Flat Watch Spring 2019 – Are Brexit Doubts Being Overblown?


Brexit negotiations are dragging on and both major UK political parties seem to be in turmoil over a variety of potential outcomes .  The EU is seemingly staying intransigent on their negotiation stance, and with regard to the property sales situation in particular we might have expected the Barbican market to be in a state of limbo, or in decline.  But the estate agents which handle most of the Barbican property business seem to be uniformly reporting something of a pick-up in sales and excellent business in the lettings market.  The main problem they are reporting is a lack of stock, which suggests demand is currently exceeding supply.

The UK and Eurozone politicos seeming to have hit an impasse, leaving many to feel that we are heading for a ‘no-deal’ Brexit.  As this would seem to be considered a disastrous result for both sides by the media and many analysts, we might expect to see something of a collapse in the property market, in stock prices and in the day-to-day value of the pound sterling.  But this has not occurred – indeed the opposite has happened with the pound and the stock market – which suggests global financial movers and shakers think that some kind of last minute deal will be made, or that Brexit may not happen at all – or be delayed which might amount to the same thing, ultimately. Or perhaps there is an assessment that a ‘no deal’ separation would not be nearly as disastrous as the doom and gloom merchants would have us believe. (News that one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds is proposing to make huge investments in the UK regardless of whether there is a Brexit final deal or no, would seem to support that viewpoint.)   In other words, whatever the outcome the consensus of those who control the global financial markets, looks like they are gambling that not much will actually change regardless of whether the UK leaves the EU with or without a deal, or perhaps stays in.  Indeed, in the UK, unemployment seems to be falling, wages are generally more than keeping up with inflation and if one ignores the potential Brexit scenarios we appear to be entering a period of growing prosperity.  That has to be good for the housing market whatever the ‘experts’ may pontificate.

That’s not to say that a final solution to the Brexit situation will not in itself generate an immediate knee-jerk reaction in the markets, although which way they will turn remains unknown.  However the falling away of uncertainty once a solution is seen to be reached could well have a positive effect on Barbican property prices.  We live in an in-demand residential complex and it is perhaps a positive sign that one of the estate agents, whose comments appear below, notes that Barbican properties are doing better than other City ones which is probably because they tend to offer more in space and construction longevity than most other City locations.  Some décor and appliances may be a little outdated in some properties but this can always be updated by a new tenant.

This year we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of new tenants moving in to the complex and given the numbers of flats which still have original kitchens and bathrooms in reasonable condition, this is a testament to the high construction standards in the original specification.  However more and more flat owners do seem to be upgrading these aging parts of a flat’s fabric which probably accounts for the ever growing number of advertisements in our pages for those offering design and turnkey refurbishment options.  50 years is a long time to go without an update and many Barbican flats are long overdue for such.  The time must be coming to an end when an original Barbican kitchen and bathroom acts as a positive sales asset – even for the architectural purists among us.  Perhaps the most positive option may be the compromise solution – an update along the lines of mimicking the Barbican original, but replacing 50 cm wide units with 60 cm ones – the current day standard for appliance dimensions and, horror of horror, dispensing with the garchey waste system with its smells and other difficulties.  It is a system which has probably had its day and never really took off apart from in a couple of 1960s developments.

But overall Barbican prices are holding up fairly well – perhaps helped by the shortage of stock in properties for sale.  Prices have come down a little from their tops, but perhaps by not as much as some commentators would have us believe.  Better located flats in good decorative order, as always, are probably quicker to move.

The Barbican thus has great appeal.  The flats are decently sized and well-constructed.  The landlord is the City Corporation which takes some of the worries about private landlords putting up service charges outlandishly out of the equation – even though we sometimes have quibbles over estate management and residential requirements taking second place to business interests.  And, as we have often pointed out, in terms of location the Barbican has arguably the best public transport links at hand of anywhere in London.  These will be further enhanced when the Elizabeth Line eventually opens, whenever that may be.

Add into the mix immediate access to one of the best cultural complexes in Europe, let alone the UK, and whatever benefits will start occurring as the new Centre for Music and any from the development of the Cultural Hub coming into play perhaps by the end of the next decade will bring, and Barbican residents have a lot to look forward to.  This should keep property values positive for the foreseeable future.  True we are not immune from the overall UK economic picture with or without Brexit, but the estate remains a great place to live which will always be reflected in the rise or fall in property values.  Overall expect growth but there will be occasional hiccups along the way, but the latter will be mitigated by the overall advantages of living here.

LOCAL ESTATE AGENTS’ COMMENTS

SALES

Marco Fugaccia at Hurford Salvi Carr:  The residential sales market remains static – a standoff situation. Many factors are making many buyers as well as sellers hold off until a favourable outcome is sought. However transactions are taking place, with not all buyers and sellers continuously waiting. Many need to move, with growing families, downsizing and job moves on the horizon.  Activity for two bedroom apartments remains robust, however it is all about correct pricing and the property that is selling is what is perceived by the buying public as a representation of value for money. Like our rental department we are seeing buyers from the legal and technology sectors acquiring and as ever a strong help from the “bank of mum and dad”.

www.hurford-salvi-carr.co.uk/

Tina Evans at Frank Harris: Some positive news on Barbican sales, we have recently listed two flats for sale which have found buyers within weeks and have had more than one offer.  There is a real lack of stock and now the weather is improving buyers are out looking  to move before the summer holidays.  As always if you are looking for an up-to-date appraisal of your property please do not hesitate to contact me. www.frankharris.co.uk 

Glen Cook at Hamilton Brooks:  After a pretty quiet run up to Christmas and the beginning of the New Year we now can see the seeds of more activity. Offers are now coming in at slightly lower levels but some sales are now being agreed  which is a positive step forward. Severe lack of stock is now the major problem, more stock would lead to much higher transactions as buyers have definitely returned.  www.hamiltonbrooks.co.uk 

Nick Scott at Scott City: With the ongoing Brexit process seeming likely to continue we have seen a number of Barbican purchasers just getting on with it. The Barbican has fared better than other parts of the City.  Demand has improved in the first couple months of this year and continues to do so. We are now finding a lack of supply in all nearly price ranges, fewer properties on the market arguably makes it a better time to sell. Please visit our web site www.scottcity.co.uk

Alex Childs at AW Childs: Even though 2019 has had a subdued start, we find demand for city living and interest in the Barbican remains high. Buyers know what they want and AW Childs has not seen a slow-down of buyer registrations. If you would like to hear our honest thoughts of the current market or thinking of listing your property for sale with a knowledgeable local agent please do get in touch. www.awchilds.co.uk 

Lettings

Angela Kelly at Hurford Salvi Carr:  The lettings market is very much business as usual with one exception; finance.  The world of banking is pausing to take a wait and see approach to Brexit and so various new projects are on hold.  This puts new assignees on hold too since they would usually be looking for accommodation near their place of work so there is only a trickle of the usual demand from the City tenants.  Conversely, the legal sector is thriving as is advertising and tech and, with it, demand for properties to rent where senior staff can walk to work.  Last month, we have concluded lets with Facebook, Amazon, Cuatrecasas and Citibank.

 Glen Cook:  Virtually no stock at all, rents have gone up and furnished and unfurnished apartments are in demand.


Tom O’Halloran at Thomas Michael:  After a busy last quarter to 2018 and a busy January the demand for rental properties slowed a bit in February. We are optimistic of an increase in activity as we move into spring. Higher rental incomes are being achieved in contrast to the downward pressure on sales values.  If you would like a rental appraisal or just a discussion on the lettings process I would be pleased to hear from you. www.thomasmichael.co.uk

Mark Scoging at AW Childs: It’s a familiar story but we are again happy to report that the Barbican and City areas are continuing to see strong rental demand although there are still shortages of supply in many areas.

 Joe Davison at Scott City:  The rental market in the Barbican and surrounding areas is very good at this time and we have a long list of clients actively looking for Barbican Properties. Unfortunately, the stock levels in the Barbican are low so we are keen to find new instructions for these clients. If you are considering letting out your property, please get in touch for a free Valuation.