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  • Writer's pictureMark Harbottle

Trying to hire? Try buying a house...

2022 has well and truly begun. If the challenges of my current role, bringing up a two year old, and starting a Level 7 CIPD qualification isn't enough, myself and my dearest wife have decided to buy a house. It got me thinking about how similar the housing market is to the recruitment market at the moment.

Disclosure, I'm not going to dive into the economics of the housing or talent market. I'm also not going to say anything you perhaps couldn't come up with given half an hour on Rightmove or Indeed. TL;DR, challenges are overcome with good work and persistence.

Let's think about the parties here: a buyer is our candidate. An estate agent is our recruitment agency, a seller is our employer. The price of a house is our salary, and stamp duty is very much our agency fee. (side note, I've never heard of a recruitment fee holiday!).

In a period of dramatic change as the last couple of years have provided, the face of housing has changed alongside the recruitment marketplace. The pandemic has caused a dramatic shift in the way we work; more time at home, less commuting, arguably a much better work-life balance. People have reflected on their work and home life and are choosing to adapt to accommodate a changing world.

Some of the biggest changes include the need for a home office. Many houses aren't big enough for, say, 3 or 4 bedrooms and an office (or two, in my case!). I've had many zoom calls over the years with people in their living room / kitchen / spare room, managing as best they could. In the housing market there is a race for space. Equally, after a short but significant economic downturn, many companies are booming again as the world opens up and spending increases and looking to hire fast. This is our demand.

The increased home working, and subsequently less time in the office, means that a longer commute a couple of times a week is much more manageable. Homeowners who have previously needed to be near the office (let's say a one hour commute radius) now find themselves comfortable with living further away, or in some instances the other side of the UK because they're now almost fully remote. The knock on effect is that those looking to buy in your home town changes from 'other people in the area' to 'absolutely anyone from anywhere in the UK'. In the job market, employers who are offering remote working can now consider applicants from anywhere in the UK. Suddenly you (employer or buyer) have a lot more competition to deal with. This is our talent pool.

Given recent economic and environmental impacts there are of course movers, but there is also caution. Will there be a housing crash? Are interest rates about to go through the roof? Maybe I shouldn't move house yet. Will there be an economic crash? Will my next employer go out of business? Maybe I shouldn't move jobs yet. Suddenly there are fewer candidates and houses on the market than there normally would be. This is our limited resource.

So what are respective buyers and employers doing? Well they need a new house, or they need to grow through hiring, so they're pushing up salaries, and house prices are going up to reflect the demand. Economies of scale are all over the place. Historical residents of that there London are upping sticks and buying in Northern coastal towns with London budgets. Organisations are happy to pay above market rates to get the best hire, whether they live in Aberystwyth or the Hebrides.

It doesn't feel normal does it? But is this the way the world is going? Who knows. They (whoever 'they' might be) are calling this year the year of the squeeze. Bills are on the rise, national insurance is going up, inflation and interest rates too. I really do have a lot of sympathy for those who are feeling this - particularly as I fall into this category. It's going to make moving house really really hard. Who can blame anyone willing to accept a higher paid job, or an offer above asking price? In the same way that I have issues with companies throwing money at problems and hiring purely based on salary, I also have issues with local money being taken out of local communities, as people 'move' to new places and spend their working week in the capital. But this blog post is not for me to rant about these issues.

I do have some suggestions based on personal experience - it's about sticking to what you believe in. For the employer, it means not giving in to pressure to inflate salaries to keep up with The Jones'. It's believing in your business, your offering and sticking to your Principles. That's what we've done at Cronofy - we pay well (and fairly), but not the top of the market. We doubled our headcount last year through promoting the things that are great about working here, and building on our employer brand. We are spending time and money on marketing, but it's been wisely spent. Great people joined us for the right reasons, not exclusively for the pound signs. Be excellent and be persistent.

But what about the housing market? Well my approach will be the same - be patient, wait for the right house to come along, don't pay what you can't afford, and if it's not meant to be then move on to the next house. Know that it will happen. It's true that houses in the area are now more expensive than they used to be, but I take solace in believing a positive attitude goes a long way.

I think to summarise, these last two years haven't created new problems, but have really highlighted and accelerated some of the issues we've all been dealing with.

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