I was intrigued to see Boris Johnson’s recent comments with regards to the Olympics and the suggestion that one of its unintended consequences would be a large spike in the number of ‘sickies’ being taken by employees in order to watch the Games. He also went on to say that ‘working from home’ during the next couple of months would be nothing more than an excuse for workers to watch the Games whilst checking their emails every couple of hours. Apparently ‘BoJo’ is not convinced that the Capital’s workforce will be entirely productive were they to stay at home.
As usual it’s a mix of the incredible and downright bizarre from the London Mayor particularly given the fact that Transport for London (TfL) is actively encouraging commuters to work from home during the Olympics in order to cut the strain on what will be a bursting to capacity transport network. So, one wonders where is Boris coming from? Either he wants employers and employees to help out TfL and stay at home/avoid busy period or he wants them to come in and add to what is bound to be chaotic scenes at major stations.
Given we have had over seven years to prepare for the Olympics I am still left wondering how everything is actually going to work and run during the next couple of months. These sorts of events do only come around once in a generation however one can’t help wondering what the true impact will be for a variety of industries? Johnson was seemingly suggesting that workers should not stay at home but instead get into London and take (business) advantage of the huge increase in visitors we will see during July and August. That’s fine if you’re selling ice-creams or offering guided tours around London, but what of the rest of us?
What about those sectors which are likely to be completely unaffected by any ‘Olympics buzz’? What happens to the housing market for instance during the next eight weeks? While a number of canny homeowners are renting out their homes, flats, gardens, and anything else that could house visitors, the chances of us seeing a spike in house purchases based on any sort of ‘Olympics effect’ is slim to say the least. Will visitors to this year’s Olympics come back in the months and years after to buy properties here? I doubt it.
Indeed, the signs are not promising and, to my view, all stakeholders within the housing market from estate agents to brokers, lenders to conveyancers, are bracing themselves for a marked slowdown in activity. From the soundings we have taken there are a number of nervous individuals and businesses who believe the Summer slowdown could have a very real impact on their 2012 profits. Agents in particular are stressing to us that the market is changeable and that one week will differ greatly from the next. Many have all but ‘written off’ the market until September and are hoping there will be a post-Olympics push that keeps them on track.
Brokers are also uncertain of how this period will play out. I’m not suggesting for one minute that watching the Olympic Games will somehow get in the way of housing transactions taking place, but it certainly might mean less prospective buyers out there viewing homes and ultimately this could have a real impact on business volumes. Some people will always need to buy and move, regardless of what else is going on in the country at the time, but many will wait it out.
As always the message to advisers with active clients is to ensure that they can provide all the services they need ‘under one roof’. If we are all anticipating a Summer slowdown then the important thing is to maximise the business available during this time period. For many this will not just mean mortgage and protection advice but also insurance, conveyancing and any potential other introductions, perhaps wills, for example. We are not suggesting advisers attempt to sell products that are not suitable for the client but instead to simply make sure that all the client’s financial needs are taken care of by you, rather than someone else.
Whether you work in multi-million pound London offices or from home, this message will not change.
Harpal Singh is managing director of BrokerConveyancing.co.uk