We all know what did happen in 2021 - Covid and more Covid, the stamp duty holiday frenzy, a soaring rental market, the race for space, and the Simplify Group IT hack that dented faith in technology. There was plenty more besides, except most of the industry was too busy handling a non-stop flurry of transactions to notice.
But there were plenty of things which I for one expected would happen that didn’t. Here’s my list - do you agree?
1. Boomin?: Love them or hate them, the Bruce Brothers splash the cash on marketing and PR to build the hype. Did this lead to expectations that Boomin could not (and certainly has not) delivered? It’s hard to be sure because of the conspicuous absence of hard data to reveal whether agents will in future migrate from freebie membership to paid-for membership.
Either way, I expected Boomin to make more impact - to be mentioned by more agents more often, to feature in discussions about how portals interact with agents, to play a bigger part in the industry chit-chat. So far, so little impact.
2. Conveyancers versus Agents: With so many transactions and so many stamp duty holiday cliff edge threats, I expected a loud and gloves-off war of words between agents and conveyancers over who-was-to-blame-for-delays. Instead (and this has been a huge positive) these two professions showed great understanding of each other's workloads. Of course there were spats, but nothing more. This may herald a greater understanding of each other in the future too.
3. Renters Reform Act: The goal here is to win younger voters more likely to rent than own so it’s a surprise that the government has waited for two years now since its General Election commitment to scrap Section 21 and introduce the concept of deposits which transfer from property-to-property. It’s a high-risk delay - although a White Paper with reform proposals will be issued in the New Year, it could take two years for changes to finally be enacted, and that means possibly missing the next General Election.
4. Regulation of Property Agents: Noting the absence of action on ROPA’s recommendations has become an annual event - two and a half years on there appears little progress save for a new code of conduct. Some say that 2022 will eventually see news on a new regulator, formal qualifications, specific training and more - they certainly did not appear in 2021, prompting frustration from advocates of reform including Propertymark.
5. Changes To The Buying Process: Like ROPA recommendations, each year dawns with the hope that the buying process will finally become tangibly easier and faster. It didn’t happen this year. Various talking shops on the subject continued apace but aside from a few ad hoc changes - the recognition of Unique Property Reference Numbers and more awareness of Blockchain - transaction processes actually slowed.
6. Any Progress for Online Agents: They remain stubbornly niche - a far cry from when 50 per cent market share was a target a decade ago. Since then online agencies have failed to make hay during a global financial downturn, during uncertain years after the EU referendum, and in 2021 they failed to make an impact during a pandemic. Just what exactly is the event that will cause a seismic shift from traditional agents to online ones?
There’s been so much to talk about in 2021, perhaps it’s been a good thing that some aspects of the industry underachieved - there’s been hard work, controversy and uncertainty enough this year.
We need the upcoming holiday break, which brings me to the obvious: have a very peaceful Christmas and a prosperous New Year. See you in ’22.
*Editor of Estate Agent Today, Letting Agent Today and Landlord Today, Graham can be found tweeting about all things property at @PropertyJourn