There cannot be many conferences where the delegates enter the venue as members of one organisation and leave it as members of another, but that is pretty much what happened at yesterday’s NAEA conference held at 155 Bishopsgate in London.
The sell-out event had over 500 delegates attending and the first item on the day’s agenda was the opening address by Mark Hayward, managing director of the NAEA.
He spoke of the high standing of the organisation in government circles and how it now represents some 11,600 branches across the UK.
But that high standing is not so apparent to the general public and so, after much research and consultation with branding experts, all the divisions of NFoPP will henceforth be branded with the suffix of ‘Propertymark’ which will be consumer facing and promote the use of member agents because of the professionalism and protections offered to the public by the organisations.
A major long-term promotional campaign of the Propertymark brand, with substantial funding, will commence later this year.
EYE was fortunate to be given the exclusive opportunity to break the story ahead of all other media and our Newsflash alert generated a large read count and some vociferous comments from readers during the course of the day.
It must be said that there was a marked difference in reactions from those in the conference to those outside it, and in conversation during the day many delegates told me that they welcomed the new identity as a positive. The caveat was that it must be vigorously promoted to be a great success. It will be interesting to have those conversations again in a year’s time…
NAEA President David Mackie gave a presentation that introduced the NAEA board, welcomed the introduction of Propertymark and, fittingly, paid tribute to Peter Light, a highly regarded senior member of nearly 50 years standing in the Association, who died recently and is much missed by those who knew him – and there are many.
As if to underline the good standing of the NAEA in political circles, the first main speaker of the day was Housing Minister Gavin Barwell who gave a lucid, confident and optimistic speech on what is being planned, via this week’s White Paper, to fix the ‘broken’ housing market.
He acknowledged that he does not have a magic wand and that no single thing can fix all the problems overnight, but he is confident that the issue of under-supply of housing can be sorted.
Why is he so confident?
Because he says that we have built quantity before, in the postwar period; that public opinion and attitudes to building is changing (presumably by welcoming developments in their regions?); and, rather curiously, that when he looks at France he sees that they are building in quantity. This factor was rather lost on your correspondent, given that France is five times larger than the UK, has about the same number of people as the UK, and has a vast quantity of property up for sale at any time.
A question from the floor asked the minister if he would deliver the target of building one million new homes by 2020 and Mr Barwell – again with great confidence – assured us all that he will. So that’s sorted then.
A further question led to the minister being asked if he would introduce legislation to regulate the industry – to which he wondered if it was wanted.
When moderator Sally Bundock (host of the BBC Business Live programme) asked for a show of hands of those who would favour regulation there was a near 100% agreement – so, rather to his surprise, the minister was left in no doubt that such regulation is wanted, at least by those in the room.
Gavin Barwell was followed by a speaker from the Bank of England who opened his presentation by telling us that it was being given under the ‘Chatham House Rule’. This meant that it was not to be reported and your correspondent was superfluous for about half an hour and was able to have a quick nap – though not before noting that there were lots and lots and lots of graphs with lots and lots and lots of wiggly lines and that the man from the Bank seemed to know what they all meant.
The after-coffee speaker was Mark Palmer, a branding expert with a first-class track record at Green & Blacks (where he was in part responsible for growing turnover from £4m to £40m a year) and who is now marketing director at Pret a Manger.
His clear message, illustrated with real-world examples, was that there are innovative ways to build a business – not necessarily by advertising. In fact Pret does not advertise at all yet it grows its business and market share. Highly trained and motivated staff who are empowered to enhance the customer experience are a hugely valuable asset – and they consistently deliver quality goods and service to the customer.
It was then the turn of Miles Shipside, commercial director of Rightmove, to take the stage, from where he delivered a Valentine’s Day themed ‘love story’ that melted the hearts of the audience.
His delivery of statistics and research facts about the relationship between customers and agents left not a moist eye in the room, and his expert delivery, laced with puns and innuendo (Italian for pornography…), had many reaching for their handkerchiefs – possibly to stifle their laughter. On a more serious note, Miles showed stats indicating the ‘value’ vendors place on the services agents offer.
Given £100 to spend on the services of an agent, a vendor would use just £6 on an accurate valuation; £24 on the creation sales details; £16 on having accompanied viewings; £25 on promoting the property on Rightmove (natch!); £13 on offer negotiation; and just £8 on sales progression. To my eyes it just shows how little the public understands about what is really important in effecting a successful sale.
Lunch arrived in the form of rather mysterious black-lidded boxes containing small bowls of hot food. Unfortunately these arrived in dribs and drabs from the kitchens which were located just behind the Rightmove stand and so an enormous queue soon formed – all eager to grab some free grub courtesy of Rightmove – who had nowt to do with it.
The NAEA Propertymark team soon had things back on an even keel and I am delighted to report that the vegetarian option of spicy salad together with mushrooms in a creamy sauce was utterly delicious. (I’m not veggie but Mark Palmer had been talking about the success of Pret’s veggie offering and I guess he swayed my choice). The individual apple crumbles topped with cream and a pansy flower were as tasty as they were charming.
Into the afternoon session and if anyone fancied a nap they were not getting one as behaviour specialist Jez Rose leapt up on stage and in a whirlwind of wit took the place by storm.
I have sat through many a presentation from his ilk but I must say this was something really very special and entertaining. It moved with great pace and humour and carried a big message – that whilst we all strive to deliver exceptional customer service, the true magic of service is when it is delivered unexpectedly.
I wish I had the time and space to introduce you to Dr Moodio Bitchio, Mushers, and the Slybertron, but I can only say ‘you had to be there’ – and that you probably have at least one of each somewhere in your organisation.
Time for something completely different as Dr Kristian Niemietz from the Institute of Economic Affairs and Paul Miner from the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England battled it out over the question of whether building on the Green Belt is the answer to the housing crisis. You won’t be surprised that the former said ‘yes’ and the latter said ‘no’.
I particularly liked the analogy that people think of the Green Belt as like something out of Lord of the Rings (it isn’t) and that people think ‘sprawl’ is anything built after their own property was built (they do).
Grainne Gilmour, head of UK residential research at Knight Frank, gave one of her, as always, excellent presentations on the state of the market, noting that they expect a 14.2% increase in prices on average across the UK by 2021.
She also gave us the startling fact that back in the 1970s local authorities built about 50% of the new housing stock each year. Today, building firms are creating about as many homes as they did in the 70s – but the local authority building has of course disappeared.
It’s a shame Gavin Barwell wasn’t around to see that particular slide.
James Dearsely rounded off the day with his take on what is happening in the world of Proptech and Mark Hayward then ended the conference with the self-confessedly cheesy line of ‘I am Mark. Propertymark. Goodnight’.
This was a first-class event for the NAEA, in a superb venue.
Given that there were double the number of delegates from last year, plus a waiting list of exhibitors wanting to take stands, we can look forward to even bigger and better things from the ‘NAEA Propertymark’ conference in 2018.