I’ll be glad to see the back of 2016. It has been brutal. The tone was set early on by events that had nothing to do with property but foreshadowed the relentless barrage of shocks to come.
The deaths of David Bowie, Alan Rickman and Sir Terry Wogan signalled the dawn of a brave new world in which all that was familiar was to be rudely snatched away, starting with our childhood icons.
All too soon we discovered that if the 27 Club had more than met its match in the 2016 Club, the global financial crisis was to have a powerful rival in post-Brexit vote Britain. Any hope of the year resuming a semblance of normality was shattered by the EU referendum.
Suddenly it felt as though we were living in a parallel universe, one with ominous echoes of 1930s Germany thanks to the swell of nationalist, anti-globalist, anti-elitist sentiment that swept the nation and then the world.
At a property industry event I attended this week, the audience was asked if they felt the decision to leave was a positive one. Just one or two sheepishly raised their hands.
That’s not because the room was full of Bremoaners who don’t think there will ultimately be upsides to Brexit.
It’s because we would all like a rough idea of what those upsides might be and when to expect them. We’d like a plan.
Hard, soft, or red, white and blue?
Unfortunately, there isn’t one. As CBRE UK’s chairman Stephen Hubbard put it, driving down the post-referendum road is like doing 80mph on a motorway in thick fog - with little political prospect of the fog lifting.
It certainly hasn’t been lifted by Theresa May’s assertion that rather than a hard or soft exit, she will be plumping for a red, white and blue one. Answers on a postcard please if you can shed any light.
At least we’ve got past the car crash that immediately followed the referendum, I suppose. Cast your mindback to the febrile days of the summer when the share prices of the nation’s biggest housebuilders crashed, open-ended fund after open-ended fund suspended trading and deal after deal was put on ice as investors sat on their hands.
Remember also the stark warnings of an occupier exodus, particularly from the financial sector - a threat that has yet to materialise. It is not the only one. Six months on from the vote, the world keeps turning, albeit on an axis that has shifted. Commercial property values have corrected only by around 4% and the consensus is that while the political fog may not have lifted, the way forward for the property industry is becoming clearer.
For all the chaos this year, significant investment and lettings deals have been done, notably Apple’s letting at Battersea Power Station.
And while there has been a sharp slowdown in the residential market, particularly at the top end, the reality is that it had hit the top last year and a correction was overdue.
Moreover, much as life in the post-vote, post-truth era carries with it huge uncertainties, everything’s relative. Investors will continue to see the UK as safe haven for their money, and a cheap one at that in light of sterling’s fall in value.
In short, yes we have Article 50, inflation and Donald Trump to contend with in 2017, but just as we shouldn’t look back in anger at 2016, we shouldn’t look forward in fear to 2017. What doesn’t kill you…