The factors dampening UK residential market sentiment: Knight Frank's Liam Bailey

The factors dampening UK residential market sentiment: Knight Frank's Liam Bailey
The factors dampening UK residential market sentiment: Knight Frank's Liam Bailey


Sales activity and price growth in the prime London residential market have both slowed since mid-2014. The EU referendum has been only one of a number of headwinds which have impacted the market.

The UK election, the threat of a Mansion Tax, the imposition of higher rates of stamp duty as well as the additional rate for investors and second home buyers, have all conspired with the EU vote to dampen market sentiment.

The very strong volume of sales seen at the end of Q1, bolstered by the impending additional rate of stamp duty, was bound to weigh on deal levels in Q2, but it is fair to speculate that at least part of the decline since April has related to market uncertainty caused by the referendum.

There is no doubt that the vote in favour of Brexit will generate a period of renewed uncertainty in the prime London residential market. Some demand, especially from investors, will be delayed and in some cases redirected to other markets – although the significance of these trends should not be overstated.

Demand for prime London property rests on a wide range of drivers – most of which are unaffected by the referendum decision: the scale of London’s business cluster, depth of skills, education, lifestyle and language. It is not easy to identify an obvious alternative destination for investors despite short-term nervousness.

On the eve of the vote the pound sat 14% below its mid-2014 peak meaning pricing in the prime market was more attractive for dollar buyers. While a further weakening of the pound could increase inward investment, this impact will be constrained by the fact that around 80 percent of central London buyers are UK residents.

It seems a reasonable assumption to make that interest rates will be lower for longer, despite the risk of imported inflation from a weaker pound. While the long-term benefit of ultra-low interest rates on the housing market may be questionable, in the short- term they will act to underpin demand especially for equity rich buyers with access to the best funding rates. 

The prime country house market will be similarly impacted by the result. However while the market has performed relatively well over recent years, following a slow recovery immediately after the financial crisis, prices have not tracked London to date and there is scope for some out- performance in the short to medium term.

While we are entering a period of renewed uncertainty in the UK and London market, ongoing issues around EU and especially Eurozone stability, which will be highlighted in the run up to French and German elections, are likely to counter this risk and shore-up London’s safe- haven appeal. 

Liam Bailey is partner, Global Head of Research for Knight Frank and can be contacted here.

Residential Market Brexit


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