A stunned UK woke up this morning to news that the Leave campaign has won and that there is to be a Brexit.
In a further shock – and with breath-taking speed – David Cameron announced at 8.25am this morning that he is to step down as Prime Minister, although he will stay in post for three months to provide stability. He said he had already spoken to the Queen.
In a dramatic speech delivered outside 10 Downing Street, Cameron said: “There can be no doubt about the result.
“I would reassure those markets and investors that Britain’s economy is fundamentally strong.”
Adding: “We have to confront big decisions not duck them. This will require strong and committed leadership.
“I think the country requires fresh leadership.
“I do not think it would be right for me to be the captain that steers the country to its next direction.”
The next Prime Minister, he said, would be in place by the party conference this autumn.
Further shock and uncertainty seem inevitable, with speculation that George Osborne may also depart and that the Bank of England will have to step in to shore up the pound after it fell heavily.
Shares plunged with the stock market initially down 500 points. Rightmove shares fell to nearly £34 from £41, while Purplebricks shares fell to 115p, but both recovered from these lows. Foxtons has taken a big hit, falling over 20%, and Countrywide 18%.
However, one agent – Simon Halling Estates, of Tring, Hertfordshire – expressed optimism after agreeing a sale with solicitors at 10.30am this morning. He said he wondered if this was the first post-Brexit deal, adding: “I have also already exchanged on one today, so it is very much business as usual.”
Reaction from the industry has been swift to pour in.
Michael Robson, chief executive of Andrews Property Group, said: “The UK’s decision to leave the EU means that the uncertainty of the last few months, which has negatively impacted the market, will now continue and it’s hard to judge for how long this will be the case. This isn’t good news for home owners.
“Previous market cycles suggest that timescales for recovery tend to be slow and long and we should be prepared for anything between three to five years for any significant bullishness to return.
“The great unknown here sits with government policy.
“Who will be in charge? What will happen to the stock markets and value of the pound? It’s very possible that some employers could panic and jobs could then be lost.”
Property market commentator Henry Pryor tweeted in doomsday style: “House sales expected to fall 20%. House prices expected to fall 15%. Sterling crash makes UK prices 10% lower for foreign buyers already.” He later clarified that the fall in house sales is Hometrack’s forecast, and the fall in prices is George Osborne’s prediction.
Mark Hayward and David Cox, managing directors respectively of the NAEA and ARLA, said: “The outcome of today’s EU referendum will create a period of uncertainty among home owners, buyers, investors, landlords and developers.
“In the short term we believe that both prices, and rents, will remain stable, but we cannot be certain about the next quarter as political instability, and market unrest, could lead through into prices in the housing market. We believe that the UK housing market is resilient, as is the supply chain that drives it.”
Knight Frank said there will be “short-term volatility”, with house prices coming under pressure and consumer confidence knocked, but that the long-term market dynamics were unchanged.
Andy Martin, senior partner at Strutt & Parker, said the vote “is going to cause a huge amount of disruption”. He said: “The market has shown signs of volatility in the lead-up to this vote.
“We have seen a real cutback in trading due to the uncertainty of this vote. What we are now waiting to see is how our clients and markets will react to this. I suspect that they will continue to tread with caution.”
Peter Wetherell, chief executive of London agent Wetherell, said: “This morning Sterling has plummeted to a low not seen since 1985 and this will now create a short-term buying opportunity for US dollar and Euro-based property investors.
“This is a market for risk takers and people able to spot high risk but potentially lucrative opportunities that have emerged overnight.”
However, Wetherell forecast that in parts of London, where there are high numbers of EU buyers, there “could now be a dramatic slowdown” which could last years.
Edward Heaton, of property buying agent Heaton & Partners said: “There is a risk that with a period of uncertainty ahead of us, prices may drop off but I believe that any fall will be limited and suggestions of a crash are over-stated.”
Welsh agent Dafydd Hardy said: “Interesting times ahead … Time will tell but there will clearly be uncertainty in the property market. However, moving forward we must now adopt a positive attitude and accept the vote of the people.”
Consultant Michael Day tweeted: “Democratic decision. I don’t agree but need to unite and try and make it work now.”
Russell Quirk, of eMoov, said: “Many will be running to their nuclear bunkers now that the apparent end of the world is nigh. But before they do, they might want to take a breath and sit tight. We’ve voted to leave the EU and regardless of personal views we must respect the democratic position of the populous.
“We don’t anticipate any tangible difference where the UK property market is concerned and the supply and demand balance that is currently dangerously out of kilter will see little sign of stabilising itself.
“Going forward the UK market will go from strength to strength, perhaps with wobbly knees at it emerges from the clutches of the EU, but it will soon find its feet again.
“There may be many buy-to-let landlords and second home owners rushing to list their property for sale in order to maximise their profit, before the ‘Armageddon’ on the horizon destabilises the pound. Ironically it will be these people flooding the market with additional stock that may see prices cool ever so slightly.
“However, property values increased by 6% over the course of 2015 and we predict the same rate of growth by the end of 2016.
“Home ownership will remain far out of reach for the average UK citizen and the overwhelming swell of demand for property will remain despite our choice to leave the EU.
“This could, however, be the final nail in the coffin for the prime central London market, as the capital’s high-end properties have never been less desirable in the eyes of foreign investors. With demand having slumped to record lows over the last year, it’s not looking good for the capital’s property elite.”
One of the few positive comments came from house builder John Elliott, of Millwood Designer Homes, who was delighted with the Leave vote, saying: “I am delighted that today is Independence Day for Britain. Our exit will stop the continual flow of red tape and see our housing market grow and flourish.”
We will be updating this story as the day goes on, and also look forward to seeing your posts as to how our readers interpret today’s seismic events.
Tomorrow, in EYE’s Saturday edition, Marc Shoffman will also be looking at the likely impact of the Leave vote on the residential property market.