12 Sep 2013

Are we becoming a nation of estate agents?

Once voted as the second least trusted profession, a record number of Brits are now becoming estate agents. Channel 4 News asks what’s behind the sudden trend – and if it’s here to stay.

They may be among the most hated of all professions. But new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that an additional 77,000 people joined the real-estate industry over the last year – one in every four jobs created last year.

This means that 562,000 people are now employed as estate agents or property developers – the largest number since records began in 1978 – and they show there has been “an upturn in market activity and confidence so far this year which has given estate agents the confidence to invest in people,” said Miles Shipside, commercial director at Rightmove.

Joshua Rayner, managing director at Rayner Personnel, told Channel 4 News: “The last 12 months have been the busiest I’ve seen in more than ten years of property recruitment, reflecting the growing volume of property transactions.

“I’ve noticed estate agents are valuing their staff more than perhaps they did in the past. Keen to capitalise on the opportunities, today they’re looking to offer long-term career paths and really reward their top performers.”

On the up?

Chancellor George Osborne said austerity measures pursued by the government are leading to economic recovery. Treasury officials believe the economy has entered the “next phase” of recovery – only months after economists feared the UK was set to plunge into an unprecedented triple-dip recession.

However, despite the upturn and feel good factor, Mr Shipside told Channel 4 News that “the market is still recovering from the heavy blows of the last five years.

“Estate agents, like many other businesses, cut staffing heavily in a bid to become more streamlined when the credit-crunch hit.

“We have not yet seen a marked increase in the number of new branches opening – just the number of people employed by existing branches, and, even then, both branch and staff numbers are down on historic levels.”

House prices rise

In June house prices rose by 3.1 per cent year-on-year to £242,000 on average, marking the strongest annual upturn in the last six months.

On a monthly basis, values rose by 0.4 per cent, equalling the increase recorded in May. House prices in London have soared by 8.1 per cent year-on-year, but growth remained patchy, and in Scotland and Northern Ireland prices edged down by 0.9 per cent and 0.4 per cent respectively.

Wales recorded the strongest annual house price growth in the UK, at 4.3 per cent, while England saw a 3.3 per cent rise.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) report said house prices are rising at their fastest pace since their 2006 peak last month.

The number of would-be buyers looking to enter the market in July also saw the strongest growth in four years, in further signs that a recovery is “round the corner”, the survey said.


But Bank of England Governor Mark Carney has also urged caution. He told the treasury select committee the bank remains “vigilant” over a house price bubble, as prices and demand are pumped up by government stimulus schemes.

It could recommend banks set limits on how much households can borrow, he said.

“Overall, my view is that the announcement has reinforced recovery,” he said. “There has been a change in the pace of activity without a question. This is welcome but we should not be satisfied with it.”

Channel 4 News asked followers if they thought if people’s views of estate agents had changed: