Britain’s decision to leave the European Union on 23 June sent shock waves through the financial community and the political establishment. In the immediate aftermath of the vote, we saw turbulence on global stock markets and the pound plunge on foreign exchange markets, hitting its lowest point against the dollar for decades. Ahead of the vote we heard dire warnings about the UK’s long-term economic prospects outside Europe, with the housing market being no exception. Indeed, recent analysis by Rightmove suggests house prices could take up to a 10% hit on the back of Brexit.
However, recent data has shown an economic bounce back over the summer, and it is worth remembering that even if house price growth slows, few expect it to go into reverse with the latest analysis by RICS indicating continued growth at 3.3% over the next 5 years. With negotiations over what Brexit actually means only just beginning in earnest however, the long-term picture is far from certain.
Although a reduction in overall portfolio values may not be welcomed by landlords, a reduction in property prices could – conversely – represent an opportunity for landlords looking to capitalise on lower prices to grow their portfolio. And, while it’s too early to say what long-term impact April’s stamp-duty hike might have on the buy-to-let market, could the Bank of England’s decision to cut the base rate mitigate some of the effects?
And whatever else is happening in the wider economy, the dominant issue in the housing market continues to be the undersupply of residential property, leading to increased demand in the Private Rented Sector (PRS). Although recent BDRC Continental research has shown a modest reduction in tenant demand, more than a quarter of landlords (26%) say demand has increased in the last three months, with a further 45% saying it hasn’t changed.
A recent survey of landlords undertaken by Paragon reveals that, despite uncertainty following the referendum, the impact on landlord sentiment has not been as dramatic as it might have been. Although 36% of landlords believe Brexit will have a negative impact on the PRS, a similar number (34%) believe Brexit will have no impact at all, while 17% believe the impact will be positive.
Data also suggests that at least some of the uncertainty expressed by landlords could simply be a reflection of the shock felt by the country in the days following Brexit, rather than indicative of any underlying weakness.
BDRC’s research, for example, highlights a disparity between the way in which landlords imagine Brexit will impact the PRS, and the way it will impact their own business. While just 22% of landlords surveyed by BDRC believed Brexit would have no impact on the PRS as a whole, 39% believed it would have no impact on their own portfolios – nearly double the amount.
It is also worth remembering that, in spite of any uncertainty, the yields which can be generated in the PRS still outperform those in other asset classes. Ironically, with savings rates at new lows and yields on other investments negatively impacted by Brexit, investing in the PRS could become even more attractive.