the switch from the self-employed model to the fully-employed model, in what was seen by some as a fatal blow to the online/hybrid way of doing things. Matters have got so bad that some are now questioning PB’s very existence. 

Q is for Quality Appointments – Propertymark appeared to be in something of an ongoing crisis earlier this year, with a number of high-profile figures quitting around the same time. In to this tricky situation stepped Nathan Emerson, a long-time agent and well-known industry figure, who has steadied the ship remarkably well and focused the organisation to a greater degree than ever on PropTech. 

R is for Rightmove – despite increasing competition and ongoing criticism for the fees it charges, it remains the number one portal, with no imminent sign that this will change anytime soon. 

S is for Simplify IT hack – in November, the Simplify group of companies – responsible for a significant number of UK transactions – suffered a catastrophic cyber-attack, with an IT outage taking services online. Many were affected, and a big debate about how to better protect agents and conveyancers from such attacks has been going on ever since.  

T is for Transactions – the last few years have seen record number of transactions passing through the system, fuelled in large part by the stamp duty holiday and favourable lending/borrowing conditions. It’s led to a huge amount of work for agents, conveyancers, surveyors, removal firms and others, with all the rewards and stresses and strains this includes. 

U is for Unsung Heroes – to all the back-office stuff, the number crunchers, the junior negotiators, the designers, the content providers, the photographers and the office managers, who perhaps don’t get the limelight they deserve – the industry couldn’t run without you, so hats off! 

V is for ViewRabbit - The launch of ViewRabbit earlier this year sparked a massive backlash and a big conversation surrounding charging for viewings. The website proposed charging £30 for a viewing to prevent timewasters. It was the brainchild of former agent Michael Riley, who bravely sought investment from the industry. Little has been heard of the concept since, which suggests it may have sunk without a trace given the lack of backing the idea received.  

W is for Wellbeing – the mental wellbeing of estate agents and other property professionals has really taken centre stage this year, with the struggles of the pandemic and other issues coming to the fore. Many of these issues have always been there, but people are now no longer afraid to talk about them. Chris Watkin, Sam Hunter from Homesearch and the team at industry charity Agents Together – of which I’m proud to be a mentor – are just some of those involved in opening up the conversation around mental health. 

X is for X marks the spot – always a struggle, this one! But our ValPal member agents have regularly been finding that special spot when it comes to generating new leads, supported further by the rollout of MovePal, our lead nurturing tool which warms up leads so you don’t have to.  

Y is for Yours Truly – yes, you may have seen me - and my equally photogenic colleague Lee Dahill – conducting videos with some of the industry’s biggest names of late. Time to add roving reporter to my LinkedIn profile! Keep your eyes peeled for more in the New Year. 

Z is for Zoopla – the portal with the famous purple branding has continued to feature plenty in our publications and has run a number of high-profile marketing campaigns, including a new marketing blitz on TikTok.     


So there we have it – quite a 12 months! 

Before I sign-off, I’d like to wish all our readers a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year from all the team at Angels Media, The ValPal Network and the Today publications. 

Until next year…  

*Nat Daniels is CEO of Angels Media, publishers of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today. Follow him on Twitter @NatDaniels.

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