Dormant but Defiant?

There now seems to be little doubt that the uncertainties over Brexit, and the latest delay in it coming about or not, have been creating ongoing uncertainty that is dampening the overall London property market, but perhaps not quite so evidently so in the Barbican.  Some areas are being affected more than others and anecdotal evidence suggests that properties in the City of London may be among the worst affected, although this is not so apparent here according to our local Estate Agents.

The further delay to Crossrail’s opening, which is now likely to occur in 2021 at the earliest, will also be a bit of a temporary dampener on Barbican property growth.  The Barbican, with Crossrail stations at both the east and west ends of the Estate, will be one of the best-placed residential complexes on the new line, which should benefit property values once the long-delayed project comes to fruition.

What, perhaps, does offer some small encouragement to property sellers though, is that drops in valuations so far have been very small.  Indeed in most areas property prices may even be rising again – although only marginally in percentage terms.  The property market has thus not collapsed due to the now-likelihood of Brexit as many property ‘experts’ had been predicting and the Barbican remains something of a micro-market anyway as there are always people looking specifically for Barbican properties.  That is not to say that property values on the Estate have not suffered a little, but any price downturns could be behind us already.  Indeed, from some of the comments from Estate Agents below prices may even already be beginning to pick up again as, hopefully, the prospects of a Brexit culmination one way or the other may at last be a little nearer, depending on the results of the general election.

Indeed regarding Brexit, if the opinion polls are correct, and remain as they are, we could well be heading for an overall Conservative majority which would likely mean we will be out of the EU by the end of January at the latest.  Following the referendum the idea that we would be leaving filled the markets with gloom, but the stock market seems to have shrugged off any serious doubts and even the possibility of a no-deal schism seems to be having little impact now.  There is even the possibility that once the uncertainty is behind us the property market will receive something of a fillip.

The title for this Flatwatch article is taken from a release suggesting house prices across the UK were still rising, but at a paltry 0.9% in the last quarter, from figures from the Halifax Building Society. The quote came from Marc von Grundherr, director of lettings and sales agent at Benham and Reeves Estate Agents.  The overall consensus was that there was likely to be no real pick-up in prices around the country as a whole, at least until next year when the Brexit uncertainty may, or may not, be removed – and even then any subsequent gains could likely be very slow to materialise.  But as noted above many of the perceived problems resulting from a likely divorce from the EU have so far failed to materialise and a possible ‘leave’ outcome may prove not to be as market-depressing as once feared.

Similar studies from the Nationwide Building Society and the RICS seem to confirm that property prices may be beginning to pick up, but at a very slow rate.  Thus the election outcome in a couple of weeks’ time will be awaited with particular interest given that the result may confirm a rapid end to the Brexit debate if the Conservatives gain an overall majority as is expected at the time of writing.  If this fails to materialise, of course, we could well be set for further delays in a final decision being made and yet more uncertainty.

The prospect of Brexit, though, does seem to be confounding the doom and gloom merchants  – even despite a still-possible threat of a no-deal separation, which ‘leave’ opponents classify as a likely financial disaster.  This conclusion is being made without anyone really specifying why it would be quite so calamitous apart from dire predictions of damage to so many ‘sacred cows’ which would be of no benefit to either the UK or its current EU partners.  Hopefully economic pragmatism will be resurrected in the light of a possible severance of ties with the EU.  Unsupported predictions of negative or positive consequences are being made by both sides of the debate, but the straight answer is no-one really knows what will happen if, and most likely now, when, we leave the EU.  This writer expects that not much will change one way or the other once the initial fall-out from whatever decision eventuates is behind us.  ‘Much ado about nothing’ in other words to quote a previous resident of this area.

We’ve thus perhaps spent three years arguing over something that may well make little difference to the person in the street.  If the stock market is a guide, little has changed within the ebb and flow of the political debate and even the currency market has not seen the much anticipated collapse of the pound sterling either.  Indeed a close possibility of no-deal in recent weeks even saw sterling rise from its interim lows against the dollar and the euro contrary to most predictions!

Nevertheless, until we know for sure what will eventuate, uncertainty will continue and sharp rises, or even falls, in property valuations seem unlikely.  Hence the above article title!

PROPERTY AGENTS’ COMMENTS

As will be seen from the below comments the Barbican flat sales market outlook seems to be reasonably positive at the moment, while the lettings sector is even more so.  There seems to be the beginnings of a shortage of sales stock here and there is already an apparent shortage of rental properties available.  Things are probably going rather better than might be expected for Barbican property owners.

The biggest threat to property valuations may not come, though, from whether,, or not we break with the EU, but the ongoing threat of a global recession.

Sales

Nick Scott at Scott City: The City’s property market “still faces challenges,” We have over the last 3 years seen transactions slump and although there does seem to be some confidence returning generally it’s slow. A general election and a further delay in Brexit hasn’t helped momentum. Although I have painted a bleak picture we are still seeing enquires for the Barbican and have seen an increase in viewings recently. Hopefully these will result in sales.!! www.scottcity.co.uk

Marie Bultitude of Daniel Watney: Sales enquiries are steady, but it is indeed taking longer to get a deal ‘under offer’ due to the general uncertainty in the market. www.danielwatney.co.uk.

Marco Fugaccia at Hurford Salvi Carr:  The Autumn season and run up to Christmas has seen a far more buoyant residential and lettings market in the Barbican and Hurford Salvi Carr have achieved some exceptional prices in Bunyan Court, Gilbert House, John Trundle Court and Speed House.  It has certainly been a wonderful year for the Barbican, celebrating its 50th Birthday and receiving much needed and very positive media coverage. We at Hurford Salvi Carr would like to wish all the Barbican residents a joyous Holiday season and a cheerful start to the New Year.  www.hurford-salvi-carr.co.uk

Glen Cook at Hamilton Brooks:  We have had a very strange six months period, one minute pretty slow then crazy busy, the last 6 weeks have been almost back to normal levels, 6 sales in 6 weeks.  The serious buyers are out there we are in the middle of ‘best bids’ on one flat, so contrary to what we think the market is doing or what we think it should be doing, it’s not, it’s actually pretty busy. Long may it continue.  www.hamiltonbrooks.co.uk

Tina Evans at Frank Harris:  The Barbican continues to be somewhere people want to live, and with more residents extending their leases and making the commitment to stay rather than sell this leaves us with very few flats to sell.  With lower stock levels we are seeing stronger prices being achieved for all types of flats. If you are considering selling this is one of the best times of the year to come to the market as we see an increase in applicants actively looking in December. Office life tends to quieten down and buyers have more time to look around, delayed completions can always be negotiated for those who don’t want to physically move until the next tax year or after the Easter break.  As always we wish all our Barbican residents a peaceful and Happy Christmas and New year.  www.frankharris.co,uk

Lettings

Glen Cook:  The lettings sector has performed much the same as the sales sector.  As soon as an apartment comes up it’s let, rents are up 10% on last year and stock levels have dropped.  We are desperate to invite more landlords to use our services, so much so we have streamlined them and are going (as far as we can) to a paperless set up, so all contracts/paperwork will be done online (unless a landlord chooses not to) which cuts costs and speeds up the process, very exciting for us.

Marie Bultitude:  Demand for lettings remains strong with small increments agreed on existing tenancies.

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.