Glynis Frew, Chief Executive of Hunters Property Plc, www.hunters.com
Despite the doom and gloom that often fills the media, the indomitable British spirit of aspiration and ambition will always prevail. That is certainly the case when it comes to property.
The old saying goes that an Englishman’s home is his castle, and it is one that is as true today as it ever has been. The Budget contained a number of measures that should fill us with optimism. The most prominent, of course, being the abolition of first-time buyer stamp duty for properties up to £300,000, by which the wishes of the young and the advice of the industry have been heard and acted upon.
It is not only an encouraging development in the context of transaction levels, but also from a psychological perspective, where aspiring homeowners can be optimistic in the knowledge that a helping hand will be there when leaping onto the ladder. Any move that seeks to reinforce that spirit of ambition and aspiration is one that will have my full backing.
The commitment to building 300,000 new homes is another investment in the future and also in those trades we rely upon to deliver it, whether they be small developers, bricklayers, or the range of other construction workers. Any future activity must embrace variety; building a range of homes that people really want to live in, and creating a market that is as accommodating to renters as it is to homeowners.
The world of lettings has grown at a rapid pace, with many consumers now preferring to rent a home rather than to buy one, and the government must continue to evolve with this change in demand. The regulatory environment must also continue to evolve, building on the excellent progress that has been taking place.
After working in property for as long as I have done, I cannot overstate the importance of a well-managed sector. The vast majority of landlords and agents have always delivered and will continue to deliver a top level, professional service, although a small minority of rogue practices and figures have learnt how to exploit market freedom and navigate the landscape without regulatory scrutiny.
As the market changes, some elements of the industry also need to be addressed. Consumers are often surprised to hear that property portals and online operators are not subject to the same regulation as traditional high street agents, so it is encouraging to see that consultations have begun to look into the changing nature of online agency. Consumer transparency must always be an essential part of what we do.
We must continue to raise our professional standards to the highest level and I think education lies at the root of this. Initiatives such as the Hunters Training Academy are a fantastic way to encourage businesses and to ensure staff are trained to deliver a high-quality service.
We’ve invested heavily in the initiative since we launched our estate agency qualification last year, which is now endorsed by the National Association of Estate Agents and The Association of Residential Letting Agents. To date, 849 people have registered to our academy.
The roll-out of similar initiatives across the industry would only serve to improve its reputation and improve standards across the board, which are sometimes tarnished by the small minority.
Whilst there are of course limitations to the housing market, I do not subscribe to the narrative of a broken one. The conditions for aspirational and ambitious consumers are there and we have a supportive regulatory environment that continues to evolve at pace, where business and consumer interests will stand side-by-side to create a flourishing market.