The best part of my job involves meeting the key individuals in the property world, and I'll use this blog to share their 'Property Intelligence' with readers.
We all know Phil Spencer’s expertise lies in tips for buyers and sellers in a ‘live’ market but we rarely hear his longer-term views on the property industry and the downturn. He and I spoke at length on these this week. The headlines are:
• No one predicted the downturn's scope because no one knew the scale to which banks were exposed – not even the banks knew – and when that was realised “it all tumbled down very quickly”;
• Estate agents are enjoying the buzz of recent months but he says “they’re realistic it doesn’t mean all systems go again” and property is “a sober business” today;
• Agents have been more honest than many expected in assessments of the downturn and forecasts for recovery so now “they’re trusted and listened to”;
• Phil sympathises with developers squeezed by politicians (wanting houses not flats, bigger rooms and greener designs) and by the public (“the problem for builders is that everyone’s a NIMBY”);
• His big worry is taxpayer debt – “the burden after baling out the banks is monumental” – and believes a feel-good housing market will return only when the public involvement in banks is no longer required;
• The industry shouldn’t regard “frenzy years” like 2006 and 2007 as ‘the norm’ to which we could return. Instead a gently rising market is to be preferred;
• Individuals shouldn’t make more money from the appreciation of their home than from their job. “You go to work chiefly to earn money – you have a home chiefly to feel safe and comfortable” he says.
Phil has a property book out on 1 April, is signed up for three more years of Location, Location, Location on Channel 4, and – although no longer involved with Garrington – he is “having fun helping one or two private clients find homes”.
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