One of the Capital's biggest letting agents is predicting a “substantial” fall in rents as the property industry faces up to "the most horrific" set of circumstances he has experienced in 40 years of business.
Between 15 and 17 jobs are set to be lost at DJ Alexander across the company’s three main arms, sales, rental and maintenance, following the end of the government’s job retention scheme, the Evening News can also reveal.
David Alexander, who founded the firm in 1982, said the industry could take “years to recover” from the coronavirus crisis, and said the property market crash in 2008 was a “tea party” in comparison.
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He said: “This is the most horrific thing I have gone through in my four decades. The 2008 crash was a tea party compared to this.
“Then there was a crash and then it stabilised. But now, would you want to move house or buy a new house during this? The market could take years to recover and we don’t know if prices will fall.”
The property veteran blamed the influx of former Airbnb properties which he believes will lead to a long-term reduction in rents and the complete freeze of the property sales market for the job losses.
He added: “I would doubt very many people will be looking at moving house at this stage.
“The Airbnb market has collapsed and more people are putting those properties on the long term market which makes the problem even bigger.
“You have a vast number of empty units, there are thousands of properties available and rents are about supply and demand and if you were looking at renting something to day, would you be offering £1,000 if the landlord was asking for it?
“My own thought is that there will be a substantial drop in rents and the Airbnb situation has exacerbated that.”
The jobs lost will come from across the business with Mr Alexander confirming around 17 jobs are likely to be lost from more than 100 employees.
Mr Alexander said there was little he could do but look to three or six months into the future and reduce overhead costs.
He said: “It is what the future holds rather than the last two months. We have managed to make use of the Job Retention Scheme, but we have got to look ahead and see how the business will look in three or six months time. Every business should be doing that at the moment.
“It is a very sombre conversation that we are having to have with some members of staff but the reality is that it is what it is.
“We are looking at other ways or redeploying other people, we are looking at every option that we can. The final figure, I don’t know. It will be sooner rather than later, there is no point keeping someone hanging on.
“Hopefully we will get back to where it was and we can recruit again and some of the people we are letting go, we would be delighted to have them back.
In November, the company received £7m from Santander to help launch their new online property business Apropos, now another potential casualty.
Mr Alexander said: “This has not helped at all. We were three years in the making and just at the time we were ready to go, the whole country is in lockdown.
“It is not ideal but we have just got to get on with it. We have to make sure people are safe but it will come to an end.
“The real difficulty is not knowing how it will end and how things will look in the future.”