Wednesday 22 May 2019

Top real estate firm blames downturn as it lets staff go

JEROME REILLY

THE slump in the property market is forcing real estate agents CB Richard Ellis to lay off 13 of its 140 staff.

"The job losses are a direct result of the reduction in volume. If we thought that this was going to last three months or six months, we would not have taken this sort of action. But we believe it's going to be 12 months before we see any real recovery."

He said the job losses would go across the board but he did not anticipate any further redundancies at the company.

"I don't believe there will be any further job losses. It is not our intention. We believe this is the right number."

He said CBRE was a multi-disciplinary business and while some parts were at their busiest ever, business in some areas had "turned right down".

"What's needed is more liquidity in the market. The banks have to start lending to each other again. I understand that a lot of the banks are trying to build up their balance sheets and that won't be done by necessarily extending their loan books at the moment, but it is going to have to happen," he added.

"I think confidence is playing a huge part. If you don't get confidence back, people will just sit still and look after their cash. The European Central Bank is talking about further rises in interest rates and people with cash are saying to themselves they'll stick with the cash," he added.

"What is required is action that would make the cost of doing business in Ireland cheaper, things like stamp duty. You get very few foreign investors in Ireland for commercial real estate. One reason is the cost of doing business here in terms of fees and stamp duty, which are among the highest in Europe," he said.

Most of the job losses are among recent recruits to the company and are generally people in their 20s.

"It came as a shock to everyone involved," said one worker. "The redundancies took place in CBRE, which is the commercial side of the business. It was a shock to people who only got the news on Friday.

"The department heads told the individuals concerned first thing in the morning and then we were all called into a meeting and there was an official announcement made at 11 o'clock.

"It's due to the difficult trading conditions. Things are a lot tougher now," he added.

"The reason is that the company expanded a lot during the boom years and now they obviously don't have as much work and they're tightening things up a bit.

"Everyone knows how bad the market is. The property market is in serious trouble now, there's no hiding that.

"But it's more so in the residential market, the commercial market is stronger.

"CBRE is still going to do good business this year. Their valuations and property management department are extremely busy. But some areas of commercial, such as development lands and sites, aren't doing very well," the staff member added.

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