First published by Best Advice
What will the next 12 months bring?
Given the year we had during 2021, it would be unsurprising if there wasn’t a slight sense of trepidation about what the next 12 months might bring.
After all, unless the housing market becomes the recipient of another, incredibly generous stamp duty holiday from the government, then I think even the most optimistic amongst us will sense that – purchase-wise at least – we are unlikely to hit the heights of activity per last year.
Recent positive activity online holds promise for the property sector
That being the case, opportunities still appear plentiful, as many of us in the UK continue to question our property arrangements, whether these are based on doubts about current suitability, or thoughts on investment, or helping the younger generation, or indeed how the pandemic will continue to play out. Where we live, where our nearest and dearest live, and where we might live next are always going to be front of centre.
Indeed, talking to a number of industry contacts, and reading some of the early data, it would appear that many people spent their Christmas and New Year holidays thinking about this quite deeply. Enquiries and activity already seem positive, even though there is more doubt about Covid, Omicron and where we are heading.
Continued knock-on effects of Covid
This appears to be an important point because, as we are seeing ourselves, large numbers of people are testing positive, resulting in isolation, and this is clearly going to impact the market in several ways. A number of our surveyors are having to self-isolate, customers who had booked in surveys and valuations are doing the same and therefore can’t be visited, so there’s undeniably a knock-on effect already.
In a way, however, and no one is suggesting this isn’t a serious issue, there is some thought that – as a housing market – it is better these types of issues hit now rather than later. Seasonal activity is baked into our market, and traditionally, January/February isn’t the time of year when we see the biggest volume of work. If this continues into Easter and the Spring in general, then we may be thinking rather differently.
2022 is therefore likely to be, at least initially, a year when we are finding solutions to pandemic-related issues, but the fundamentals of our market look unlikely to change. Demand remains very high; supply is what it is, but it is encouraging to read about more properties coming to market because, given that demand, this is always a requirement.
It’s not always easy being green…but it’s increasingly necessary
Where else might our sights be trained throughout the rest of the year? From my perspective, it looks highly likely that we will be talking about energy efficiency, green mortgage products, EPCs and the like, much more in 2022.
Not least because of the backdrop, which is likely to see utility bills increase drastically, but also because of the government’s need to see action (and results) in this area. There appears to be an acceptance that a large majority of the UK’s housing stock is, on the whole, not the most energy efficient in the world and action has to be taken over the course of the rest of the decade to move this dial.
To do that, we need to focus much more on education in this area. I’ve seen some recent research amongst property owners that shows a lack of awareness around EPCs, and how the government is likely to ‘use’ them in the coming years. And, even if people are aware of their current EPC rating, just how do they improve it to the levels that are likely to be required?
Up-to-date information and increased awareness is key to improving energy efficiency
Again, this is a big focus for us as a business and will be core to our proposition going forward. We’re already working on products to tackle this specific issue, and we’ll be ensuring every single one of our surveyors completes their Domestic Energy Assessor training in the first quarter of this year.
Lenders are already being held responsible to a certain extent for the property’s they lend against, and their current EPC levels, however we also have to understand that an EPC currently lasts for 10 years. How many properties are still working off the basis of an EPC carried out 8/9/10 years ago? A considerable amount and we need to ensure we have up to date information, so property owners and the lender can be completely aware of where they stand and what they could do if improvement is needed.
There is a lot to digest here, and I suspect the government is going to focus far more on this area in the months ahead. We should all be preparing ourselves to support clients on this matter – education is going to be key.
Simon Jackson is managing director at SDL Surveying