The Election Doesn’t Matter For UK Real Estate Investment, But The Middle East Does

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This year’s UK general election will matter greatly to the lives of the British people, and it could usher in big changes: The bookmakers are convinced there will be a Labour government for the first time in 14 years.

But when it comes to real estate investment, the election doesn’t really matter. 

While the election will likely impact planning policy or regulation of the residential market, there are much bigger factors out there. That was the main takeaway from Bisnow’s UK Outlook event, held last week at the London outpost of the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. 

“I think there’s much bigger global risks at play to interest rates than local election, and I call it local because in the global context now, a UK election seems quite small,” DWS UK CEO and Head of European Real Estate Portfolio Management Jessica Hardman said.

“About 70% of the world’s population is voting for a new government this year, so there’s a huge unknown with that. Oil prices, Middle Eastern unrest, these are where the thoughts are, I think, rather than centre right, centre left, in my opinion.”

Speakers said eyes would be on the Middle East, given the impact conflict in the region can have on oil prices. Rising oil prices lead to inflation, and inflation means interest rates don’t come down, and real estate would like rates to drop this year.

The U.S. election, with Donald Trump seen as likely to pressure the Federal Reserve to drop interest rates, will also be a factor, speakers said. 

The current iteration of Labour is seen as much more business-friendly than previous versions, panelists told the audience. 

“I would also say that this election is probably far less impactful, where we will see far less volatility as a result of whether it goes Conservative or Labour,” BlackRock Global Real Estate co-Head Paul Tebbit said. 

“2017 and 2019 would have been much more significant elections in terms of the changing direction it could have caused,” he said. “But the Brexit deal’s done. Keir Starmer is much more of a centrist-moderate than Jeremy Corbyn would have been. And higher interest rates and the pretty difficult fiscal position the government faces, there’s not a lot which I expect to happen differently, depending which government it’s going to be. It’s going to be pretty constrained either way.”

Neither government can significantly increase borrowing, Tebbit said, which may lead to higher taxes. But overall, the colour of the winning team doesn’t make a huge difference. 

“It’s going to be very important for us as the populace of the UK,” he said. “But I actually think from an investment perspective, it’s going to be pretty unexciting.”