Opinion 

First-time buyers seeing off Brexit

John Phillips

John Phillips

Before the EU referendum, there was a huge amount of speculation about what affect Brexit would have on the housing market.

I predicted at the time that if we were to vote to leave the EU, there would be an initial period of uncertainty and then, once Article 50 was triggered, things would actually start to calm.

And sure enough, there was some initial hesitation and the market slowed down a bit, but when Article 50 was triggered, the uncertainty in the market started to disappear as people started to understand what, as a country, we are dealing with.

It is now almost two years since the vote, and over a year since the prime minister invoked Article 50 and the UK has been in so-called ‘negotiations’ for 12 months now. 

But nothing has actually happened. Things in the market are a bit subdued, but I genuinely think this is more to do with timings than Brexit itself.

There is so much faffing with negotiations that it is almost putting the market in a bit of a standstill. However, once everything is decided and negotiations are over, things can get back on track.

But the area of the residential market that doesn’t seem to have been adversely affected by Brexit is first-time buyers. So far, I have seen no evidence that it is putting them off.

In fact, if anything, first-time buyers are in a better position now than they were before the vote, as demonstrated by the fact 2017 saw the highest number of first-time buyers since 2006.

This proves that things like Help to Buy, low borrowing rates and the stamp duty changes are far stronger influencers on the market than Brexit has been - or will be going forward.

And this is ultimately because, whatever may be going on politically, people still need to buy and sell houses and, to do that, they need to borrow. 

As far as actual regulatory changes are concerned, once the UK actually leaves, we will no longer be bound by European legislation such as the Mortgage Credit Directive, although it could be that the FCA will choose to leave much of it in place.

And banks may no longer have to abide by EU rules such as Mifid.

However, it could be that if they want to deal across the EU, they still need to abide by them.

The one area that may be affected by Brexit is housebuilding.

As we know, there is currently a huge housing deficit in this country, and the question there is, without European investment, will the government be able to meet its targets for 250,000 new homes every year?

For decades, housebuilding in the UK has fallen short of the 250,000 new homes needed each year to meet the natural growth of population.

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