What’s going on people? You’re usually such a relentlessly optimistic bunch! Even in the darkest days of the financial crash, many of you identified – and capitalised on – the few opportunities there were as everyone else ran screaming for the hills.
As recently as September, a survey by law firm CMS suggested that 29% of you were optimistic about property’s prospects, double the 14% who felt upbeat before the Brexit vote.
What a difference virtually zero progress beyond last week’s transition deal makes. (Sorry Steve, but one sensible deal plus an unexpectedly robust stance on the Salisbury poisoning do not a negotiating powerhouse make)
To mark the one-year anniversary of the triggering of Article 50 and halfway point in the Brexit negotiations, Property Week conducted an online survey to find out how sentiment has changed in the past 12 months. We also asked senior industry figures what impact they think Brexit has had on the market so far, how they feel now compared with this time last year and what they think lies in store over the coming months.
It seems you are not quite as chipper as you were. Although 26.3% of survey respondents say they feel more optimistic than this time last year, 9.3% feel less optimistic and 31.4% feel very pessimistic.
You also concede that Brexit is having a more negative effect on the market than you had feared. More than two thirds (69.5%) believe the Brexit vote has negatively affected the market, compared with 61.2% who thought it would negatively affect the market in a Property Week poll conducted in May 2016. Ominously, despite the transition deal, 68.7% think the market will continue to have a tough time.
Perhaps most telling of all is your answer to the question of how you would vote if the EU referendum were to be rerun today: 70.3% of you claim you would vote ‘remain’ compared with 59.8% in our previous poll. For an industry noted for its pragmatism – and reluctance to upset the political apple cart, particularly if it is a Conservative one – that is quite a shift in favour of an impossible, or at least highly unlikely, outcome. (Maybe this is reading too much into it, but could the swing also be a protest vote against the growing prospect of a Corbyn government?)
This is not to say that the ‘Remoaners’ have taken over and the customary pragmatism has fallen by the wayside – far from it. As the comments from senior industry figures in our special report attest, there is a steely determination to continue making hay even when the sun is not shining. As several point out, Brexodus has not materialised, yet anyway.
Others are hopeful the 21-month transition period will mean greater certainty – or less uncertainty – and point to other factors such as the co-working space revolution having a greater bearing than Brexit on the health of the market. Verdion’s Michael Hughes goes so far as to dismiss Brexit as a “minor political sideshow” as far as the logistics market is concerned.
Come to think of it, a lot of this pragmatism sounds awfully like optimism. They say a leopard can’t change its spots. Let’s hope people aren’t just talking up the market again.
Article 50: experts' views a year on
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At halfway point is Brexit glass half empty or half full?