Well now we know. The UK general election didn’t pan out as anyone thought. No party received an overall majority. So we find ourselves in an unfamiliar country. The Conservatives could have set up an unstable minority government. Or two parties could have banded together and form a majority coalition government – rare in the UK. But after a great deal of fascinating horse-trading this is just what happened. The Conservatives have been joined by the Liberal Democrats who managed, having effectively come third in the election, to get their feet under the cabinet table for the first time in seventy years. Their leader, Nick Clegg, becomes Deputy Prime Minister while David Cameron, leader of the Conservatives, becomes Prime Minister – at 43 the youngest in the UK for 198 years. Having come second, outgoing Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and his Labour government are consigned to the pages of history.
British politics is adversarial and brutal. No sooner does a Prime Minister lose an election than he or she loses their home at 10 Downing Street. There is no gentle period of incumbency here. One minute you are sitting pretty in one of the best-known addresses in the world and the next you are retreating miserably out of the back door while the new PM enters triumphantly through the front.
But it seems that it’s not just the Camerons and the Browns who are moving home. Lots of other people in the UK have decided that it is time for a change also. This new coalition government inherits many challenges of an economic and social kind, but the UK real estate market they inherit isn’t in too bad a shape, despite the recession. Recent activity in the property market is at levels not seen for several years, and now the election is well and truly out of the way there should be even more decisiveness in the market.
After considerable falls, prices in prime London areas and in other large metropolitan areas around the UK have surged back to 2007 levels and – in some key locations – have exceeded even those. Most other areas have seen prices rise but not to such a generous extent.
First time buyers in the UK have recently been given a good tax break here to help stimulate this sector and this will have a positive knock-on effect further up the market. As mortgage lenders become more accommodating to borrowers, and more competitive with each other, more people will enter the real estate market, and this goes for overseas homes including the US.
With ever more of the UK population reaching retirement age, the demand for homes in the US is set once again to rise. But as the UK and the US move into a period of faster recovery there will, no doubt, be a residual level of caution from buyers. Fiercely competitive pricing will reward bold sellers on both sides of the Atlantic. More rigid and optimistic sellers may find themselves neither bounding out of the front door nor sloping out of the back. They will be somewhere rather nasty in between called Limbo.
Nick Churton of Mayfair International Realty