I don’t mind admitting I have been amazed how well the housing market has thrived during the last 12 months. When we went in to lockdown early last spring two of the three pillars of a strong property market were in serious jeopardy. Employment and availability of mortgage lending were facing a huge threat in a world of uncertainty.
Whilst mortgage lending criteria did undoubtedly tighten it never reached the restrictions seen in the financial crisis of 2008. Furlough rode to the rescue of the wider employment market avoiding the catastrophe of mass layoffs and subsequent mortgage defaults or distress selling of homes.
After lockdown 1.0 lifted the property market came back with a vengeance. Whether it was the need for better working from home space, a garden or simply an extended period of time in a home they didn’t like buyers raced to the market. Housebuilders were already making up for lost time in sales when the Chancellor turbo boosted the market with a stamp duty holiday. Cue: a buying frenzy.
Housebuilders’ forward sales positions strengthened by the week during the summer but with no sign of the end of the pandemic they were very wary of increasing staffing overhead. Many questioned whether this was simply pent up demand from the first lockdown which would quickly evaporate as the wider economic realities began to bite.
An extension of furlough helped to avoid any dip in buyer interest but the announcement of vaccine discoveries during the autumn became the milestone in terms of staffing. With many housebuilding senior management teams seeing this as the beginning of the end of the pandemic they were far more confident about recruiting senior staff in to their business. The result over the past four months or so has been as competitive a staffing market in house building as I have known in 25 years.
I have seen salary band busting offers to strong candidates and ferocious counter offers by house builders desperate not to lose key members of staff. Many candidates have reflected on their employer’s reaction to the past 12 months and have chosen to reciprocate loyalty or equally decided to move on to a new challenge.
As we progress through 2021, I expect to see those house builders who have embraced new working practices (some working from home, greater flexibility and trust) and permanently embedded them to reap the rewards in terms of both recruitment and staff retention. There is no doubt that employees expectations have been reformed by the pandemic and in an industry which is so short of experienced staff meeting those expectations will be critical.
I would love to hear your experiences over the last year and what you expect from the remainder of 2021.
Feel free to email me or call me on 07946 577145.