Here's To 2011 - Or A Load of Crystal Balls?

I try to stick to reporting, not punditry, but as it is the holiday season here are some property-related themes I forecast we should look for in 2011. We have all read the experts’ views on the sales and rentals markets and prospects for interest rates, but I’m talking about broader industry-wide subjects. Here’s to a good year.

A blog entry by Richard and Graham Cherry on the Countryside Properties website, perhaps lost in the noise and snow just before Christmas, was the clearest sign yet that volume builders are thawing in their opposition to the coalition’s localism line. It is unlikely that developers – historically big Conservative supporters – will keep up their distaste for Pickles and Shapps throughout the next 12 months. But it will be 2012 at least before there is evidence that the government’s policy will produce more new homes (or not).

In the latter stages of 2010 there was a lot of criticism of the old indices – the ones from mortgage lenders, websites and assorted bodies which found that a monthly figure about prices proved a low-cost method of getting their names in the papers.
Such criticism will grow further in 2011 and expect some indices to fall by the wayside instead of more localised, nuanced data. A recommendation to merge the DCLG and Land Registry indices was poorly reported just before Christmas, but we should expect this to be implemented before the spring.

Two agents tell me they are going to adopt radical new sales techniques in 2011 – one in particular is going to market some top-end houses at show-jumping events, golf tournaments and music festivals. If we have left the era of believing there will be a ‘recovery’ (because the current market may be as good as it’s going to get for some years) these innovative sales techniques may take off, and rapidly.

The coalition may go one of two ways – or possibly different parts may go in different directions, and not for the first time. Firstly, its leadership may further plans to fight the next general election on a joint ticket; secondly, its back benchers may become troublesome in a fiercely partisan fashion to ensure the parties are separated in the eyes of the public in time for any future national vote. Either way this will put the spotlight on Labour to come up with some (indeed any) clear housing policies.

Expect at least some of the more establishment names in estate agency and house building to get wise to social media in 2011. There are seminars arranged for some big London-based players in the first quarter of the year, to explain what it is and how it works and – critically – what they are missing in brand and marketing terms by continuing to stay aloof. Watch this space.

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