A leading agent has been in touch with EAT to vent his frustration at the government for extending most of the current Covid restrictions – and he says that indirectly they will cause damage to the agency industry and the housing market.
The agent, who is close to the top of a large corporate chain, says their “mood music” created by the extension, and what he calls the “growing fear” being spread about the Delta Variant, are likely to make people pull back from plans to buy and sell.
The agent wishes to remain anonymous and says he is speaking personally, and not on behalf of his company.
He also wishes to stress that he is not being complacent about Coronavirus, nor understating the difficulties faced by political leaders having to decide on the so-called Roadmap out of the restrictions.
“But my issue is this. As we’ve pulled back now, what happens in three months time when another variant produces some uncertainty? Then after that it’s winter and we go indoors a lot – when the government is likely to be more cautious still. Do we reintroduce restrictions for each variant about which we know little?” he asks.
“The cumulative effect is to make people think we’ve moved backwards, not even standing still. People think there’s more danger than there was, not less, despite the vaccines. So will they move house, and buy or rent? No, they’ll be uncertain and sit on their hands.”
The agent works and lives in London but his company has branches throughout much of Britain, and he says a more geographically targeted approach by the government would have been much less damaging to the economy, and to public morale.
“If you look at the apparent success the government has had virtually eradicating the Kent Variant, you can see that targeting areas really works. And they work without frightening everyone else in other areas. That should be the approach from now on” he suggests.
The estate agency industry has escaped with apparently very little damage from the pandemic so far.
Transaction volumes and house prices have boomed, the rental market is strong and there have been very few reports of agencies’ bottom lines suffering. Many national agencies and other industry players such as Rightmove and OnTheMarket have even been able to return their government furlough funding.
The agent who contacted Estate Agent Today appreciates that a complaint from the agency sector, especially in the light of the stamp duty holiday, appears eccentric and may win little sympathy. But he insists his worry about the indirect effect of the restrictions on the housing market will be played out in other sectors of the economy too.
“The overall damage will be to slow recovery, reduce incomes, cut jobs, possibly reduce tax take for the goverrnment. But worst of all it will damage confidence and open the door to an autumn and winter of stop-start restrictions.”