The new year has started, I am sure there are many of us that will not be sorry to see 2010 passing as we look forward to 2011.
Well, when I say look forward, I do not mean with the schoolboy anticipation once held while queuing to watch the latest Star Wars movie. Regrettably, I simply mean look ahead, since eager excitement for the next year does not appear to be widely felt.
I am a publisher (much loved by all!) and I will leave forecasts for those paid to read the tea leaves or gaze into their crystal balls.
We reported last week that housing minster Grant Shapps believes that we could see prices come down over 2011. Others agree, predicting a slight recovery beginning towards the end of 2012. I wish the forecasters could predict the long-term weather or the mood of my staff with the same confidence.
Shapps wants to see a return to a stable housing market: he states that house prices doubled in the last ten years.
According to the Nationwide house price index that goes back to 1952, in 1970 the average house price was £4,378, and by 1980 it was £22,677 (a five times increase).
A house bought at the 1990 average would cost you £54,547 (just under a two and half times rise). By 2000, you would be paying £77,698 (just under one and half times rise). Today’s average house price is around the £167,000 mark – so, in fact, house prices have more than doubled in the last decade.
It was the nature of the speed of growth and the sudden readjustment that caught us all, not the actual rise in price. Looking at these stats only, does it suggest that actually we are around where we should be? Is the worst over?
I recall from my schoolboy biology lessons an experiment with bacteria and a petri dish. We were taught that the bacteria would grow rapidly and then die back to a sustainable level for its environment. Are we at that time now?
From figures I have seen, in November alone there were 29 new agencies opening – that is new companies, not additional offices or relocations. So there are a number of people out there who are seeing an opportunity in house sales for 2011, and good on them.
The big news has to be lettings: lettings departments are no long the poor relation to the sales office, and demand is up, yields are up and the sector is thriving. To respond to this demand we will be publishing sister publications for both landlords and letting agents, but more news of that in the New Year.
It would seem that with various forecasts and the Council of Mortgage Lenders warning that lending is likely to be even lower in 2011, the immediate future of well-run lettings departments and agencies is rosy.
But let us not get complacent. People are now starting to say things like “Well, your business is still here, so you will survive…”
We must remember the lessons of the past three years. We must keep one eye constantly on our balance sheet, one eye on our core business and another eye on other opportunities. Yes, three eyes. We must evolve as an industry. We must engage with our clients more.
Some years ago I was given “Who Moved my Cheese”, by Dr Spencer Johnson. It’s a small book, with big print, just up my street. It took me 40 minutes to read and I am still learning from it. However, it is never a bad thing to have a mental nudge to put our thoughts and goals back on track.
In my office we have lots of motivational quotes over the walls and this is my favourite:
‘Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’ –
As agents (sales or lettings), we can no longer afford to close a sale and move on to the next one. The cost of acquiring that client has been incurred, but most of us stop trying to keep them on board and merely hope that they will think of us next time they move or wish to buy.
There are many products and services that cost little or nothing to agents that will give value to both your client and their purchaser (who is obviously a prospective buyer/ seller) and can generate income easily for the company. These go beyond legal and mortgage services and can help to build an ongoing relationship with all the consumers you deal with, growing your customer base.
We are launching a new and ground-breaking initiative in 2011, aimed at helping you understand the range of products and services that can benefit you and your clients.
It is free to our readership who want to take part and we believe that we can help you have a commercial edge. I know how busy we all are, especially in the current climate, trying to generate revenue, and it is very easy to become embroiled in the day-to-day fog of our jobs and not see the opportunities that are around us.
We are calling the initiative “Partnership for Profit” and if you are interested in taking part and sharpening your pencil, send me an email and we can take it from there. (email@example.com)
I’ve also been thinking how can EAT help. How can we help spread the knowledge that without doubt we collectively possess?
So here’s an idea. I’d like you to share/ pose questions to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) which I will publish (anonymously) and ask other agents for their thoughts and publish the responses/ suggestions/ advice in my next blog. So have a think about what your biggest challenges are in this market. Have you carried out a SWOT analysis? What is it that could give you this edge?
In summary, I see many reasons to actually look forward to 2011. We are in a period of opportunity and a time for us to redefine what we deliver to our clients and to our bottom line. There will be many success stories over the coming year.
One of my team visited an agency in Essex last week: two people selling, no lettings department, established in 2010 and closing 20 deals a month. A formidable performance even in times of growth. But I am sure we will see many more examples like this and we’d like to feature them, so please share.
Let’s move into 2011 positively and embrace the changes that we all need to make to make ourselves achieve.
Happy Christmas and a great new year.