So, without further ado…
Home buying and selling reform won’t happen…yet
The long-awaited reform to the buying and selling process, to make it easier, simpler and cheaper for all parties, and the implementation of the recommendations made by the Regulation of Property Agents’ (RoPA) working group, has been put on ice for various reasons. And, given the various distractions facing the government (#partygate, Covid, the cost-of-living crisis, the May local elections, etc), it seems unlikely this will change anytime soon.
There have been some positive steps forward, particularly regarding upfront information, reservation agreements and the greater digitalisation of the moving process, but RoPA has been on the table for what seems like an age, with no signs that it’ll be actioned, and it seems like we might be waiting a little while yet, if it even happens at all.
The apparent shifting of the civil servant at the heart of house buying reform - Matt Prior - to another job certainly won't help, and could be a significant setback to the cause.
Rental reform won’t be introduced this year
This depends first on the release of the White Paper on rental reform, which has already been delayed from last autumn to some point this year. The Renters’ Reform Bill won’t go before Parliament until the White Paper has been released, pored over and debated, and there is still no confirmed date on when that will happen.
At this week’s PMQs – where Boris Johnson was coming under fire for admitting that he attended a lockdown party – he was asked towards the end of the session by Labour MP for Stockport, Nav Mishra, when the Renters’ Reform Bill would be introduced, or whether it had been kicked into the long grass.
Johnson dodged the question, with his answer almost entirely ignoring the private rented sector. He responded by mostly talking about social rent, before saying: “But the point that [Mishra] makes about renters is very, very important and that’s why we’re tackling the rights of renters as well.”
Despite repeated assurances that it’s being looked at and worked on, it doesn’t seem like it’s the highest priority for a government currently fighting fires elsewhere.
Even if the White Paper is released in the first half of this year, it seems likely that it will still take time for this to then inform the final Bill, which will then take time to make its way through both Houses of Parliament. Once it gets there, it’s likely to face a fair amount of opposition and further changes, and is unlikely to have a totally smooth journey. Which makes the timetable for rental reform being introduced this year very tight, even though we’re only in January.
For many landlords and letting agents, this is likely to be a relief, but there will also be some who are frustrated by the ongoing lack of progress with this topic – and who would like some clarity either way.
PropTech will continue to grow
It’s long been said that PropTech was close to reaching a natural ceiling, and would start to level off as there became too many products offering the same thing or products that agents didn’t really need. However, research at the end of last year found that UK PropTech investment hit record levels in 2021 and more than quadrupled since 2020, as the fast-growing sector matured rapidly.
According to the research by PropTech-focused venture capital firm Pi Labs, which analysed UK PropTech funding round data for 2021, there had been £1.6 billion of investment into the sector last year, a huge 360% rise from the £347.79 million witnessed in 2020.
What’s more, the figure was more than 15 times higher than the £105.68 million of UK PropTech investment achieved in 2016, suggesting that investment has continued on an upward trend and is likely to do the same again in 2022.
There are certainly issues with PropTech solutions that solve problems agents don’t have, and too many products competing in the same space, but there are also fantastic, innovative, time-saving products that can help boost an agent’s bottom line and drive efficiencies.
As anyone who knows me will be aware, I am a keen advocate of PropTech and don’t think it should be neglected or dismissed. Our bi-weekly PropTech Today column is also a fascinating insight into the key topics affecting this ever-growing sector.
Cyber attacks will continue to be a looming threat
The attack on the Simplify Group of companies last year was one of the biggest news headlines in agency, and the repercussions and consequences of it are still being felt. Unfortunately, the threat level from cyber attacks looks likely to remain high, with Paul Offley, compliance officer at The Guild of Property Professionals, recently warning that there will be more and more cyber attacks on companies.
“It seems that the property sector is a prime target among cyber criminals and every few weeks we hear of more cases where businesses have been hacked and someone has got into their system and is trying to defraud consumers,” he said.
“The criminals who are behind these cases seem to be intelligent individuals who can mirror emails and make it look as though the information that is sent by them to consumers appears to be legitimate and as if it is coming from the business.”
He added: “These types of cases are on the rise and is something that I believe will continue to increase as we go into 2022.”
He says agents should be taking all possible measures to prevent a potential incident, while also saying that human error or lax protocols makes the risks higher.
“No password should be shared with anyone within your organisation other than the person in your business responsible for data protection. In addition, passwords should be complex, so they are difficult to try and replicate,” he said.
“Agents should also ensure that they have processes in place that deal with someone leaving the business, all of their passwords and access to personal and company data has been removed.”
Agents would be well-advised to regularly review their security and data protection processes to lower the chances of being victim to a cyber attack.
A new housing policy will be announced
Governments like nothing more than big, headline-grabbing housing policies – think Help to Buy or Starter Homes in recent years. If nothing else, they prove a distraction – and heaven knows the current government needs that right now.
The Johnson administration introduced some new schemes last year – namely First Homes and the 95% mortgage guarantee scheme – but they could look to act again to attempt to leave a legacy on the housing market.
Don’t be surprised to see a shiny new scheme at some point this year.
So that’s that. Feel free to agree or shoot down in flames my predictions. This time next year I’ll either be hailed as the next Mystic Meg or completely wrong on all fronts! We’ll have to wait and see.
Before I go, a quick shout out for a new series we’re looking to run – the top 30 under 30 in agency. Too often, young people in agency – whether they’re junior negotiators, social media starlets, suppliers or running their own firm – don’t get the credit they deserve, and we’re looking to change that.
If you have someone you’d like to nominate, or you’d like to nominate yourself, please get in touch with us on firstname.lastname@example.org, or through any of our social media channels (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc). Here’s hoping for a great response!
Until next time…
*Nat Daniels is CEO of Angels Media, publishers of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today. Follow him on Twitter @NatDaniels.