Gareth John, Managing Director of leading estate agent software developer AgentPro has joined the calls for urgent reform in the housing market.
“Today’s report from the NAEA confirms what those of us working in the property market have been saying for years, that the house buying process is overdue for reform.
“Professional Estate agents are tired of being ‘blamed’ for the housing crisis, whether it’s for supposed gazumping or for charging letting fees. Any reform seems to target ‘rogue’ property professionals rather than address the real issues.
“I’d encourage Sayid Javid to talk to my estate agent customers before making headline grabbing speeches based on assumptions about what the property market needs. ‘Gazumping’ was an issue in the eighties, but the market is now incredibly competitive and the practice is rare these days. The property market has evolved and responded to change, but my clients feel they have had little support from consecutive Governments.
“Our estate agent clients now operate both online and on the high street. They use software like AgentPro to make both cost and efficiency savings in every area of their operations. They are almost all now working with online property portals to improve marketing of property for their clients. Despite vast improvements in service and efficiency levels, fees are becoming increasingly competitive – and their costs are rising.
“The profession is facing heavy competition from online agencies who operate at vastly reduced costs. Online only agencies have no high street presence and some are purely property marketing tools. We welcome improved choice, but it’s important for customers to know that the service they get may be different, and for them to know what they will get for their fee. As we’ve seen with the PurpleBricks saga, this is not always made clear to the customer.
“My professionally qualified customers are unhappy at the threat of even more legislation to tackle non-existent issues when there is a very real problem in the housing market. Our estate agency clients who are there on the front line know the problems and what’s needed to solve them. What’s more, they have been saying it for years.
“It’s harder than ever for first time buyers to get on the property ladder. The young professionals who would have previously bought are now being forced to rent while saving, and with increasing rents, and no social housing, saving is taking longer than ever before because disposable income is falling and inflation is rising.
“As if that were not enough to stem the flow of buyers, increased stamp duty is stemming it further. Given that every single task undertaken by the Land Registry is already charged for, like many of our estate agency clients, I fail to see the value of Stamp duty whatsoever. It is an illogical tax that is stagnating the property market, it bears no relation to income and serves no value other than to raise funds for the Treasury. Regressive taxes like this are out of step. This tax is applied to hard-up, fed-up buyers who have already had to save more and for longer than their parents or grandparents just to get that first step on the property ladder.
“Many of today’s renters are professionals, literally £10k – £20k from being able to afford to buy a decent sized property, but they are struggling to save their deposit. Helping them would free up valuable rental accommodation and get the property market moving.
“The Government also needs to support private rentals for the low paid while there is inadequate social housing to meet the needs of those who will never be able to buy. Making it increasingly punitive for landlords who buy-to-let, and making rent payments to tenants more complicated will only make it harder. The new Universal Credit crisis needs to be resolved. Most properties these days are let very quickly, and less affluent tenants are often excluded, as the new system is seeing them fall behind with rent – the result is understandably unhappy landlords and 59,260 homeless households as last reported in 2016.
“Both landlords and estate agents should not have to work for nothing, so I’m joining my customers in their calls for change. The chancellor has a very real opportunity to deliver meaningful changes in November’s budget – I hope he takes that opportunity to improve the housing market rather than making unnecessary headline-grabbing moves that will only stifle it further.