We have once again reached the point where Hayley has asked me for my final newsletter editorial for the year. How the years roll by! In the staff ‘round-up’ of the year talk the other day I said that this had been one of the most anxious years for new legislation affecting our industry since I started in 1979. I’ve worked through three recessions, seen the introduction of the Housing Acts, the Estate Agents Act, the Property Misdescriptions Act as well as the anti-money laundering regulations but none posed as much a threat as having to adapt to the requirements of the Tenant Fee Act in June this year. Government gives no guidance on how agents are supposed to adapt, leaving agents to sort things out for themselves. The legislation was a fiscal threat to agents and I forecast to my management team early in the year that we would be saying goodbye to some of our industry colleagues.

My forecast proved correct. Despite being our competitors, I have been sorry to see some well-known local names being bought out or merged with other agencies, the long-standing business names soon to fade into history. Equally, some very knowledgeable and professional individuals whom I have known for 20+ years have left the industry. I know that what we are seeing locally has also happened nationally, with one firm, Humberts (who date back to the mid-1800’s), having closed leaving a number of franchisee’s akin to lifeboats drifting after the ship has gone down.

Estate agents are not the most popular people in the UK (respected far more in the States and Australia than in the UK) but these agencies have staff who need to earn a living, and the senior staff and owners have spent years building their businesses, as I have, to see it all disappear as a consequence of one piece of Government legislation.

I’m pleased to say we are not one of those businesses. We analysed various options for how we could adapt to the Tenant Fee Act. We determined what we thought the optimum strategy and implemented it over a pre-planned period. I am relieved to say, it was a considerable success with clients not losing any money in the medium term and tenants saving money in the short term – a win/win result. As a consequence, our business remains robust and healthy, with Angie Wright firmly at the helm of our lettings and rental teams, Michael Davies heading up our sales team (although with experience of every aspect of the business after such a long relationship with Moores) and with Gemma, Oneeka and Emma having full control of our Property Maintenance and Finance departments respectively.

Everyone is very upbeat, and looking forward to a busy and productive 2020 on both sales and lettings (I suspect Gemma and Oneeka would secretly prefer not to be as busy on the repairs and maintenance side of our lettings business, but we have no control over boilers that stop working, drains that block, etc.) With the election out of the way and with this ‘new’ Government having a big majority, I suspect the property market will regain some of the waning confidence we saw in the latter half of 2019. Exciting times ahead for anyone who owns property, I think.

May I conclude by wishing all our clients, tenants and customers, a very joyful and peaceful festive break and may you all have a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.