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Brexit 'phoney war' killing the housing market

Brexit is a ‘phoney war’ which is causing stultification in the housing market and flatlining business – there’s absolutely no need, says disgruntled journalist Steve McDowell.

I hate the phrase Brexit. Why can’t we call it ‘Brexthehelloutofhere’, or ‘ShuttheBrexup’?

Of course there are solid social and economic arguments for whether or not we stay members of the European Union. There are also a lot of fatuous, spurious and downright rotten arguments from both sides.

You will be relieved to know I’m not going to trot any of them out right now or even add a few of my own observations.

For sale sign in front of a building labelled the cottage

What I will say is that I am surprised and impressed by the level of engagement the whole debate has found among the British public – are you ‘In’ or ‘Out’? - is the question in pubs and clubs up and down the land. The social animation of this debate goes far beyond that which surrounds any General Election of my experience.

That’s a good thing of course but what is not is that while this argument pervades every level of our society they appear to be doing nothing else.

It’s a phoney war. The original one, when there was no military action on the Western Front went from September 1939 to May 1940 – this one seems to have been going on and on… and on. 

I’m a self-employed family man who is trying to sell his South London home to fund a move out of London for the benefit of lots of things – chiefly the children’s education. Nothing unusual in that – thousands of middle-class families have done the same in recent years.

Except that, with even a keenly priced property in a desirable area nothing is moving. Until six months ago, when with almost perfect bad timing we put it on the market, family houses of this size would be on the market a few weeks at most. More often than not according to local agents you would get an offer within the first two. Despite a lot of interest and the discipline (pain in the rear?) of keeping the house super-tidy all the time, we haven’t even had a second viewing.

I have spoken to other vendors in my area who are selling properties from small flats to maisonettes to terraced houses like this one. Same story.

The agents say they spend more time on the phone apologising to client and buyer alike than negotiating. Potential buyers – they say – are sitting on their hands because of uncertainty caused by Brexit.

My rough straw poll around here amounts to the same – the end of the buy-to-let tax boom hasn’t helped, but was anticipated, tougher regulation in the mortgage market hasn’t helped fluidity in the house market either but that was long expected and neither of those actually abruptly stopped business being done. Nope, it’s Brexit and I don’t really understand it.

Personally, I don’t understand it and I don’t care if I sell my house to a British European or a British Briton.  

So in or out, shake it all about – just make your wretched minds up and someone buy my house.

By Steve McDowell

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