I think I speak for most people when I say that we are not currently where we thought we would be at this point in the year.
At the start of the year, I certainly didn’t see us nearing September with no progression on Brexit and a new Prime Minister in situ.
I, along with most of the country, thought that we would be entering the final few months of 2019 adjusting to life outside of the European Union and hopeful that the economy and businesses would be making positive strides.
While Brexit negotiations were ongoing at the start of the year, March 28 came and went and we, along with the EU, all continued as nearly normal.
Timing is always interesting in the property market and so coming to the bottom of an economic cycle at the same time as leaving the EU was always going to be a challenge, which meant that customer confidence did somewhat wane earlier on this year.
So much change was expected for this year but has anything really changed since the start of the year? In my opinion, we have continued throughout the year in this land of limbo and agents, along with vendors and buyers, have not allowed Brexit to affect them, and are continuing to act as normal with the mind-set of ‘what am I waiting for?’
I now look towards October 31 with renewed positivity as the property market seems to be looking up. Just last week, Rightmove announced that sales volumes were up 6% compared to the same month last year, a trend that we are seeing throughout some of our regions. Prices seem to have corrected in most areas, naturally.
One trend that is consistent throughout the UK is that people are fed up of the ‘B word’. In the South East and London, house prices seem to have settled down, and while there is not a huge amount of stock available, those properties that are on the market at the right price are selling quickly to motivated buyers which is likely to spread across the rest of the country over the next six months as confidence returns.
August is traditionally a strong month for lettings and the lettings market is continuing to perform well for all that has been thrown at it.
There are still plenty of tenants looking for homes, despite the slight increase in rents. Existing landlords appear to be retaining their investments and, in many respects, I am seeing business as usual.
As I look towards the final few months of the year, it’s hard to know what to expect. Everyone from Theresa May to your neighbour had their say at the start of the year in predicting what would happen and, alas, not much of this has happened.
I think that we have got to the point of people now just getting on with their lives, as far as property decisions are concerned – deal or no deal in October.
The two months that will follow decision day are, naturally, likely to be unsettled no matter what the outcome. The UK has shown its resilience to change and uncertainty throughout this year and despite some ups and downs, most markets have remained strong and fought through this time of confusion.
I am confident that even if we do leave without a deal, the property market will not be hugely affected. The market is underpinned by confidence and I am already seen confidence returning.
Interest rates are still low and banks are willing to lend, prices are nearly right which means that buyers are in a strong position, something that will keep the property market ticking along nicely. Confidence is already building in my view and I am confident that it will gather momentum post October ‘deal or no deal’.
*David Westgate is group chief executive of Andrews Property Group