Crystal-ball gazing is an uncertain art, but what will happen if Britain decides to make a speedy EU exit?
With the recent problems with Greece and the EU, thoughts are inevitably turning to Britain's own position. If it did vote to leave the EU in the forthcoming in-out referendum, what might be the consequences for the British housing market?
There are so many ifs and buts in the equation that long-term forecasts are more than usually speculative. But as was evident in the pre-election period, when the property market stalled, there is nothing that spooks markets more than uncertainty. As the EU referendum nears, one would expect buyers and sellers alike to keep their powder dry, awaiting developments.
The impact of a Brexit on the property market would depend upon its impact on the economy generally. A survey earlier this year by accountants KPMG found that 66 per cent of real estate experts believed that 'Britain leaving the EU would have a negative impact on inbound cross-border investment'.
The central London property market would be hit hardest, but the impact would not be confined to the capital. Conversely, if a UK suddenly freed from EU regulations attracted more inward investment, not less, the property market would benefit.
"Before any large event that could dramatically affect the economy, there are always many arguments presented in regards to the property market in order to sway votes. This creates an air of uncertainty among both buyers and sellers and as such makes everyone much more cautious," comments Dominic Agace, CEO of Winkworth. "We saw this very recently with the General Election, with a quieter period in terms of transactions in the lead up to the vote, and so we anticipate a similar effect in the lead up to Referendum. However, the UK and London in particular has always had a draw for foreign investment, not only from Europe but much further afield, and I would expect this to continue whatever the outcome, especially as people come for many reasons including schools and the lifestyle."
A Brexit could also have a knock-on effect on property prices if, as expected, immigration from Europe fell. However, the reverse is also likely to be true for mainland Europe. "There may be implications for UK buyers looking in mainland Europe should we exit the EU," says David King, Head of Winkworth's International department. "If, following an exit, extra rules were introduced for British buyers such as visa or money checks then the process could be more difficult. However, as with the UK, investment by overseas buyers is more often than not welcome and as such I cannot foresee any stipulations being too problematic. Instead it is likely that those looking to buy will just need to make sure they can confidently negotiate the process, which a good estate agent and lawyer with experience in these markets will be able to assist with.