Vetoes, Votes and Valentines

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Ping-Pong Brexit-Bill  “We call it ping-pong, you can imagine why, backwards and forwards of the Bill, but I expect that to be resolved in good time before the end of March.” Is David Davis expressing an optimistic view? The Conservatives do not have a majority in House of the Lords, where eight amendments have been tabled in respect of the Brexit Bill (including a proposal to guarantee rights for those EU citizens currently resident in the UK).  If the Upper House were to frustrate the referendum result, it would surely open up a constitutional debate on its existence and composition. Its members, on both sides of the political spectrum will be aware of this and so the more likely result is delay.

Brexit tracker  We wrapped up our Brexit tracker last week, with almost all sales under offer at the point of the Referendum having now closed or aborted. There are three headline findings from this exercise: (1) the volume of trading across the UK was reduced, with our tracker data showing some 25% of deals aborted, (2) sales took much longer to complete than normal (ave. 5-6 months), (3) value reduction over the period was minimal (<3%).  The averages hide some fairly wide variances although overall, the market appears to have reacted to the prospect of Brexit with indecision rather than distress. With (a) IPD capital appreciation moving back into positive territory in December, (b) stronger economic data, and (c) no obvious trigger-points on the near horizon, the market might breathe a sigh of relief – for now.

Out of the woods  National League side Forest Green Rovers FC has submitted a planning application for a 5,000 seater stadium made almost entirely from fire retardant timber. Timber largely fell out of favour as a building material following the Great Fire.  However, modern strengthening techniques and fire-treatments are paving the way for a reemergence. Currently, the tallest wooden building in the world is an 18-storey student accommodation block at the University of British Columbia (Canada). However, much more significant proposals have been tabled, including an 80-storey tower at London’s Barbican estate. The UK timber industry is growing rapidly, as forestry land is starting to reap the benefits of widescale planting in the late 1960s. A large scale adoption of this emerging construction method, could also be good news for those who own such land.

Blockchain  Next month, public testing starts on moving Sweden’s Land Registry onto Blockchain, in a move that could herald major global changes to the documentation of real estate transactions. Blockchain technology essentially creates an indelible, digital record of a transaction on an open ledger. It is the platform upon which the bitcoin currency is based, and is considered to have wide ranging applications from medical records to global trade. The implications for real estate include improvements to transaction speed, security, cost and visibility. For instance, all parties to a transaction, including lenders, could have live information on official records (purchase, rental payments, new covenants, title changes) as and when they are created. The impacts for emerging markets where deal information and property records are less robust are potentially very significant.









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Richard Pickering, Head of UK Research & Insight.

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