Many commentators, stock market participants and surveyors have been warning us that housebuilding and the homes market will be badly damaged by the vote to leave the EU. We were told to expect an immediate shock to confidence, leading to falling purchases and plunging prices.
Yesterday a leading housebuilder, Persimmon, brought us up to date with their trading. In the first half year there was a 6% rise on the numbers of homes they sold, and a 6% rise in the average price of homes they sold, with good growth in revenue and profits. Worries about the vote did not drag them down. Since the vote they tell us there has been a 20% increase in the number of visitors to their sites, and a 17% increase in reservations of homes by buyers. In other words, the very opposite of the gloomy forecasts has once again happened.
If this is the experience of one of the UK’s larger housebuilders, it is difficult to believe other housebuilders would have experienced the opposite. Persimmon are planning to increase the numbers of homes they build, as they foresee more demand ahead.
Would those who forecast the immediate shock and have said they think the housing market is falling like to comment? It is difficult to understand why the share market marked down housebuilders so savagely after the Brexit vote. They of course are busily revising their view and have marked housebuilding shares up again since.
Meanwhile we had another of those surveys which pessimists have welcomed to their cause. This one is a bit different. The CBI Industrial trends survey showed output expectations at a modest plus 11 compared to plus 6 in July. This implies rising industrial output over the third quarter of 2016. Total orders were at -5 compared to -4 in July. These are often negative – they were at minus 18 in October last year for example, and negative for several other months long before the referendum became an influence.