Belgians aspire to home ownership. Now more than ever, it turns out. Over half (52%) say they look at the Belgian real estate market with confidence, which is an 11-percent increase compared to 2016. 65% even call it an “excellent investment”. That, too, is nearly 10 percent more than in 2016. A figure that stands in stark contrast with the image of many real estate professionals, which keeps struggling with age-old clichés. Among real estate professionals, notaries enjoy the most trust. Estate agents’ reputations, on the whole, are still getting unsatisfactory marks, even though good progress is being made. These are the findings of the new Real Estate Trust Barometer, an annual survey of 1,500 Belgians conducted by market research agency WES and specialized housing and real estate communication agency Bereal.

Belgians have put aside a record amount in savings and they’ve been crazy about real estate for a long time. And they haven’t fallen out of love with it—on the contrary. They don’t care much about rumours about a supposedly overvalued market, rising interest rates, or other much talked-about stories concerning the sector and the market. On the contrary, 52 percent say they regard the real estate market with confidence. In 2016, that was “only” 41 percent. Today, almost 39 percent of Belgians state they have “a very great deal” of trust in our real estate market. That, too, is an increase compared to 2016, when only 28 percent had such sky-high trust.

This survey clearly shows that Belgians are more real-estate-minded than ever. For many years, real estate has been considered a sure investment that retains its value. That remains hugely appealing to Belgians. And that’s exactly why they’re constantly looking for expertsfar less than for salespeoplewho can help to minimize risks and provide security.

Pascal Steeland, WES Research & Strategy

Real estate as an investment is peaking

In the Real Estate Trust Barometer, no less than 65 percent of Belgians state that they think real estate is an “excellent” investment. And it’s the classics that do particularly well: respectively 61 and 57 percent of the Belgians surveyed consider houses and apartments to be the most interesting investments. Existing homes (60%) are still slightly more popular than new-builds (43%).

Another remarkable finding is the ever-increasing trust in parking garages as an investment: from 34 percent in 2016 to 42 percent in 2017. This is probably due to the perception that garages require little maintenance and entail few extra costs. In addition, many big parking companies have further developed this market and piqued investors’ interest.

You can’t just change perceptions. You have to keep working at it constantly.

Dajo Hermans – Bereal

Notaries are most-trusted real estate professionals 

Every year, WES and Bereal also look into the extent of Belgians’ trust in the different real estate professions. The numbers don’t say anything about their activities, but about the perception that the majority of Belgians have of them. And in that regard, the age-old clichés keep causing trouble for the entire sector. A number of specific real estate sectors have definitely got their work cut out for them.

In 2016, architects still enjoyed the most trust of all the real estate professions, but notaries have now taken their place. Solely going by the prevalent perception about certain professions, 55 percent of Belgians say they put reasonable to strong trust in notaries. Where architects are concerned, 53 percent of Belgians feel that way. Surveyors are in third place, at 51 percent.

Real estate agents’ image still isn’t good enough, even though they are making progress. In 2016, 24.4 percent said they felt estate agents were trustworthy, regardless of having worked with them. In 2017, that positive image increased to 31 percent. Underlying factors which improved the image in general are the value-for-money aspect, the success with which agents sell real estate, and the extent to which their advice is considered useful.

Be it justified or not, the entire real estate industry has been struggling with a bad rap for years. You can’t just change perceptions. You have to keep working at it constantly. What’s remarkable is that that certain professionssuch as estate agentsare doing better in our image survey. Sharing expertise, telling your story in a well-founded, expert fashion, and continuing to inform interested Belgians really do contribute to that.

Dajo Hermans, Bereal

Image issues for developers 

Project developers are the odd one out in this entire reputation study. Statistically speaking, trust in them did not rise “significantly” and is now at 34.5 percent. Almost 60 percent of Belgians complain about the value for money offered by real estate developers and question their expertise.

The survey was conducted before the whole Antwerp real estate saga broke. But even without that kind of news, real estate developers have been struggling with a bad rap for years. The industry realizes that all too well. Several players are trying to turn the tide and are going for credibility and expertise. However, if there’s just one negative story or a project that meets with protest, that can be enough to ruin their image again. Especially because it’s often about million-euro projects in Belgians’ backyards. That’s exactly why it’s so important for them to share their expertise as much as possible and to be as open as they can.

Dajo Hermans (Bereal) en Pascal Steeland (WES Research & Strategy)

The Real Estate Trust Barometer is a representative yearly survey into the image of the real estate sector and the trust Belgians place in the market. Last year, Bereal, a communication agency specializing in real estate, and WES, a market research and consulting agency, polled a representative sample of 1,500 Belgians from all over the country.