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MAY 2012 | WORDS | John Howell Pause for thought

OPP’s long-standing legal columnist John Howell is about to become the magazine’s next editor. It is time for a bit of a review he says, and a quick tour of the industry’s key talking points, as he prepares to take things on to their next stage of development.

you know, you have been made the editor! I suppose that this is my final column as a columnist. Rest assured, I will continue to bore you senseless as the editor! And, because it is my last column, it is probably a good opportunity to review where I think we stand today before I get tied up with all of the politics and pressures that inevitably come from being the editor. I supported OPP when it was first


set up because I thought that the industry desperately needed a voice and a place to exchange ideas and information. It needed something that was just for the industry with no overtones of consumer protection and no aspirations to address the general public. Don’t get me wrong. I think

that consumer protection and the presentation of the industry to the general public are also very important but they are a different task for a different organisation. That is why I also supported AIPP when we fi rst set it up. I think the need for a place to share ideas and information has never been more acute than it is today. We all know that – without

exaggeration – the industry has been devestated in the last few years. Those of you who have read my

earlier columns will know that I don’t think this is going to get better any time soon. If anything, I think that it is likely to get worse before it gets better. It is true that most of the people I speak to around the world are fi nding things a little better now than they were 6 or 12 months ago and I was encouraged by the number and quality of the people attending the A Place In The Sun Live show two weeks ago. I also understand that there has been a good level of interest

loody hell! You agree to write a couple of columns for them and the next thing

in other events in Europe and the Middle East.

That is the good news. The bad news is that I don’t think we are anything like fi nished with the Euro zone crisis. Spain will probably be next. The banks there are in desperate trouble over the number of delinquent property loans in the portfolio and the government has, bravely but perhaps foolishly, made it pretty clear that they are likely to have to dump those properties onto the market at much lower prices. This will not only affect people dealing with property

I believe that one of the survival strategies is to address multiple markets

in Spain but it will have knock on consequences throughout the Euro zone and around the world. Once again, you will have to be

effi cient and on the ball if you are going to survive. I have said many times that I believe that one of the survival strategies is to address multiple markets. If you are selling property in (say) Italy you should be offering it not only to your traditional western European markets but also to the Russians, the Azerbaijanis, the Chinese, the Middle East, the Americans etc.

Many of you are already doing this, but you will need to do more of it, and better. That is diffi cult. It is hard enough to market to one culture let alone six or seven and it gives rise to obvious questions about how to address these markets, marketing materials, appropriate staff and so on. I believe that one of the roles for OPP should be to do the research and make these materials available to its readers so that they can decide what is going to be best for their business

without having to spend vast amounts of money. What I have said applies to developers just as much as it does to agents. Today most developments I deal with have funding from all over the world. How do you fi nd out what is

available, what works and what doesn’t? How do you know if the people who approach you are just out to con you out of your precious money? OPP should be able to help you answer these questions. What marketing works? What doesn’t? What about the new media? Can you really sell property to ordinary people via Twitter or Facebook? What about the upcoming media opportunities that most people haven’t yet even heard of?

I am sure that you have all had

the emails about the latest internet marketing miracle devised by some geek in California or (just as often) Mumbai. Do any of them work? OPP should help you fi nd the answers. What about regulation? It is not in anyone’s interest to have this industry caught up in scandal after scandal as the greedy con the gullible into believing that they can make

John Howell of John Howell & Co is a specialist in international legal and property advice. Email:

a risk-free 50% per annum return on their investment. What should OPP do about this? What do its readers want? Can we help fi nd an industry consensus to put forward to governments around the world? Finally, what about new entrants to

the industry? At the APITS show I met several people who had just started new businesses. They were full of enthusiasm but little else. Certainly not cash or knowledge. Can OPP help them acquire the latter without spending too much of the former? If I can help us all make an honest living in times of worldwide crisis, I will be very happy. Perhaps, after a few months in the new job, my aspirations will be much more modest. I hope not. I hope you have enjoyed my columns over the years and I thank those of you who have taken the trouble to contact me to tell me how much you liked/hated what I had to say or simply that you thought that I was a total *!**??!



Bearish | The market may very well get worse before things start to get better

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