“If we don’t demonstrate the good things about our industry, we expect to be scrutinised…We need to get people thinking about the range of fantastic careers in our industry” (Melanie Leech, Chief Executive, British Property Federation)

The British Property Federation (BPF) is the voice of the UK property sector, whose role it is to communicate the sector’s impact on the UK’s social and economic wellbeing, ensuring that stakeholders who influence government policies understand the implications their decisions have on the UK property sector.

The challenge

The world is changing, and the property sector has to respond to external challenges and drive change internally to build future success. It is increasingly under challenge to be, and to be held accountable to be, a force for good. The ability to support local communities depends on their trust, and on creating effective partnerships.

As a result, the BPF commissioned Populus to undertake the largest ever perception audit of the sector, to understand what stakeholders and the public alike understand about it to create an optimised communications strategy and ensure its voice is heard by critical decision makers.

What we did

Populus took a “two pronged” approach conducting research among:

  1. Senior stakeholders, including in-depth interviews with MPs, journalists, City Leaders and NGOs and a survey of MPs; and
  2. The general public (those with indirect impact)

The result

Populus research shows that overall perceptions of the sector are often drawn from personal interactions. The current level of favourability towards the property sector is quite low with only 27% of the general public and 37% of stakeholders favourable towards it. However, there are a number of opportunities for the sector which lie in the fact a large number of respondents are undecided on their current perceptions of the sector (51% of the general public, and 46% of stakeholders).

Nevertheless, while overall favourability is currently low, most understand the sector’s economic impact. 64% of the general public and 77% of stakeholders agree it has made a significant contribution to the UK economy. Indeed, people are generally positive towards careers in the property sector which are seen as varied and in demand, and which give an opportunity to “do some social good”.

The road ahead for the BPF

The main challenge the BPF now faces comes down to the fact that the current perceptions people hold do not reflect the reality of the modern industry the property sector would like to be, and these perceptions are what need to be redefined. Currently most of the general public agree the sector favours wealthy people (69%) and that it is dominated by men (53%). One focus group participant summed up their perceptions of the property sector by describing “smartly dressed guys who wear expensive watches and would drive expensive cars. They’d sell properties like this that are really unaffordable to the likes of me.” The challenge for the BPF is to make the public more aware of the positive impact the property sector has, either through its provision of vibrant, successful town centres or by allowing other sectors to prosper. Currently, agreement with both is very low, only 14% of MPs agreed that the sector is responsible for vibrant, successful town centres and 23% said it allowed other sectors to prosper.

The BPF will now use this research to help shape their future strategies, focussing on contributing to a productive economy, nurturing a diverse and skilled workforce, strengthening local communities and safeguarding the environment. The property sector is one that touches everyone’s lives so there are unrivalled opportunities to improve understanding and change initial perceptions.