House Prices Post Brexit

Where will UK house prices in the post Brexit world be headed?

House Prices Post-Brexit

Well, we don’t know for sure yet because we don’t know what kind of Brexit we will get, or even if we will get one anyway, (the UK could delay the fateful day or even change its mind).

Of course, all the uncertainty is making businesses and consumers delay decisions on things, thus hurting growth in the short run.

It will all work out in the end but whichever way you look at it, Brexit is a big change to the economic landscape.

Back in 2015 I wrote a blog post where I looked at house prices in the UK and whether they were too high or too low and where they might be headed. In fact, I have written several pieces like this from time to time.

When I wrote the 2015 piece, (see link at the very end of this blog), I never really envisaged that the UK would leave the European Union, so my conclusions are worth revisiting in the light of the decision to leave.

Back then, I was concerned that house prices looked “toppy” in places like London and I also mused on the potential for endemic deflation to set in for the long term, which I suggested would eventually have a big impact on house prices. (Ultimately, in the medium to long run, consumer price inflation eventually feeds into asset inflation – things like house prices and share prices – or at least it will do in the absence of other big factors, such as moves in in the cost of borrowing and saving money (interest rates)).

So what’s changed then?

Brexit and the Migrants

Since I wrote my 2015 piece, Brexit has made the UK a far less attractive place for migrants to come to work in.

Many migrant workers already here and those considering coming here will regularly translate what they can make and save here in pounds back into Zlotys or Czech Crowns or whatever and conclude that the UK is not so great any more. The devalued exchange rate for the UK pound against other currencies is the key driver at work here.

Some migrants also worry about whether they will be able to actually stay in the future (though I think this is less of a concern than the hard economic facts right now).

To make things worse, the economies of Poland and many other parts of Europe are now growing at a faster pace than the UK and have been so for at least nine months. There are suddenly more jobs and more opportunities back home as the EU area finally seems to be coming out of the slow lane.

Oh, and don’t think that the healthcare and schools in places like Central and Eastern Europe are worse than the UK, which must be why the migrants like it so much here. If you think that, you really need to get out and travel more. Most of my EU migrant tenants are not overly impressed with our schools or our NHS. Sorry if that’s news to people!

So, why does all this matter? And what’s it  got to do with house prices and rents?

Well, population pressures from migration has been a huge factor in house price (and to a lesser extent) rental price inflation.

Take it away and you take away a big support for house prices.

The Great House Price Collapse 1989-1995

In my 2015 article, I reminded people how house prices fell in most of the UK by 30 to 35% in real terms from 1989 to 1995, an event which caused people real misery as the value of their homes plummeted to well below the value of their mortgages, leaving them paying interest on a loan that was more than the value of their home. Ouch! House prices did not pick up again until late in 1996, and even then it took a while for the rises to filter outside the south east.

It can be so easy to forget this recent history in those areas of the UK, (especially London and the South East), which have seen more or less steady and sustained rises in house prices ever since 1996-7

But here is another thing to mull over. In the period from 1989 to 1995, the population of the UK stagnated or fell.

This is a fact which is often overlooked, because most people just ascribe the falls in house prices then, to the shock of fast rising interest rates in 1989 and the withdrawal of double MIRAS (mortgage interest relief at source). They often overlook the demographic impact of the population fall on house prices at that time.

In this Brexit world, we must be alert to the possibility that if there is a big exit of migrants, house prices will certainly be affected adversely. And so will rents.

On a very slightly more positive note, there are some factors working the other way as a result of Brexit. One is that foreign cash investment in the UK property market, especially from the likes of China and Singapore has increased even more as a result of the cheaper pound. But, as we have often said, too much of this money ends up in the sort of  “me-too flats” which are already oversupplied, even in London. So, the impact on house prices of this particular extra stock could be limited in the longer term and it could possibly even be negative.  (Too much supply chasing too few tenants). The Asian investors are more likely to lose money over ten years than make much, bless ’em!

The other factors that I looked at in my 2015 piece have not changed much, though the risk of some inflation in the UK in the short to medium term is higher than it was in 2015. This could lead the government to increase interest rates, though only if the economy could stand it. However, I don’t think this is the case right now, given the very tight squeeze consumers are still facing in real wages.

So, actually in conclusion, I think that the outlook for house prices and rents is probably worse than it was in 2015.

But, again so what?

Should you therefore not buy UK property?

Opportunities in UK Property Right Now

Always remember, not everywhere in the UK do house prices and rents move in the same way. Opportunities abound. And they bound most when all around is doom and gloom.

The trick as a property investing landlord – i.e. one who is interested in holding property for the long term is to buy into the right area and the right type of property that will do well, even if the worst predictions about the economy come true.

And also, those people who manage their property letting businesses well, keeping costs down, will always fare well, come rain or shine. Make sure you are one of them.

This is how we help people at LettingFocus in our one to one advice sessions.  We show people where and what to buy for long term capital and rental growth and how to manage their lets effectively, keeping their costs down.

Deflation, House Prices and Population


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