Confessions from the City: The West End property agentComments Off on Confessions from the City: The West End property agent
Life has just got tougher for me. In the market place for West End offices, it was a very slow summer.
One client said the other day he would like to thank Boris Johnson (remember him?) for allowing him the first summer holiday he has had in years that wasn’t plagued by constant calls and emails.
Ostrich syndrome has set in. As an industry, we appear to be adept at sticking our heads in the sand when the market shows signs of turning. It never ceases to amaze that, with a business cycle that shows an eight- to 10-year repeat and the last bust, caused by Lehman Brothers, in September 2008, everyone blunders on. We are certainly due a readjustment — particularly after the last three to five years of rapid and arguably unsustainable rental growth.
The larger firms are pretending, swan-like with feet frantically flapping away below the water, that there’s nothing to worry about. The rest of the commercial property world is, as ever, more concerned with short-term gains than long-term projects.
However, this uncertainty has a spin-off: the number of invitations to functions for property launches has exploded. Normally, I accept the invitation to some canapé-fuelled yawn-fest and don’t turn up, but I’m having to waste my evenings touting for work of late.
It’s not all big breakfasts and boozy lunches, though — demand for offices in the middle of our fair city still outstrips supply, Brexit or no Brexit.
Stroll down Shaftesbury Avenue into Soho and you won’t spot many prime sites to set up stall in. There are definitely too many piggies with their snouts in what is likely to be a decreasingly-sized trough. That said, there’s still some who think the golden days will return after the summer slowdown. I doubt it.
What’s needed is a reality check.
The old-school table-thumping is not working, and having meetings with the marketing buffoons isn’t going to make a difference. Since when did brainstorming with a bloke called Barney gain anything but an inflation of the alpha egos of those dictating the meeting? Time to quieten down, guys — the world has changed.
And what about the difference Brexit has made? With the poor supply of offices, short-term rents just ain’t going down — we’ll have to wait a while yet to see the real shakedown from Brexit.
Annoying as it is, it’s time to pop the Veuve Clicquot back in its bucket, and roll up my sleeves.