With base rates at 0.5%, there is really only one direction that interest rates can go from here and that is up. A key question is when? The recent messages coming from the Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney, may have provided some insights. The thinking now is that it could happen sooner than the markets think. Most traders had already factored in a hike in the early part of 2015, and if it happened, it would be the first one to occur since July 2007 following more than eight years of monetary easing. The view now is that this could transpire much earlier in October or November of this year. Though Carney did stress that the path to any increase would be “gradual and limited”.
But what of UK property? This is an asset class that has seen debt on real estate go from £53 billion in 1999 to £273 billion at the height of the boom, an increase of 5.5 times. Although that level of indebtedness has declined somewhat, it still remains high, currently standing at approximately £180 billion, representing an average loan to value of 28% (outstanding commercial property debt to the size of the UK commercial property market). Surely any interest rate rise is going to adversely effect the prospects of the sector, so is this the beginning of the end for UK property?
Logic would dictate it should be. In simple terms, higher interest rates means higher mortgage payments and therefore less income. Less income implies lower returns. However, there are three big factors at play which might help to avoid such an outcome.
Furthermore, history shows us that UK property initially benefits from rising interest rates. There was only one period when this relationship broke down in May 2000 to December 2001, when UK capital values moved in an opposite direction to the trend in interest rates. Not the beginning of the end but maybe the start of the upward property cycle.
Citigate Dewe Rogerson
Patrick Evans / Stephen Sheppard / James Madsen / Alice Stewart
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