As a property professional, if you were to take a quick survey about the housing industry what do you think your score out of 10 would be? 

Do you know how many pieces of legislation affect or impact our roles as clerks, what the industry is facing in the next six months in regards to the abolishment of Section 21, how many eviction cases are backed up waiting to be heard in court; would you know? Does it matter? 

I often ask these types of questions during training sessions with InventoryBase Academy or when I am talking with new business owners or clerks setting up their services.

Why?

If you understand the industry you operate in you are better equipped to understand your clients (both established and new) pain points, what and who is impacting ‘their’ business and how any changes (negative or positive) could funnel down into yours. And any loss your clients feel is likely to have a causation effect on yours.

Case in point: Tenant Fee Ban

When the ban was first muted there was a huge outcry against what many of the housing sector felt was an unnecessary and even draconian step by the Government  

Both before and after it was introduced in June 2019 there was a lot of concern that letting agents would close, there would be mass redundancies due to the loss in revenue. Clerks predicted they would see a dramatic downturn in bookings and even lose their businesses. And tenants, although would be much better off with more money in their pocket, were equally worried that they would be left to the mercy of the landlord or, at the very least, be massively disadvantaged by what they perceived as bias in favour of the agent or landlord.

COVID aside; the reality has been somewhat different; no major closures relating to the Tenant Fee Ban, no mass redundancies and not (from what I can see) a mass exodus of clerks from the industry. 

Don’t get me wrong; this hasn’t been all plain sailing for the industry. 

Agents have increased their fees to landlords which led to the concern that this would create a potential knock on effect on rental prices. The most recent survey by ARLA Propertymark seems to indicate that rent rises haven’t really been an issue as less than a third of agents witnessed landlords increasing rents in November (2020). I’ve been told that clerks in some areas have had to renegotiate fees and, in order to reduce overheads, letting agents have been taking property reports in-house albeit not to the levels some thought.

The key point to note here is that the majority of inventory providers and property professionals in the industry chose to be proactive and work with clients to understand what the impacts looked like. And by finding a way forward such as increasing efficiencies, report costs were not forced downwards to reduce overheads although equally, they may have not increased in line with inflation (such as it is). This has helped towards minimising any negative impacts on their businesses. 

By talking to clients, listening to their pain points and understanding how the Tenant Fee Ban would impact the industry; inventory providers have taken the initiative and found workarounds to minimize the risks to their income. 

This is all (recent) history I hear you cry! What does that have to do with clerks now?

If there is one thing we should all endeavour to learn from the relentless changes to legislation is that to be forewarned is to be forearmed.

You can’t predict the future but you can certainly plan for it and that means looking at what is happening around you. Don’t wait for ARLA or AIIC to tell you what is happening or what to do (it could be a very long wait!). Educate yourself by brushing up on current regulations, read the latest government posts about proposed changes such as RoPA

Find out what the impact on the proposed repeal of Section 21 will be to eviction. Research how many tenants are waiting to go to court as landlords seek to repossess their rental properties and what impact this will all have on the number of homes available to the private rental sector (PRS). This can and will affect the volume and quality of stock available to letting agents as we move into 2021. And this then can have a direct impact on the number of reports commissioned and revenue realised as inventory providers. 

Knowledge is power and everyday should be treated as a learning opportunity; an extension, if you will, of your continuous professional development.

What you don’t want to do is adopt a ‘I’m alright jack’ mentality. 

Looking after your own self interests can limit your growth from a business point of view and feeds into the common perception amongst many providers that we will only work alone (in silos). 

Our lack of understanding about the wider industry has the potential to limit new revenue streams as we fail to see or engage with opportunities off the back of issues experienced by the customer base that could be exploited (in a positive way) and to their benefit.

For example: lockdown and whether it is safe for clerks to carry out interim property visits. 

The Government states that house moves can continue even in Tier 3. But they advise that letting agents may want to consider obtaining landlord and tenant consent for inventory clerk appointments for inventory and check outs including vacant periods. Although reports can still carry on, interims are more difficult as, quite rightly, the tenant is present and in the home. Advice and guidance does not prevent trades from visiting the rental property but safeguards have to be in place.

By understanding the restrictions, as a provider, you can then develop safe working protocols and also alternative options for carrying out the interim property visit such as tenant self-reporting or (as recently launched) InventoryBase Live inspections.

Again, only by understanding the needs of the customer, the impacts of not only COVID but any changes initiated by the Government can we, as professional inventory suppliers, provide a quality service built around our clients needs and wants.

Take the initiative and be the service provider that wants to engage, support and provide a quality service that is forward thinking and not just looking inwards. 

Did you know: I’m alright Jack – The phrase is believed to have originated among Royal Navy sailors, where a ladder was slung over the side of a ship, and when the last sailor climbed on board he would say, “I’m alright Jack, pull up the ladder”. The use of the name “Jack” derives from Jack Tar, an archaic term for a British sailor. Another variant of the story depicts the origin of the phrase among sailors returning home from duty who, instead of being treated as brave heroes, were forced to fend for themselves in a dog-eat-dog society.

Wikipedia