It’s good to be back! I have to confess I was feeling a degree of trepidation about returning to Property Week after 11 years at The Grocer.
I knew the title had changed hands and there had been some departures, and I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about immersing myself once again in the elite, testosterone-fuelled, deal-driven world of property.
Like Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby, these were people whose voices sounded “full of money” — I was definitely the outsider looking in, which is partly why, after interviewing the same middle-aged, white men for the umpteenth time — brilliant and inspiring though many of them were — I called it quits in 2003.
On both counts, I’m happy to report my anxieties have been unfounded. The team here made me feel welcome immediately and, for my part, I can only say I feel privileged to be joining such a talented, driven and enthusiastic bunch at such an exciting juncture, not just for Property Week, but for the property sector — as both look to a bolder, brighter future after a period of uncertainty and change.
As for the industry, fittingly, before I’d even managed to make it into the office for the first time, I attended Property Week’s inaugural Open Plan roundtable event (se related stories).
As you know, we’ve taken the unusual step of asking readers to help shape our manifesto for diversity. Some might say that’s akin to asking turkeys to vote for Christmas and that offering the incentive of ‘doing the right thing’ is a bit naïve.
But here’s the thing — the great and the good who took part in the debate did vote unanimously (and vociferously) for Christmas and made it clear they do want to do the right thing — not just commercially, but morally. Moreover, although there was the odd familiar face, they were a far more diverse group than I recall encountering during my previous stint at Property Week.
If the industry does walk the walk rather than just talk the talk, a major evolution could be on the cards — as it appears to be in government following the savage reshuffle undertaken by Cameron this week.
Now, there’s a man keen to embrace diversity (or to be seen to be), and it was heartening to see more women brought in (and white, middle-class men shown the door… if you’re not one, that is). However, the jury has to be out on the new joint post of housing and planning minister, a more senior role yes, but one that combines two very big remits.
Amid all this change, it was more a case of plus ça change with another big story this week. As we report on page 5, JLL has launched a third round of bidding for MEPC’s business park portfolio — more than a fortnight after it called for first bids. Meanwhile, the asking price of £400m has crept up to £420m.
Clearly, the revival in the investment market means the power is with the seller, but it’s not much fun for the bidders, especially when they’re repeatedly told it’s the last and final round… only for the seller to then try and squeeze them a little more.
Maybe the agents are just doing their job in securing the best price for their client in a good market. But isn’t it a tad morally questionable? After all, we all know what can happen when property prices are artificially driven upwards…