Now the election is over, the real work begins for agents

Written by Steve Richmond, General Manager UK&I at Reapit

On balance, a stable new government with a large majority is good news for the sales market. Labour’s costed spending plans, coupled with new Chancellor Rachel Reeve’s prior experience at the Bank of England, will help reassure markets and investors that economic stability will be prioritised. These factors should play well with the money and housing markets, helping to stabilise or even lower the cost of borrowing through lower interest rates – factors that will help stimulate the post-election sales market.

Promises from Labour on mortgage support for first-time buyers and reform of planning laws will take time to deliver. However, as speakers commented at our recent election webinar, Labour’s immediate focus will be on high-impact changes that won’t add significant costs to the public purse. Across the property sector, this means one thing – enforcing better housing delivery standards through compliance with existing laws.

In the short term, we can expect an increase in enforcement rather than new laws. Expect a flurry of press releases from various government departments detailing the lengths they have gone to in protecting consumers from bad agents, conveyancers and landlords with stricter enforcement. This could take the form of a more determined enforcement authority (trading standards) cracking down on material information breaches, or local authorities enforcing compliance with EPC regulations and the obligation to provide tenants with all the required documentation before their tenancy commences or when an eviction notice is served.

Lettings will also be affected by the reforms Labour has pledged to undertake, as my colleague Neil Cobbold, Reapit | PayProp’s Commercial Director, has commented in his assessment of the policies touching agents, landlords and tenants.

 

What should the industry do in preparation? Property professionals should have three aims: First, knuckle down and make sure your team dot the i’s and cross the t’s. Greater scrutiny of their actions – especially in such a high-profile industry – is an easy lever to pull to demonstrate a new government’s priorities without too much effort or cost. The risk of non-compliance ranges from fines and banning orders to potential prison time, as well as significant damage to your agency’s reputation. At a time when the industry will be under renewed scrutiny, we also don’t want to see sensationalist headlines bringing the sector unnecessarily or unfairly into disrepute.

 

Secondly, reassure yourself, your colleagues and your clients. Labour has outlined an entire range of measures that will impact both sales and lettings – it is your task to add some context to the headlines and inform your clients. While change is coming, it won’t happen overnight. At the same time, there are opportunities ahead for you and your clients, especially with so many new homes being planned and incentives for first-time buyers. Setting expectations and building that foundation of knowledge with your clients now will set you up for future growth.

 

Finally, start building that relationship with your local MP. After all, you are the property expert in your area! Your insights on the trends shaping the sales and lettings market could help inform your MP when they come to vote on the next piece of housing legislation that will affect your agency, vendors, landlords and tenants. After all, if you’re not part of the conversation, the industry could be painted as the problem rather than the solution by other interests that already have the ear of government. Without you talking to your MPs, we could see agents grappling with regulation that does nothing to improve the sector, but just adds to our workload.