Daily Archives: July 8, 2008

John Gapper

The housing downturn that started in the US now seems to be hitting the UK, where I am at the moment, with a vengeance. It makes me wonder what will happen to all those estate agency branches that throng so many high streets.

I suppose know the answer to that already. Fifteen years ago, I spent a lot of time covering the tribulations of the UK building societies that had bought estate agency chains in the housing expansion of the late 1980s and were lumbered in the early 1990s slump.

Abbey National, for example, sold the Cornerstone estate agency in 1993 for £8m, or £23,000 per branch, which was a tenth of the price it had paid to buy the chain six years earlier. Many other building societies also divested loss-making agencies.