As an avid follower of Property Industry Eye, it seems that every day brings its new challenge to estate agency.
I speak with business owners across the country, and whilst we agree that the news doesn’t look pretty, for most this doesn’t match their experiences or indeed mine.
During the past month we have seen the country’s largest high street estate agency’s share price hit an all-time low of less than 6p.
Or to put that into context, 25% of the cost of a finger of fudge.
Many of the great names in estate agency are closing offices in a bid to reduce costs, and the suggestion is we’re likely to see 2,500 offices close their doors for the last time this year.
This contraction of the high street doesn’t seem to be an off-line/online thing: this is not about Woolworth being wiped out by Amazon.
In the past 12 months we’ve said goodbye to eMoov, Hatched and House Network.
Others have reduced headcount whilst the number one, Purplebricks, has also felt significant pressure on share value, although this appears unrelated to its UK activities.
I suspect that the high street contraction is more to do to with the market itself. Overall property transactions have declined, with the Land Registry reporting a run rate of 900,000 for the last year, down 5% year on year.
Contrast that with over 1.6m prior to the last economic downturn, and today’s volumes are predicted to be broadly in line with 2011-12.
The rental sector appears to remain broadly flat having grown 160% in the past decade to over 4.5m households.
What is surprising is that whist things do indeed look tough, the demand for talent remains strong.
In the first four months of this year on average 2,700 jobs were advertised each month in estate agency on Reed.co.uk, one of the country’s foremost jobs boards.
Meanwhile the country is currently experiencing its lowest level of unemployment in 45 years at 3.8%, nearly half of what it was just 7½ years ago.
Where are we seeing the big demand? I have witnessed significant growth in franchises and alternative business models, or to put it another way, businesses which give talented people the opportunity to do it for themselves.
Be in no doubt that today more individuals are weighing up the pros and cons of self-employment and coming to the conclusion that they would rather control their own destiny.
Sadly the bad news stories underline that, as with most other industries, the days of long-term job security with an employer are now be numbered.
The loyalty of talent appears to have little value in the reality of a world dominated by economics.
I’ve heard it said that some people don’t have the ‘X factor’ to be an entrepreneur.
This hasn’t been my experience.
I believe entrepreneurship is a skill: just as you’d study to become a doctor or engineer, so you can to become an entrepreneur.
For most it’s the perceived lack of opportunity for practical application or support that hampers them.
Then again, why would an employer foster their own talents’ entrepreneurial ability when the natural outcome will be for the talent to leave and do it for themselves?
And here’s the thing: the foundation stones of today’s estate agency were laid by entrepreneurial talent.
Estate agency has evolved hugely, particularly over the past 40 years, but for many, the entrepreneurial spirit and the desire to control your own destiny burn as strongly as ever.
* Joshua Rayner is founder of specialist recruiter Rayner Personnel