City property sector thriving in face of Brexit uncertainty

Top men at two prominent property companies have given a confident outlook for the sector – particularly in Manchester – despite ongoing Brexit uncertainty.

Dan Crossley, a partner a property consultancy WHR and John Keyes, head of office at international real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield.

Keyes said that a noticeable trend from 2016 has been the way markets – not least in Manchester as well as in the wider UK – had adjusted quickly to “new political or economic stimulants”.

“It is a measure of Manchester’s progress that it is seen as having a strengthening workforce which is increasingly cosmopolitan and most importantly, talented,” he said.

“We must do all that we can to hold on to and develop this growing strength. This is not only good for the employer demand of today but provides the flexibility to respond to employer needs in the workplace revolution that is already occurring.

“Demand though is only one side of the equation and perhaps as importantly we now need to ensure we attract the operators, developers and investors that recognise these changing workplace requirements.

“This combination provides vital flexibility that will be an important part of the Manchester story into the future.”

Meanwhile, Crossley said there was a consensus that no-one knew what lay ahead for the economy “never mind the property market”.

“Investors like to analyse curves, trends and patterns to liken it to a situation we have seen before but, after such an unexpected final half to 2016, there are no obvious or likely paths for 2017,” he said.

“One thing is quite clear is there is an air of optimism as we begin the year which can only be as a result of a very health stockmarket, a remarkable resilience and quick recovery after ‘The Vote’ in June.

“On a national level, it is clear that there is still a strong level of interest in investing into Great British Property, both from indigenous buyers and more global foreign investors, but what we may see is a reduced supply of such opportunities as current owners ponder what they would do with any proceeds.

“As a result I expect that we may see strong pricing maintained over the coming year, as investors and asset managers enthusiastically consider a wide range of income opportunities that provide a potential return that is far beyond a deposit rate alternative.

“We should also expect a similar story from both the regional perspective and from the smaller lot-size investments where a healthy investment return is good and, if that return is well secured – all the better.

On a regional basis there are also some very surprising stats just coming through – such as the Manchester office take up for 2016 being broadly in line with the last two years.

“On the ground it certainly didn’t feel like that was going to happen – but the market has just pressed on regardless and appears to be ignoring the doom mongers  of the post-Brexit vote world.

“Unfortunately  the bit that we don’t know is how well we will fair when the process of a Brexit genuinely begins as there is an immense number of moving parts and it has not been done before.

“Conclusion – Britain’s property market has always been regarded as a stable, safe haven and will continue to be so in 2017.”