Three prime ministers, four chancellors, four Home Secretaries and a partridge in a pear tree. It’s been quite a tumultuous year in Whitehall – and that’s a massive understatement! Partygate eventually did for Johnson, Liz Truss’s disastrous mini-Budget ended her spell in Downing Street after only 44 days (making her the shortest-serving PM ever), and now we have Rishi Sunak (who resigned as Chancellor to help force Boris’s hand and lost to Truss in the summer leadership race).
It's been very hard to keep up with and, of course, has had a knock-on impact for the property industry. We’ve seen Michael Gove be sacked and reappointed as Housing Secretary, and in-between very short-lived reigns for Greg Clark and Simon Clarke. There also seems to have been about a million different Housing Ministers this year and numerous changes at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
Only now does that department seem to have some sense of stability again, but housebuilding and planning continues to be a thorny issue for the government and is testing the PM’s authority. The paralysis at the heart of government for big parts of this year has meant very little progress has been made on property-related legislation, although there does now seem to be some momentum behind the rental reform proposals again.
Sunak hasn’t yet announced any major housing policies or schemes, which could be something he seeks to change next year. But he may feel his priorities lie elsewhere. It will be down to the industry to keep up the pressure on the government with regards to transforming the home buying and selling process and other important matters.
Upfront information momentum
Which brings me nicely onto my next point and the progress that has been made when it comes to upfront information on property listings. There’s still a lot more to do, but the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team (NTSELAT) have taken the lead on this, in collaboration with the portals, trade bodies and other key industry figures.
There remains some disagreement over what this upfront information should include – should it really have things like broadband speeds and renewable energy sources, or is that asking too much? – but it’s been heartening to finally see some sense of progress on this most important of issues.
Too many sales still fall through, and sales collapsing are going to hit even harder in a tougher market, so we need the momentum behind upfront information to continue into 2023 and beyond.
Sunak has shown no signs of stalling this momentum, and it seems unlikely the main opposition parties would seek to row back on these plans.
Almost as dramatic as the goings-on at Westminster has been the drama surrounding the ailing online brand, which seems to have lurched from crisis to crisis in 2022.
While it still commands better brand awareness than pretty much any other UK agency, the numbers are not stacking up – with recent financial results that can only be described as dire – and this has led to very public calls for chair Paul Pindar to go and be replaced by industry veteran and former Countrywide man Harry Hill.
A crunch vote takes place on Monday at 10am, with activist investor Adam Smith leading the charge for a change in chairman.
2022 has also seen the beleaguered agency witnessing a change in CEO, with Vic Darvey quitting in March for personal reasons and a delayed appointment of Helena Marston as his replacement. It has also hired agency big hitters Adrian Gill and Gareth Helm, and a new director of risk and compliance, Helen Martin, to try and transform its fortunes.
It’s been in the news probably more than any other property company in this year and continues to be the firm that generates the most debate among our readers. It’s going to be very interesting to see what happens with the troubled brand in 2023.
In an announcement that was at once shocking and somehow unsurprising, Boomin announced in late October that it had entered liquidation.
It was, of course, very sad news for all the people losing their jobs so close to Christmas, but equally there was a certain amount of schadenfreude against the Bruce brothers given their history in the industry.
The experiment hadn’t worked, and Boomin never seemed to offer enough of a USP, enough of a differentiator. There still seems to be an opportunity for a genuine alternative to the major portals, but Boomin, despite the big investment and the TV ads, couldn’t provide it.
At least Agents’ Together, the industry charity set up by Michael Bruce last year, which has been widely praised for its efforts, will remain unaffected by Boomin’s demise.
Of the other major portals, OnTheMarket have continued their revival under Jason Tebb. In a recent LinkedIn video, Tebb jumped on the social media trend of summarising two years of achievements in two minutes – you can see his efforts here. Quite impressive.
Award-winning Estate Agent Today
A slightly self-indulgent one, this, but that can be forgiven this close to Christmas, right? We were absolutely delighted to see Estate Agent Today win Trade Publication of the Year at the 2022 Property Press awards, beating off some fierce competition.
A proud moment for everyone who helps make EAT what it is – there is plenty that goes on in the background on a daily basis to ensure our readers get the best breaking news, features and newsflashes.
And, of course, a massive pat on the back for Graham Norwood and his successor, Marc Shoffman. It was a big moment when Graham – one of the very best in the business - announced he was stepping down earlier this year after eight years of editing EAT, but we knew we were getting a fine journalist to take on the reins, and Marc has already proved this in abundance.
Here’s to many more years of the same. 2023 will actually be another milestone for Estate Agent Today as it celebrates its 15th birthday! I’m sure we will be marking that achievement at some point in the new year.
Before I go, it’s time to wish all of our readers a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year. We will still be running newsletters right up to Friday 23 December, and then running three newsletters in between Christmas and New Year, before returning with a bang on Tuesday 3 January 2023!
Until next time…
*Nat Daniels is CEO of Angels Media, publishers of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today. Follow him on Twitter @NatDaniels.