In recent weeks concerned Walsall landlords have been asking my opinion on the looming EU vote. “As a landlord which way should we vote”? “IN or OUT”? So, this week I thought I would share my thoughts on this subject.
If you read all the tabloids, the ‘Brexit’ debate seems to be focused solely on central London. Many commentators have said Brexit would mean central London would have a lower standing in the world, meaning less people would be employed in central London, with the implication of lower wages, fewer jobs etc… but we are in Walsall, not Marylebone, Mayfair or any part of Zone 1 London!
For years – no, decades – the anti-EU camp has suggested that Britain’s natural habitat is not among its continental neighbours but in ‘the Anglosphere’, that solar system of English-speaking planets which revolves around the United States. Break free from Brussels and we could embrace our kindred spirits in Sydney, Toronto and especially New York, Washington and Los Angeles. The Brexit camp has long been like the man who dreams of leaving his wife for another woman, one who really understands him.
Now, on the run up to the vote on the 23rd of June, I predict the ‘in’ camp will start to scare homeowners with forecasts of negative equity, and the ‘out’ camp will appeal to the 20 somethings, who have been priced out of the property market with the prospect of a new era of inexpensive housing, should the fears of central London estate agents and developers, who believe the bottom will fall out of the market if we do leave, become real. The only reason the Mayfair’s, Knightsbridge’s, and Kensington’s of central London are attractive to foreign buyers are political and economic steadiness, an open and honest legal system and a lively cultural life. None of that is threatened by Brexit.
… But again, we are in Walsall and central London is 120 odd miles away and whilst the central London property market exploded after 2009, that explosion really didn’t affect the Walsall property market. So, putting central London aside, what would an ‘in’ or ‘out’ vote really mean for the 67,265 property owners of Walsall?
Initially, over the coming months, on the run up to referendum, I believe it will be like the run up to last year’s General Election. With the short-term uncertainty in the country, quite often, big decisions are put on ice and people are less likely to make big money purchases i.e. buy a property. However, in the four months up to last year’s Election, property values in Walsall decreased by only 0.04%, not bad for a country that thought it would get a hung parliament! So that argument doesn’t hold much weight with me.
Post vote, should the UK opt to leave Brussels, there would be a much more noteworthy impact. I believe that a vote to stay in the EU would see the Walsall property market return to a status quo very quickly, but the contrasting result could lead to some changes. The principal menace to the Walsall, and UK, housing market could be an upward variation in interest rates as a result of a Brexit, which could theoretically see the cost of mortgages grow swiftly, pricing many out of the market… but then two thirds of landlords buy without a mortgage, so that won’t affect them. Also, according to the Bank of England, 80.3% of all new mortgages taken out in 2015 were fixed rate. Looking at all mortgages as a whole, according to the Bank of England, 44% of all UK mortgagees have a fixed rate mortgage, but 56% don’t, so if you aren’t on a fixed rate… talk to your mortgage broker now, because they can only go in one direction!
So in reality, if I really knew what will happen, I wouldn’t be a property agent in Walsall, but a City Whiz Kid in London earning millions. However, I suspect whatever decision the electorate of Walsall and the country as a whole makes, over the long term it won’t have a major effect on the Walsall property market. We have seen off ‘the end of the world’ credit crunch of 2008/9 and subsequent property crash, the 1988 Nigel Lawson induced post dual-MIRAS property crash, the 1979 ‘Winter of Discontent’ property crash, the 1974 oil crisis that stimulated another property crash… hell, we can even go back nearly a century with the 1926 post General Strike slump in property prices…
Today, property prices are 230.62% higher than 20 years ago in Walsall and are 2.1% higher than 12 months ago. So, make your own decision on 23rd of June 2016 safe in the knowledge that whatever the result, there might be some short term volatility in the Walsall property market, but in the long term – and property investment is a long term strategy – there aren’t enough houses in Walsall to live in either to buy or rent… and until the Government allow more properties to be built – the Walsall property market will be just fine, even if it has a little blip in the summer! There could be some real property bargains to be had later in the year!
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