Strong attendance at the recent 'A Place In The Sun' event in London was another good example of what we knew all along – that British consumers never lost their belief in property ownership, for lifestyle and investment, and will always come back to it as their preferred asset class to put any spare income and savings into.
But the questions I am asking myself over and over again at the moment are these; what are developers and sales agents offering that’s different? How have they changed in response to the changing needs of the market? What are the attributes that differentiate the credible specialists from the cowboys trying to make a quick buck in a beauty pageant like a holiday home expo?
And I’m often left struggling for answers..
It’s staggers me to still see advertising almost every day offering ‘guaranteed returns’ that outstrip anything else the market has to offer, and marketers aggressively pushing short-term opportunities that look like nothing more than property paradise ponzi schemes.
I thought members of the buying public would have learned by now that ownership of any old property in any old country is not the closest thing to free money they can get, as many clearly had thought over the middle part of the last decade. As one investor told me once, "the property market in a global capitalist economy is just an organised system for transferring wealth from stupid people to smart people"! If the last two years have done nothing else they should at least have inoculated holiday home owners and landlords against the thinking that market diligence and financial planning was for wimps.
From a quick straw poll of some of my friends and associates in the industry, most shared the opinion that interest levels at the ‘APITS’ show were strongest for the territories that have seen the greatest severity of political or economic turmoil in the recent period: Egypt and Thailand have both been the subject of social and political revolution at the hands of their citizens. There’s Spain and Portugal, with their recently down-graded credit ratings having staved off EU bail-outs with bond issues. And the US, where the markets have shown their continuing vulnerability to global events following the crisis in Japan.
Maybe I’m underestimating buyers though, because what this tells me is that people are learning that opportunity is created not simply by the existence of a global property market, but by movements in that market. What attracts people more than anything to a particular destination or type of property investment is any compelling event that causes market movement. That could be a sudden influx of new people or capital, the promise of security or prosperity that previously wasn’t possible, the (re)introduction of credit, a shift in currency value even, or any number of other factors that we read about in the news every day at the moment.
And it has come as no surprise to me recently to see a steady flow of positive news from the Dubai; a safe harbour in the Middle East with a moderate political outlook, an international business and resident population, and a strong grip on the oil markets with prices predicted to reach $200 a barrel! All good stimulus for property enquiries…
However, I still believe there’s a growing immunity to slick campaigns using seductive advertising. Buyers need more than that. They want to know the credentials of the people they are dealing with. They want to share information and experiences with other like-minded individuals. They want people like us to personalise opportunities to be more relevant to them, and to collaborate better with partners in our space. All these things we can and are doing to change our market going forwards, and I believe this is where the realisation of the benefits that great companies can offer will be most apparent.