05 January 2021
Property Predictions 2021, by Nigel Howell, Chief Executive, FirstPort
The economic and social landscape
Economically, 2021 looks set to be a mixed year with big housing transaction volumes in Q1 ahead of the planned end to the Stamp Duty holiday, but then with Covid unemployment weighing on the market in Q2. Overall, it should be a steadier and improving picture by the Autumn.
The effects of the pandemic are fundamentally changing the way people live. The ‘new normal’ is an increase in flexible working and more time at home, and the importance of neighbourhoods and ‘micro communities’ has never been clearer. Our resolution for 2021 is to make sure that, as property managers, we are agile and responsive to consumer trends and we are creating communities that add value.
The year of the consumer
2021 looks to be the year of the consumer. Leasehold reform is promoting additional models of building ownership and greater resident decision making, something which should be celebrated. As things develop, consumers will want to see that there is democratic decision making about the things that matter the most to them about their homes, and accountability and redress when things go wrong.
With potentially more responsibility on customers’ shoulders, professional property managers will play a vital role in helping to navigate complexity, and improved regulation can benefit consumers and the industry alike. We support improvements to develop three key areas for consumers:
- Confidence – improved confidence in the property management industry
- Clarity – increased transparency so consumers can make informed decisions
- Choice – new ways for consumers to exercise control and choice when it comes to their site management.
Better training and higher standards will provide the backbone for improvements in our industry. Ultimately, it is about driving higher standards across the sector so that choice between different operators can be meaningful.
Building safety issues high on the agenda
We’re seeing higher standards than ever on building safety, and most important will be issues around cladding and fire safety. Customers want a safe home environment and peace of mind that regulation and standards are being exceeded.
We have heard a lot of views on how buildings can be made safe and mortgageable in 2021, but clarity on what will happen after the Building Safety Fund closes, with the growing recognition that the fund does not – and perhaps cannot – go far enough, will play a major role in maintaining momentum from the last year.
Timing is critical and any changes to leasehold needs to be in tandem with a new building safety regime to ensure residents receive the support they need.
Digital innovation drives better experiences for customers
If lockdown has shown us one thing, it was how technology can underpin the way society operates and how we support customers and colleagues. We live in a connected and consumerised society in which individuals demand easier and more bespoke services. So, our resolution for 2021 is to deliver technology enabled property services that improve customer convenience and experience. We will also connect more easily with our colleagues, contractors, clients and buildings. We’ll do this through improved technology and digital innovation that adds to the people-led approach we already have – a pioneering combination we believe is vital for our industry and for residential customers everywhere.