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Sat June 19 2021

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Property sector expects to withstand initial shock

24 Jun 16 Real estate commentators appear confident that the house-building sector can withstand the shock of the UK’s exit from the European Union.

Martin Walshe, head of residential at surveyor Cheffins, said: “Whilst we will probably experience a short period of adjustment, the UK property market is incredibly resilient and investment in housing will remain a cornerstone of our market, whether we are a part of Europe or not. Despite 2016 being the year of the Referendum, we have recently seen the best market ever experienced, and a Brexit will not affect this. Cambridge in particular will continue to be an international center for innovation and education, and our booming market will return to its former strength. Residential markets have always been influenced by uncertainty and we are now entering an economic climate which has never been experienced before, so the only strategy is be back to business as usual and brace ourselves for the busy period which is to come.”

Urban Exposure CEO Randeesh Sandhu said: “While markets may react negatively to today’s Leave vote, the fundamentals underpinning the UK housing market still remain attractive.

“In the short-term, while there may be an impact on decision-making and activity levels, we also expect to see an increase in interest from foreign investors if sterling devalues to the extent many have predicted.

“Indeed, the UK still has unique appeal as a market for international purchasers – from the mixture of characteristics including our quality of life, culture and diversity, ownership security and legal system, time zone advantages for international business, language, schooling and education.

“A return to business as usual may take longer than if we had remained as the specifics of a Brexit will take time to determine and therefore there will continue to be a period of uncertainty. It is important that the government pays close attention to the key risks that could affect the sector during these talks – for example, the impact on the supply of labour, which could further exacerbate the acute shortages of skilled workers for UK construction firms if Brexit restricts migration from the EU into the UK.

“Change will come out of the UK leaving the EU, but the imbalance between demand and supply in the UK housing market will endure.

“So while buyers may pause as the implications of Brexit are figured out, over the medium to long-term we do not expect housing markets to change drastically as a result of the vote.”

London estate agent Peter Wetherell predicted that the vote to leave will generate a short term bubble and then a two-speed London property market could emerge.

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“This decision to leave has opened up a Pandora’s Box as far as the London property market is concerned,” Peter Wetherell said. “This (Friday) morning already Sterling has plummeted to a low not seen since 1985 and this will now create a short-term buying opportunity for US dollar and Euro based property investors. For overseas buyers, this big and dramatic drop in the value of Sterling will effectively offset the Stamp Duty and tax adjustments and it will make Prime London property a lucrative investment for overseas investors bold enough to take a punt despite the market uncertainty.

“Now that UK will not be part of the EU in the future then industry construction costs could rise by up to 15% since currently construction materials imported from and exported to the EU are free of duty and taxes. Many site/construction staff working in London are people who originate from countries across the EU the future of all of this will need to be looked at quickly and decisively.

“London’s status as the financial capital of Europe could be under threat due to Brexit. Currently London is able to provide financial services to the EU; the future of all of this could now be put into question as the UK leaves the EU. Currently some 39% of London’s population of 8.66 million people were not born in the UK. For Mayfair and the West End, some 55% of the market is based on non-EU overseas buyers who are from the Middle East, India, Russia and Africa. The West End is far less reliant on the EU, so it will continue, maybe at a lower volume or maybe at a higher volume; dependent on volatility in local political markets around the world."

“However in West London and Inner North London where there are high levels of EU buyers there could now be a dramatic slowdown which could last for a number of years. The more commercial property dominated markets of the City of London and Canary Wharf/Docklands could be really damaged by this exit from the EU, with a flight of capital, companies, jobs and workers.”

“These issues in West and East London might be a short term problem or a long term issue; dependent on the strength of the financial markets in the City of London to continue and cement the City as the financial centre of the world."

“The end result of this decision to exit the EU could be a two-speed London property market – with just the core West End, and the periphery (homes priced below £400,000) continuing to operate; but with stagnation across the West, North and East London sectors of the market.”

The commercial property market could go either way, said Philip Woolner, director of Cheffins Commercial. “It is difficult to forecast the effects that Brexit will have on the commercial property market. Ultimately, the UK, and London and Cambridge in particular, is such an attractive market for overseas investment that any knock-on effect is likely to be short-lived. There is a possibility of a period of stalling across investment sectors, with occupiers choosing to stay put, however, the fundamental prospects of business will still be strong. Before the Referendum there was a divergence of opinion within the industry with questions around the occupiers, take-up levels and restrictions on workers’ migration, however as Cambridge continues to be a powerhouse for innovation and excellence, it is doubtful that we will see a vast change to our market. It is impossible to predict the results of the Brexit until some months have passed, so in the meantime, it has to be back to business as usual and wait and see what happens.”

Mike Cuthbert, partner and head of construction advisory at Deloitte Real Estate, said: “The decline in Sterling is likely to produce short-term cost inflation for parts of the construction industry where materials are sourced from overseas, adding to cost pressures already in play due to the current shortage of capacity among contractors. In the medium term, however, with the Brexit decision causing some projects to be delayed or put on hold, the supply chain is likely to react with more competitive pricing as the prospects of a period of lower demand are assessed.”

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