'As we face into 2024, there is still much work to do'

What a year it’s been — with record inflation (although it has started to edge down), a volatile mortgage market, much higher interest rates than we’re used to and an ongoing cost-of living crisis — there’s been plenty to keep us all on our toes.

In the commercial market, activity has certainly been lower than previous periods, although we’re now seeing signs of stability returning.

However, all in all, it’s been a tricky time for lenders and brokers alike, as investors perhaps sat on their laurels to see whether rates were likely to come back down before purchasing.

Energy efficiency has been in focus, with the government changing tack on EPC regulations, although it’s clear that this is still important to investors, who — with one eye on the future — are still seeking properties which are more energy-efficient. 

In the BTL world, the emphasis has been on affordability concerns for landlords, who, along with everyone else, have experienced significant mortgage rate hikes, leaving them with a dilemma as to whether to pass on these costs to tenants or try to absorb them. 

There’s also been the spectre of reform around tenant protection — with the proposed abolition of Section 21, which would prevent landlords from making no-fault evictions and only allow them to end tenancies on a prescribed list of grounds, put on hold.

This may be good news for landlords fearing loss of control over their assets, although there’s no doubt that tenants need well-thought-out protection to ensure that all landlords adhere to the same standards. 

Providing support where it’s needed 

Closer to home, we’ve navigated the challenges the market has presented and we’re proud to have supported our brokers and clients as much as possible this year.

Steps like launching our first commercial investment product have meant that we’ve been able to enhance our support for property investors, supporting economic growth and regeneration.

This year also saw other significant milestones, like restructuring our sales team and undertaking large scale recruitment as part of an ambitious growth strategy, with broker and client support at its heart. 

We also got under way with a series of topical themed roundtables — which is a great example of how we’ve recognised and addressed some of the challenges our brokers and their clients are facing — and we gathered some useful information which will help us to mould products and propositions going forwards. 

Finally, we’ve enhanced our website offering, making it easier for brokers to find the information they need; and improved external communications, ensuring that information is shared in the most engaging, efficient, and timely way possible with all our brokers. 

A new year approaches

As we face into 2024, there is still much work to do.

For the market, the continued impact of the cost-of-living crisis and high interest rates means squeezed budgets for consumers are likely to continue. 

As for commercial investment, although demand has been relatively flat this year, in 2024 we should see an increase, as investors start to make their move and seize the opportunities that inevitably arise in a depressed market for those in a position to seize them.

In the BTL world, landlords are likely to continue feeling the pinch as they look to remortgage or expand, and this is set to continue.

The longer-term impact of all this on the PRS, is yet to be fully understood. 

We’ll be looking at recruitment — including promoting internal talent wherever possible — to best serve our brokers and customers as we embrace the future.

We’ll also be looking at gaps in the market where we can add the most value with new products and propositions, inspired by what we’ve heard from brokers, so watch this space. 

Until then, I’d like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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