I am not being unnecessarily jingoistic but the UK truly has one of the best property and construction industries in the world.
We are the people that delivered the Olympic stadium on time and to budget; the Channel Tunnel, one of the greatest engineering triumphs of the 20th century; and the soon-to-be-opened Elizabeth line. All slam-dunk success stories and envied the world over.
However, if you viewed recent headlines focusing on the residential property sector, you would never guess it. First, there was the leasehold/new-build scandal; then there were the landbanking claims by Corbyn and Javid.
And now there is the issue of “dream homes turning into nightmares”, whereby it is claimed by The Times that Bovis failed to satisfy vast quantities of its customers who seem about as happy with their new homes as a season ticket-holder at Arsenal.
In its editorial, the newspaper castigated Bovis, saying “taking customers for granted is no way to run a business”.
Herein lies the challenge for those working in the built environment. We are not selling a product like a car or a washing machine. We are selling aspiration, desire and a sense of achievement. For the UK population, residential housing seems a key touchstone issue.
Bricks and mortar have morphed from being an asset class into a measure of your success or an award of excellence to be paraded at dinner parties. Those who provide that product are therefore in the firing line when the system fails.
I draw attention to this because I sense it is about time our industry started to fight back. We are no better or no worse than any other area of manufacturing, except our product is very much labour-related and the less skilled labour that is available, the more challenge there is to develop properties on time and to budget and to maintain quality control. No firm goes out of its way to create problems for itself.
There is also an issue of presenting a positive face to potential school-leavers. I am old enough to recall the 1970s when a genial Lawrie Barratt was seen leaping out of his helicopter inviting young, wide-eyed couples with rictus grins to take advantage of his outstanding homes and magical prices.
Maybe Uncle Lawrie is a bit last century, but there needs to be some trust injected back into the relationship between property provider – whether contractor, developer or landlord – and the consumer.