Property brokers cutting costs amid fears of large scale job losses

Property brokers and investment bankers in Europe are tightening their belts as major job losses are predicted a year after the credit crunch started.

With much of the European real estate market on its knees, high-flying real estate dealers are leaving their favourite tables at expensive London restaurants vacant, amid fears that thousands could lose their jobs.

The situation is particularly bad in the UK where the latest figures show that property prices have dropped back to 2006 levels and still falling. UK real estate agencies are shutting at 100 per week.

'Property is a cyclical business and contraction will be inevitable as firms look to be more streamlined,' warned UK Property Federation Chief Executive Liz Peace.

Rumours abound that some of the biggest employers in real estate are bracing for a phase of redundancies which could cost up to 5,000 property professionals their liveliehoods.

According to data from Cushman & Wakefield, European property trading volumes have slumped 63% year-on-year to €25.6 billion, leaving many brokers in Spain, Ireland, Germany and France fearing redundancy.

Analysts believe that a flurry of corporate takeovers has left the big players with too many support staff playing piggy-back on fewer high fee-earning brokers.

Although few will admit large scale redundancies are imminent, the latest figures show sinking second quarter profits at major players like Jones Lang LaSalle and CB Richard Ellis.

'Property services firms are all having to adapt to more difficult market conditions,' said Alastair Hughes, head of EMEA at Jones Lang LaSalle.

London-listed global consultancy Savills has admitted it has embarked on a cost-cutting programme. CBRE, the world's largest property consultancy, has also said it is looking at cutting costs and that it had shed a modest number of jobs in business areas hardest hit by the market downturn.

Although not everyone in the property sector is doing badly. Hospitality sector giant Whitbread has allocated £100m to develop hotels and restaurants on sites previously earmarked for residential or office development.

It will open nine new Premier Inn hotels and five new restaurants by 2010/2011 in London, Preston, Doncaster, Glasgow, Kendall in the Lake District, Newport in Shropshire, Trowbridge in Wiltshire and Rugeley in Staffordshire.