Wednesday, 22 June 2016

U.K. Property Market Braced for Possible Brexit Vote

In World Economy News 22/06/2016

If Britons vote to leave the European Union on Thursday, real-estate prices–from homes to London office towers–are expected to drop.
But if sterling also loses value, as is widely expected, analysts say it could spur a buying spree from foreign property hunters that have largely retreated from the market this year.
Any boost would be most pronounced in London, where the property market has become increasingly underpinned by demand from international investors.
“The buying opportunity will be ripe if there is any significant fall in the value of sterling,” said Faisal Durrani, head of research at broker Cluttons LLP.
Mr. Durrani was referring in particular to high-end homes in central London, where a boom after the financial crisis was largely driven by wealthy overseas buyers looking for a safe-haven investment.
In the past year, demand for Prime Central London homes has weakened, in part because of a low oil price, slowing global economic growth and stock market shocks. Transactions have dropped off, with prices also falling.
The falloff in transaction volumes hasn’t been exclusive to prime London housing. Commercial property investors have also largely avoided deal making ahead of the referendum.
A sharp drop in sterling could see opportunistic investors swoop in on both parts of the property market, analysts said.
Nearly half of all home buyers in prime London are foreign, Mr. Durrani said. Mideast and Asian investors account for 35% to 40% of deals. A “Brexit”-led drop in sterling would encourage opportunistic investors “sitting on the sidelines, waiting for the outcome,” Mr. Durrani said.
Warnings about the impact of Brexit on property values have been stark. U.K. house prices could fall up to 18% if the U.K. severs ties with the EU, according to U.K. Treasury chief George Osborne. Property brokers, blaming uncertainty over the outcome of the referendum, expect house prices to fall this summer for the first time since 2012.
For commercial property, Standard & Poor’s Corp. said property values are likely fall if Britons vote the leave the EU. Property chiefs warned London’s office market is especially vulnerable.
As with housing, London commercial property boomed after the 2008 financial crisis. Global real-estate investors piled into office buildings in a hunt for yield amid low interest rates.
If sterling becomes “significantly cheaper, certainly longer-term investors will be in the market,” said David Hutchings, head of EMEA Investment Strategy at broker Cushman & Wakefield.
The buying-opportunity has been a big part of recent discussions with pension funds, sovereign-wealth funds and high-net-worth individuals, Mr. Hutchings said.
Then again, investors wanting to splash out on a U.K. buying spree might not find much for sale, with a Brexit encouraging current property owners “to sit on their hands,” Mr. Hutchings said.
“There is no guarantee there will be an increase in available property,” he said.

Source: Dow Jones