After a tumultuous 2020, property’s leading figures share their hopes and expectations for 2021 as the year gets off to a rocky start with yet another lockdown.

Jacob Sullivan

Jacob Sullivan

Sales director, Regal London

I think there will be a sense of renewed optimism, but it will be a cautious start to the year. With the stamp duty threshold increased until the end of March, the whole industry will be busy trying to finalise purchases before the reduction ends.

With the vaccines roll-out, I suspect we’ll get back to some level of normality after Easter and see a positive outlook for the rest of the year and into 2022.

Last year was an unusually turbulent one, although there have been some real positives since May, when the property market reopened.

Being quick to adapt to Covid-19 guidelines and maintain our construction work force helped keep us on track and the market remaining open through the second lockdown in November also made the world of difference in reigniting confidence in the market, which was a real boost felt across the economy.

Kerri Sibson, Knight Dragon

Kerri Sibson

Sales and marketing director, Knight Dragon

Last year was an unsettling reset for all of us, but I expect to see a long-term positive change in how we behave and interact with each other. Developers need to understand how this change in mindset impacts our role in creating people-focused places.

My hope is to see creative industries flourish again. At Greenwich Peninsula, we’ll be playing our part in this by opening the doors to the Design District, the first dedicated home for London’s creative community. I hope that with the support package we are putting together, we are able to help nurture the industry through this tough time.

By helping some of the capital’s most artistic and innovative minds find a new home, we can establish a thriving cultural ecosystem on the Peninsula.

Graham Sturge

MD, RED Construction Group

It has been exceptionally tough to see the capital’s unique character, buzz and sense of excitement subdued since March 2020.

However, while the city has been without its usual spirit, I am grateful that RED is part of an industry that was able to push forward during this time.

We have progressed many key London developments, including state-of-the-art offices, heritage residential sites, new independent hotels and forward-thinking mixed used schemes. These are the places that, collectively, breathe life into London and form the fabric of its identity.

My aspiration is for this resilience of the construction sector, and the work of RED specifically, to contribute to the rebuilding and regeneration of the London we all know and love. In creating these great spaces and environments for people to discover and reconnect with, I hope 2021 will be the year in which the capital rises up again.

Stephen Benson

Stephen Benson

Co-founder, Rivercrown

Last year was a tough one for everybody. People have lost loved ones, jobs and businesses. So I look forward to the world turning a corner.

In real estate finance, Covid-related restrictions mean many sponsors with sound business plans and assets with strong fundamentals entered 2021 in distress.

I hope we will see an outbreak of common sense, and that assets such as hotels and residential developments, offering excellent mid-to-long-term prospects, should not face short-term finance issues. I hope our special situations credit vehicle and equity business can help the market recover.

We should also hope that Covid-19 can finally force the industry to accept the need to press the reset button on many long-term structural imbalances. The pandemic has accelerated the shift toward online shopping, flexible-working and proptech.

To bounce back, the industry must continue to evolve to reflect modern lifestyles. Hopefully, the market has been given the kick it needs to adjust. In the meantime, fundamentals will rule, and 2021 should see a flight to quality assets.

Nigel Howell

Nigel Howell

Chief executive, FirstPort

Economically, 2021 looks set to be a mixed year, with big housing transaction volumes in Q1 ahead of the planned end to the stamp duty holiday, but Covid-spurred unemployment weighing on the market in Q2. Overall, it should be a steadier and improving picture by the Autumn, however.

It looks like 2021 will be the year of the consumer. Leasehold reform is promoting additional models of building ownership and greater resident decision making, which should be celebrated.

With potentially more responsibility on customers’ shoulders, professional property managers will help navigate complexity by providing greater confidence, clarity, and choice for residents.

Longer-term challenges show few signs of abating. We’re seeing higher than ever building safety standards and most important will be issues around cladding and fire safety.

We have heard a lot of views on how buildings can be made safe and mortgageable in 2021, but clarity on what will happen after the Building Safety Fund closes, with the growing recognition that the fund does not – and perhaps cannot – go far enough, will play a major role in maintaining momentum.

Dan Cohen, Purpose Group


Dan Cohen

Founder, Purpose Group

I imagine we’ll still have a bumpy ride through the first quarter of 2021, but from early March, I expect there to be a significant bounce back.

People’s behaviours have unquestionably changed, and probably for the better, but they will return to the office. This will be crucial, not only for business, but for the younger generation that is coming through who need that interaction with more experienced colleagues, to learn and develop and be the leaders of the future.

I hope that with that return, businesses are able to focus some attention on their local communities, too. We opened Purpose at Tottenham, The Archives in 2020, a 10,000

sq ft repurposed ex-factory, and my hope for 2021 is to deliver space that will contribute to the Tottenham community, providing flexible and affordable spaces that fit with people’s business needs and lifestyles, and that have the breathing room for creativity and inspiration.

Philip Ratcliffe

Phil Ratcliffe

MD, Drees & Sommer UK

Two words: commitments and decisions. For understandable reasons, 2020 prevented a lot of both, but to have a healthy and active property market we need both.

The UK is undoubtedly still a great place for investment, talent, innovation and for living, and we need commitment to these, promoting these across the world now more than ever, as we need to re-establish our place in the world order.

Above all, I hope we go back to showing global leadership in many areas, not least the sustainability and environment commitments needed to ensure the future is secure.

These predictions have been edited at the editor’s discretion.

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