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Review

Review of the year.

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by Jonathan Sealey

Well you don’t need me to tell you that this year has been dominated by Brexit, Brexit and more Brexit, almost wiping everything else out. But regardless what the mainstream press may have us believe, there has been more to 2018 than just the Brexit negotiations. Here is our annual look back at the year.
 
January
To kick off the madness of 2018, we had a total lunar eclipse in January and a ‘supermoon’. Maybe this had an effect on the mayhem that was to come.
Back on planet earth, while Donald Trump was cancelling his trip to the UK and a leaked government paper showed that Brexit will damage the UK economy no matter what deal is agreed, Hope Capital kicked off the year with a reduction in bridging rates to just 0.99% – as did a number of other lenders in what has become an annual New Year price war. In the mainstream market almost 50,000 remortgages completed – the highest number since November 2008.
 
February
February saw Britain shudder under more than just the thought of a year of Brexit talks as a 4.4 magnitude earthquake hit South Wales, with the effect felt as far away as Liverpool, Birmingham and Cornwall. This was followed by another in Cumbria just two weeks later.
 
While the earth didn’t move for the bridging industry, a growing number of reports observed a noticeable increase in demand for both bridging and development finance and more new lenders entering the market.
 
March
March saw the arrival of the Beast from the East as Britain was blanketed in snow, which, in true UK style, ground much of the country to a halt. The Chancellor held his newly renamed Spring Statement and announced a £44billion investment to increase the number of new houses by 300,000.
 
While people were avoiding Salisbury worried about Russian plots and poisoning, the OBR revised up its growth forecast for the UK from 1.4% to 1.5%, revealing in the economy versus Brexit, that the economy was just about winning out.
 
April
April brought in the next raft of changes for landlords in England and Wales, as all properties taking on new tenants now have to have an energy performance rating of at least E. Good news for builders and tenants, not so much for investors who need to upgrade their properties.
 
Back on the Brexit trail, Teresa May’s Brexit Bill is twice defeated by the House of Lords. It was not only the prime minister getting hot under the collar either as following the deep chill of March the UK had hottest April day on record since 1949.
 
May
The wedding of Harry and Meghan Markle brought some good cheer, while every organisation in the UK had a last-minute scramble to be GDPR compliant in something akin to the Millenium bug preparations.
 
House prices rise moderately as demand for residential property drops slightly, but sentiment in the bridging industry continues to rise with 78% of ASTL members expecting their turnover to grow and 63% expecting the same for the bridging industry as a whole.
 
June
Following the warmest May since records began, the heatwave continues with wild fires across Britain. It gets pretty hot under the collar in Parliament too as the House of Commons rejects a Lords amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill attempting to keep the UK in the EEA after Brexit.
 
A Hope Capital survey reveals nine in ten brokers plan to increase their level of bridging business over the next 12 months, with 97% of brokers more than happy to work with unregulated lenders.
 
Most importantly England record their biggest ever victory at a World Cup game, winning 6–1 against Panama.
 
July
Forget royal weddings, England’s World Cup penalty shootout win over Colombia is watched by 23.6 million viewers, the highest peak audience for live sport 2004.
Globally the US starts what China calls “the largest trade war in economic history” while Mark Carney warns the UK would experience “a dramatic drop in house prices” if we have no deal on Brexit.
 
August
Despite woes in the retail sector and the Bank of England’s dire warnings for Brexit, ASTL figures show annual completions for bridging loans continue to rise to reach £3.87billion. As inflation creeps up the MPC raises base rate by 0.25% to 0.75%.
 
While the owner of Sports Direct steps in to buy House of Fraser everyone wishes they’d bought shares in Apple as it becomes the world’s first public company to achieve a market capitalisation of $1 trillion.
 
September
The industry reflects on ten years since the collapse of Lehman brothers triggering the worst global financial crash since the 1930s and the start of the credit crunch. In crunch time for the prime minister, Theresa May’s Chequers plan is rejected by EU leaders and the pound falls by the highest amount in the year so far. Meanwhile Bridging Introducer reports that the average time to completion for a bridging loan is now 48 days.
 
October
The CBI reports 80% of UK firms in their survey have cancelled or delayed investments due to Brexit uncertainty, double the figure of 2017. Meanwhile 700,000 people march through central London demanding a second referendum on the final Brexit deal in the second most attended protest of the 21st century in the UK.
Despite this, ASTL figures reveal annual bridging completions for Q3 are up 21.2% year-on-year, while in the budget, Philip Hammond announces the era of austerity “is finally coming to an end”.
 
November
In Parliament Theresa May secures Cabinet support for her Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, but the Brexit secretary resigns, one more of a long list of “leading” politicians to decide not to lead after all.
 
More sombrely, people around the world mark the centenary of the end of World War 1.
Marking the progress of women in that time, Hope Capital signs Women in Finance Charter announcing 50% of its senior management team are women and 75% of its staff.
 
December
We end the year with Brexit still dominating the agenda; not only is parliament split but so is every party, with our future more uncertain than ever. Despite this the bridging industry appears to be holding its own. While demand is clearly softening in the mainstream market and London property has definitely taken a hit, people still need somewhere to live and developers continue to spot opportunities. Despite dire predictions and doomsday warnings, the economy is proving remarkably resilient. Let’s all hope this resilience continues throughout the whole of 2019.

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Jonathan Sealey

Jonathan started Hope Capital in 2011 after working in property for over 9 years and is responsible for the company’s strategic growth.

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