If there’s one thing we’re pretty good at in Britain, it’s talking ourselves down. In the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote, we had headline after headline citing property slumps, recession, global expulsion, and even world war 3. While it’s true that the UK will never be quite the same, as the fog is dissipating and a new world begins to emerge, perhaps things aren’t going to be quite as bad after all.
What does the data say?
It’s still too early to see the real impact of Brexit on the property market. The My Property Consultant Property Index Tracker, which monitors all of the major property related data, continues to show a market on the rise. Although most of the measures still date back to before the Brexit vote, this is largely promising given the level of uncertainty that has been hanging over the UK in recent months, and the fact we were expecting to see a continued slump after the stamp duty changes in early April.
According to Nationwide, house prices in London rose 3.6% last month, and the ONS house price index showed an increase of 1.5%. Mortgage approval rates increased by 1.2%, and HMRC property transactions increased by 5%. Of course, the next few months will be far more telling, and we’ll start to see the real impact of Brexit filtering through. Anecdotal evidence suggests that a large number of property deals fell through in July as panic set in, and we’ll watch with interest next month to see how this manifests itself in the data.
What about market sentiment?
One measure that could give us a hint at what is to come is the RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) study, which measures house price expectation. They are reporting a sharp drop of 16% since last month, indicating that confidence in the housing market is down. Of course, this is only measuring sentiment and not reality, but markets are surprisingly influenced by emotion, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.
What does all of this mean for the buy-to-let investor?
As anyone who makes a living in financial markets will tell you, it’s when everyone else is in a panic that the opportunities arise. If you’ve been thinking about investing in property, now could be a good time to position yourself to take the leap. Realistically it’s probably best to wait until more of the dust has settled, but this could be sooner than you think, and it’s good to be in a position to jump on good opportunities if you can.
Whether you plan to invest, are already invested, or both, here are a few nuggets to help you sleep at night:
1. Interest rates are likely to be lower for longer.
2. Uncertainty favours a buyers’ market as sellers panic and prices fall. If you are already invested, hold firm and make the most of the buoyant rental market.
3. The weak pound should attract foreign investment, which will support the London market.
4. London faces a property crisis with far too much demand, and not enough supply. There would have to be a mass exodus for the balance to tip the other way, and the Government is unlikely to let this happen.
5. There is talk of the Government reducing stamp duty and corporation tax in the wake of Brexit.
6. There is also talk of the Government investing heavily in infrastructure to support the economy and create jobs.
There are no certainties in life, but there are clear and rational indicators that suggest the London property market remains a good place to invest. And all this talk of a property slump? As Rudyard Kipling said “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs….”