City analyst warns some estate agency branches may close after Brexit vote

An investment bank has warned that some estate agency branches will be forced to close in the wake of the Leave vote.

However, it considers a housing recession unlikely.

Jefferies said that sellers must be prepared to accept “softening house prices” in order to spur market activity but said that some vendors would simply take their properties off the market if they felt prices went too low.

The bank said that the number of properties on the market has risen 3.6% since the referendum and that sellers should consider adjusting their price expectations.

Share prices of estate agents are on average 30% lower than before the Leave vote, while shares at house builders are some 25% down.

The bank has advised investors: “We have seen large downgrades across the estate agents which, in our view, is not backed up by our high touch data.

“If this situation remains unchanged the agents, in our view, offer very attractive entry points.”

Speculation before the EU referendum particularly by politicians suggested that the UK would go into recession in the event of a Leave vote. However, Jefferies dismissed the dire warnings of Project Fear, and said that based on its current data, a housing recession is unlikely.

It said: “The current situation of rising listings and softening prices suggests that the UK housing market is functioning, albeit at levels below long-run levels.

“If prices fell too much in the eye of the home owner we expect listings to be withdrawn.”

Separately, others in the City have taken stock of the housing market.

One fund manager has spoken of his concern that property firms could struggle in the wake of the Brexit vote.

Jamie Carter, partner of SW Mitchell Capital and manager of its Small Cap European fund, said he felt that the retail sector would suffer more, but that he also was wary of property.

He cited Foxtons, LSL and Savills, saying there was a “terrible stalemate” between the sellers’ price and what purchasers were prepared to pay. This, he said, was hitting transactions.

Carter went on: “Everyone has got over the initial shock of the Brexit, but I think the pain is to come.”

Carter also said that it was “spurious” of companies to cite Brexit as the cause of a slowdown in business as long ago as February.

Separately, ratings agent Fitch has said that uncertainty over the timing and terms of Britain’s exit from Europe will “weigh on confidence” both for buying and letting property.

However, Fitch notes that the property market is not facing the same crisis as in 2008-09 when it was difficult to secure bank lending.

It said: “UK property values are highly cyclical, with UK residential properties historically having long periods of value growth, followed by shorter corrections.

“Big reversions in house prices in the UK have generally occurred after major economic events or interventions.

“The current market situation, however, is different from that during the global financial crisis due to the strong availability of liquidity.”

  • According to Paul Smith, chief executive of haart, branches in areas which voted Remain have seen an average drop of 6% in listings, whereas those in areas which voted to Leave have seen a 1% rise. However, applicants are down in both – 30% in Remain areas and 23% down in Leave areas. Fall-throughs rose in Remain branches by over 50% during the weeks after the referendum, and by 2% in the Leave areas.
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