It’s often quoted that economists have predicted nine of the last five recessions. But the Cassandra tendencies of most economists are as nothing compared with those at the Bank of England, who seem to take a perverse pleasure in talking down the economy.

Last week the Old Women of Threadneedle Street predicted a 16% fall in house prices as a result of COVID 19, [1] compared with the much less hysterical figure of 7% forecast by the property market professionals (whose business depends on them getting these figures right).

Now, the Bank has never made any secret of its fondness for “cooling” the housing market (economist-speak for ‘talking down”), but why such a wild variation? A drop of 16% would compare with that of the financial crisis of 2008. However, two of the main factors which led to that historic drop – unavailability of mortgages due to the credit crunch and a lack of first time buyers – don’t apply today. Halifax and other lenders confirmed this week that mortgage products are available across a wide range of Loan-to-Values (LTV) [2] and after a pre-COVID surge in first time buyers [3], the sector came back even stronger after lockdown. The first-time buyer property portal, Share to Buy, reported its highest number of registrations in a single day following the Government’s easing of restrictions last week. [4]

Other property market professionals were similarly sanguine. MovingHomeAdvice.com said this week, “The fundamentals of the property market remain strong and with unemployment mitigated by the Government furlough scheme, cheap and available mortgage money and pent up demand from the hangover of Brexit, we argue that house-prices will not drop significantly anytime soon despite the anxiety of a market frozen by Covid 19 temporarily.” [5]

Nationwide, Halifax, Virgin and Santander have all made it easier for buyers to qualify for loans. Nationwide resumed loans at 85% LTV last Wednesday, while Halifax raised its LTV level from 80% to 85%.

Mark Harris, Chief Exec at SPF Private Clients said “Lenders are adapting and innovating,” observing that lenders have found ways to deal with some of the problems and “there is a willingness to lend. Problems have mostly centred around staff resources, handling the surge in mortgage payment holidays and those staff self-isolating who have children and no childcare”. [6]

Reflecting the general mood, Chris Sykes, mortgage consultant at broker Private Finance stated that this “is great news for the market and for borrowers who will have increased choice going forward. It also means the post-lockdown recovery should be swifter when some semblance of normality returns.” [7]

Regular readers will note that CapitalStackers anticipated a strong return to the housing market after people staring at the same four walls for two months searched for a change of scene. And sure enough, a mere two days after the housing lockdown ended, Miles Shipside, Rightmove director and housing market analyst reported: “The traditionally busy spring market was curtailed by lockdown, but we’re now seeing clear signs of returning momentum, with the existing desire to move now being supplemented by some people’s unhappiness with their lockdown home and surroundings.” Who knew? [8]

Rightmove recorded a 45% jump in visits on Wednesday following the Government’s lockdown-lift announcement on Tuesday, along with a 70% increase in email enquiries about viewings and 2,115 new property listings during the first five hours of trading yesterday. [9]

So where does the Bank of England wring its pessimism from? Might it be the Daily Mail, who wailed this week, “Desperate sellers are dropping the prices of their homes after a glut of properties flooded onto websites today as Britain’s housing market was reopened in a bid to get the country moving again during the lockdown.” [10] Well, yes – it’s undeniable that the number of houses increased when the block was lifted, but even the greenest of new estate agents would not call it a “glut”, any more than taking one’s thumb off a hosepipe could be called a flood.

But such figures would need to be rooted in reality, and the roots of the Bank’s mathematics would seem to be on rocky ground. Predictions of house price falls are realistically based on reports from estate agents of the actual discounts buyers ask for when they make an offer.

And the reality is that in March – according to Liam Bailey, Global Head of Research at Knight Frank – homes were sold on average for 98% of their asking price. Since then, sellers have been accepting offers at 94% of the asking price – a further drop of just four per cent. A far cry from the Bank’s extravagant 16%. [11]

To facilitate a drop of such magnitude would require buyers and mortgage lenders reluctant to take part  – neither of which seems to be happening – and those sellers already on the market becoming so desperate that they’re willing to accept such insulting offers, rather than just sitting tight and waiting for the generally predicted rise next year.

“The key question is,” says Bailey, “Will vendors accept discounts of more than five per cent? Some will, but there is growing evidence from the widening spread between average offers and the offers that are being accepted, that many simply won’t.

“If we add into the mix the fact that we have low new-build rates coming through in 2020, low inventory and low interest rates, it becomes less likely we will see significant further falls from here.”

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CapitalStackers is authorised and regulated by the FCA. Investment through CapitalStackers involves lending to property developers and investors. Your capital is at risk. Investments through this and other peer to peer lending platforms are not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. Unless otherwise stated, returns quoted are annualised and gross of tax.
Call us on: Office: 0161 979 0812 | Steve: 07774 718947 | Sylvia: 07464 806477

Of course nobody saw this COVID-19 situation coming. We certainly didn’t, and it would be pretty despicable to claim we did. However, that’s not what this is about.

What it’s about is the fact that, as a platform, we’ve always taken our duty to our investors seriously. Not just to roll up the cash for them in the good times, but to keep doing so in the bad times. Even when the less circumspect were pulling out.

To do that, you don’t need a crystal ball. Nor do you need a clear vision of what might happen. But what you do need is a clear vision of what you’d do in case anything bad happens.

That’s why the directors of CapitalStackers – seasoned property lenders through more upticks and downturns than any journalist would care to remember – used their hard-fought experience to build as much certainty as possible into their business model from the outset.

Specifically, they always ensured that every penny of the capital required to finish any of our borrowers’ developments was screwed down before the first trowel was lifted.

In other words – our investors are never asked to part with a single penny until the entire project is fully funded – end to end.

Along with the developer, we’ll fund the site acquisition (and sometimes some early stage building work).

From that point on, all the money required to pay the contractor – through to the laying of the last roofing slate and final lick of paint – is in place before the first bag of nails is ordered. These funds usually come from a bank (which we often help organise through our own contacts).

In brutal terms – this means that the development is never dependent on us hunting around for new investors to meet future construction costs. Even when the world is facing unheard of uncertainties, the contractors on all our sites are still certain they’re going to get paid, whether they’re just knocking in the last nails or just turning the first sod.

All of the sites we’re funding are still working (albeit slightly hamstrung by their supply chain). Of course, some of them may be forced to down tools for a while, but we’ve already gone in and remodelled the deals to take this eventuality into account.

Some of our sites are nearing completion – and here again, we’ve already planned for the potential of sales being delayed before we even heard of COVID-19. Experience told us to plan for the worst happening, and so if it doesn’t everyone still wins.

As it happens, this actually isn’t turning out as badly as one might expect. Of our new developments up for sale, the proportion of buyers who’ve pulled out is extremely low (we’ve had just one – and this is a buyer who is unable to progress the sale of their current home due to the lockdown). Most buyers are still buying, and at the price agreed beforehand – so there’s actually been no drop in value.

This is the story across every site we’re dealing with, and purchasers are ready to go when the lockdown lifts.

Unfortunately, even though we’ve warned repeatedly about it, the necessity of fully funding projects from the outset is still pretty much ignored across the rest of the industry.

Many projects funded by other lenders (some of them well-known names) will be finding themselves in difficulties because those responsible simply trusted in the Finance Fairy – believing, as many do, that new investors could always be found to keep topping up their buckets.

However, while many senior lenders are now substantially lowering the LTV ratios at which they’re prepared to lend to the point they might as well not be there at all, the banks we deal with remain active and still have an appetite for new deals.

And we’re the same.

Ironically, and despite us tightening our criteria in response to the climate, the situation is actually increasing our own pipeline – because it’s where the strength of our model shines through. It might make it a little slower to get our deals up and running in the first place, but it’s actually what keeps us strong at times when other lenders are forced to fall away.

Deals are now being brought to us that have fallen out of bed elsewhere – due to senior or junior lenders pulling out. And it’s not because of the risk – it’s because the platforms are struggling to fund their own loan book.  Their blind faith that the money tap would keep dripping has left them high and dry.

So although only a lunatic would say they were happy with the state of the world right now, at least we can say we’re fairly happy with what we’ve done to prepare our investors for it.

Of course, we sincerely wish our brothers in the P2P market well, and hope they do come through it unscathed. At the very least, if they do have funding shortfalls, we hope the Government can step in to plug any gaps, given that it will be secured on the properties being built, and redeemed on the sale of them.

And far from revel in our current USP, we nurse a fervent hope that, having come through this and out the other side, our P2P brethren will adopt the practice of ensuring that all building finances are locked down from the outset.

The construction industry and the housing market are too important to the UK economy for them not to learn this lesson.

It’s incumbent on all of us to keep it going.

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CapitalStackers is authorised and regulated by the FCA. Investment through CapitalStackers involves lending to property developers and investors. Your capital is at risk. Investments through this and other peer to peer lending platforms are not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. Unless otherwise stated, returns quoted are annualised and gross of tax.
Call us on: Office: 0161 979 0812 | Steve: 07774 718947 | Sylvia: 07464 806477

The FT is happily settling into its role as our nation’s most eager Prophet of Doom, rolling over and admitting defeat on behalf of us all before the first real punch has been thrown.

In this article on 8th April, James Pickford quotes property lender Octane Capital’s Chief Exec, Jonathan Samuels, who wails “To even be talking about bricks and mortar in the current climate feels absurd”.

Richard Donnell, research director at property website Zoopla, also runs in to aim his Nike Air Max at the market’s head, predicting a far steeper decline than 2008, and a very slow return to normality due to the length of the homebuying process and a survey of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors showed 82% are expecting house prices to fall.

The article ends with the prognosis that, even if the crisis is over by the summer, it could take till the New Year for the majority of buyers to get their confidence back.

Which is quite a bold prediction. After such a dramatic experience, who can predict how people will feel? It’s just as likely that after months of staring at the same four walls, people will be desperate to move and we could see a berserkers’ property boom for the rest of 2020. After all, look at the effect of the Christmas break on marriages.

Certainly, other property experts aren’t as keen to ring the bell on the market as the FT.

The real estate giants, JLL advise against betting on any definite outcomes, denigrating the “infodemic”, which it defines as “an overabundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it,” and counselling that, “in such a fluid situation, the facts and consequences are changing quickly”.

However, they suggest that the current “consensus forecast is for a sharp shock to the global economy in the first half of 2020 (including a 5-10% drop in values) followed by a bounce back – reminiscent of the recovery after the SARS outbreak in 2003”.

The JLL advice to the industry is to step up our preparedness for a number of scenarios, model business continuity plans, protect and diversify supply chains, “increase hygiene and cleaning measures on site …and also bring in more outdoor air in buildings…to help dilute airborne contaminants’.

But usefully, it analyses the impact by sector – recognising that painting everything black with a broad brush is not helping any of us. The travel and hospitality industry, for instance, will see areas that depend on international tourism (e.g. Edinburgh. York) and those seen as epicentres of the outbreak (London) hit in the short term and possibly suffering long term effects. However, it suggests an increase in domestic visitors and staycations will cause a rapid bounce back in the rest of the sector.

In retail, cashflow and changing consumer behaviour will lead to a slowdown in store openings, but the need to rethink and localise supply chains could lead to more demand for logistics and storage space across the UK.

The same may be true in the industrial and white collar sectors, with buildings becoming taller but smaller in footprint, and with less demand for parking land. However, they don’t see the fast tracked adoption of homeworking affecting demand for office space in the long term.

In the residential sector, it sees no threat to multifamily developments as an asset class, a drop in demand for student accommodation due to the decline in foreign students (particularly from Asia), a reduction in private investor appetite for flexible, short term co-living accommodation and a tougher investment market in the senior/healthcare sector due to increased protection protocols.

The prophets at Knight Frank have little time for Doomsters and Gloomsters, predicting that property prices fall by no more than 3% across the country and 2% in London. They’re also dauntlessly forecasting no price drop at all for prime central London properties and a strong revival in the New Year, based on the judgement that lockdown restrictions will be eased from July onwards. Their Global Head of Research, Liam Bailey, said “The housing market was in a strong position in January and February. A sharp uptick in sales and price growth was seen across the UK, with even the prime central London market seeing a reversal of a five-year long price decline.”

However, Mr Bailey voiced concern that even his predicted 18% rise in buying activity next year may not be enough to make up for the enforced pause in house sales this year and called on the Government to stimulate the market with a cut in stamp duty.

Over at Savills, they share JLL’s chariness about predicting the length, depth and shape of the downturn, and suggest the current rate of shutdown amounts to 79% of this year’s housing delivery. However, they’re confident that once the lockdown ends, if pent up demand doesn’t drive a fast bounce back, then “the Government’s focus will turn to measures that support the speed of recovery in all affected parts of the economy, including housebuilding”.

Lucian Cook, Head of Residential Research at Savills, says: “Assuming long-term damage to the economy is contained, we expect the five-year outlook for prices to remain similar to our November 2019 forecasts but with a different distribution of growth year to year”.

Which, in our view, is all the more reason to keep construction going – as long as the materials pipeline can be maintained. Savills points out a very real prospect of planning permissions and Help-To-Buy schemes expiring and, if they can’t be kept busy, workers (both skilled and unskilled) leaving the industry forever.

On the plus side, they predict rich pickings for cash-rich developers thanks to less fighting over sites, which may help offset the reduced valuations. Like JLL, Savills predicts “falls of 5 to 10%, returning to stronger growth in the medium term”.

But most importantly, they outline the importance of maintaining the flow of consents coming through the planning system, suggesting that if this is focused on, then local authorities could actually exit this period of shutdown with improved five year housing land supply (5YHLS) positions”.

If, on the other hand, sites are closed for a number of months, many local authorities could fail the Housing Delivery Test (which requires them to deliver 75% of housing targets).

Closer to home, Ed Hartshorne of the York estate agency, Blenkin & Co. was even more chipper, saying: “The number of sales will inevitably plummet over the next few months but suppressed demand may keep a hold on values.

“I think the housing market will respond energetically to the economic bounce when it does come, leaping into action and spurred on by an eager and cooperative market of buyers and sellers. We have already signed up clients eager to launch 20-odd houses just as soon as normality returns”.

Yorkshire based property consultant Alex Goldstein assures us that “demand and new supply will be strong post lockdown. We now have the lowest base interest rate in our history. This will filter through to the lenders, which will make money even cheaper to borrow. Prices will hold steady for now and we will see a gradual increase over the next few years as demand continues to outperform supply”.

He further predicts that the change in working practices, brought on by coronavirus, will lead to more people moving to Yorkshire. “Employers have now experienced how staff can work from home and I think that employees will push for this lifestyle choice. As we are already seeing, this will lead to more people leaving London and the Home Counties for God’s Own County”.

However, once Yorkshire is full, we confidently predict a trickle down effect to lesser counties.

So all in all, the outlook seems to be a little more rosy than the FT wants us to believe. As bad as it gets, the COVID-19 crisis is unlikely to make a significant dent in the demand for housing, and the construction pause won’t have helped the supply position. And since even longer term low interest rates can only add more fuel to the fire, all we can say to the nation’s developers is, “Keep building, Guys! Britain needs you!”

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CapitalStackers is authorised and regulated by the FCA. Investment through CapitalStackers involves lending to property developers and investors. Your capital is at risk. Investments through this and other peer to peer lending platforms are not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. Unless otherwise stated, returns quoted are annualised and gross of tax.
Call us on: Office: 0161 979 0812 | Steve: 07774 718947 | Sylvia: 07464 806477

Who knows what kind of economic landscape we will witness when we finally emerge, blinking in the sunlight, from our Covid-19 lockdown?

Many things will have changed, for certain. Many jobs – many companies even – will have ceased to exist. But one thing that won’t have changed, as sure as death and taxes, is there will still be a housing shortage.

The social change that drives that shortage won’t have gone away, either. Family break-ups, people getting married later and living longer are constantly repainting the panorama. In the new zeitgeist, we need more housing units because we have more family units.

And the impediments to solving that problem haven’t gone away either. They boil down to two simple facts: (1) We’re not building enough; and, (2) We’re not moving enough.

Society is a heaving, growing, moving mass, and if people get stuck in the wrong home (or without a home), our social fabric is tied in knots.

What’s more, if we underestimated the possible effects of a pandemic, it will be as nothing compared to the effects of a housing shortage left unaddressed in the years to come.

So having put the housing market into an induced coma, what can the Government now do – indeed, what must it do – to lubricate this rusty housing chain, get more people into the right homes, and keep the housing market moving?

  1. Facilitate mortgage availability

One of the most short-sighted responses to the current crisis is mortgage lenders refusing new loans to anyone unless they already have 25-40% equity. One of the UK’s biggest lenders, Nationwide, announced on 24th March that it would only offer mortgage deals at 75% Loan-to-Value – effectively pulling out of the new mortgage market. Santander and Skipton trumped them by setting its limit at 60%. One by one, most of the other major lenders followed suit.

While this is widely reported to be a temporary measure, none of the providers seems to have noticed that they have collectively emptied both barrels into their own metatarsals.

If mortgages dry up, so does the chain of buyers. No buyers means housing values will fall, and the mortgage lenders’ portfolios will suffer a pointless hike in LTV ratios.

It’s also totally unnecessary and short-termist. They’re seeing risk in absolute terms, rather than human terms. Yes, it might make sense on paper not to lend at 95% LTV when you might anticipate a 10% drop in the market. But houses aren’t airline shares. People don’t, by and large, buy them to sell in the short term. They buy them to live in. The average tenure has rocketed from 8 to 21 years (35 in London) so nitpicking risk assessors are not only missing the point of mortgages, they’re also shutting off their own pipeline and – even worse – blocking the lower paid from getting onto the housing ladder.

So if the mortgage providers won’t help themselves (and history has shown that they largely won’t), the Government needs to extend its provisory largesse to this area of the economy and erect a nerve-settling safety net. The message they’re giving to banks about businesses – “Just let them borrow” – needs to pervade the entire economy, because if people didn’t realise before how utterly interlinked the economy is, they do now.

  1. Suspend Council Tax on empty buildings.

What better way to bring down an already staggering construction industry than to administer a baseball bat to the knees, in the form of taxing their product before they can even sell it?

What other industry has to overcome such a hurdle? Builders are actually being forced to pay for services that are not being used – bins not being emptied, public transport not being utilised, parks and recreations not being visited – because there is as yet no-one to use them. This is akin to charging road tax on cars that are still in the showroom, or inheritance tax for your granny who isn’t yet dead. It’s obscene, pointless and again, it crushes its own windpipe. Councils should be encouraging new homes to be built within their provinces, to increase their own long-term revenue.

Yes, we know that the original intention was to encourage the occupation of empty homes, but right now, we need more empty buildings in order to fill them, and this policy is not helping in the least.

It would be a strengthening shot in the arm if councils were to suspend this utterly unconstructive tax on new build homes – preferably forever, or at least until the industry is in better shape.

  1. Extend the current Help to Buy Scheme

This is one of the most liberating initiatives ever to have hit the market, so why limit a force for good? The news that the Government has confirmed the extension of the Help to Buy equity loan scheme till 2023 is to be welcomed – but why this should be restricted to first time buyers is a mystery.

Wider stimulation will warm the blood vessels right through the industry – helping existing homeowners to move will naturally free up homes for first time buyers. And since the current extension was put in place when Corona was nothing more than a beer, we now need to consider how long the existing scheme should be extended to help repair the damage of the virus.

  1. Suspend Stamp Duty

Boris Johnson has already hinted at scrapping it, and having hinted, he needs to get on and do it, because the rumours themselves will stall the market – after all, who wants to buy now if they can save a considerable wedge by waiting till spring?

We already know the stimulating effect of even small tax changes on the market, but they just need to be done in the right way – the wrong way being the way Nigel Lawson did it in 1988. The housing boom (and consequent bust) of the late ‘80s was an unintended result of Lawson’s bungled removal of double mortgage relief for married couples. By telegraphing in March his intention to scrap it in July, he inadvertently caused a three-month stampede, which overheated the market and helped induce its collapse.

Nevertheless, just because one chancellor applied the wrong medicine at the wrong time, that doesn’t disprove the benefit of a little tonic in a place that sorely needs it. Stamp duty has left the handbrake on the housing market, and the further we try to drive, the more it squeals.

Lifting it, even for a little while, would bring blessed relief. Millions of older people are trapped in houses that are too big for them (and would be ideal for younger families). Many of them could afford to move when they find the perfect little bungalow, but if they need to bridge the sale of their house while they wait for a buyer, they’re subject to a 3% SDLT premium. Granted, they can claim it back if they sell within three years, but it’s a big chunk of cash to be waiting for, and so it’s a deterrent to the Silver Sellers. Not to mention a huge admin cost to the Government for money which, ultimately, they have to hand back.

Remove it, and the entire chain moves on a notch.

  1. Let builders build and equip them to do it

The clamour to close building sites must end with a firm word from the top. Builders need to keep building, full stop. The alternative is to extend the housing crisis until it becomes a catastrophe.

Granted, conditions on some building sites must be addressed – particularly in London, with crews working in cramped conditions, and in some cases living at close quarters, too. But to shut down an entire industry because of poor observance in one city would be madness.

Writing national policy with London blinkers on is never a great idea. The majority of sites outside the capital are run within Government safety guidelines, and are regularly inspected to ensure they continue to do so. The nation needs them to keep building, so the Government needs to let them get on with it.

And this also means “stop giving mixed messages”. Set the guidelines and make them clear and comprehensive.

Those building sites which have stayed open are finding most builders merchants that supply them are closed. True, the Government told builders merchants to get back to work last week (while observing public health guidelines), but that was amid a cacophony of messages telling everyone to stay home unless their job was absolutely necessary. Such discordant advice naturally led the bigger chains – the Selcos, TPs, Howdens et al – to close their doors rather than risk an HR backlash.

Even in those outlets that are open, confusion reigns. Anecdotal reports paint a patchy picture of how the directives are being interpreted, with builders being sold plasterboard, but not skirting board, as it is “not an essential item”.

If we trust builders to build, we must also trust them to judge what they need to do their job, and not tie their hands unnecessarily.

Let’s not forget, also, the interconnectedness and interdependence of the economy. A moving housing market drags the replacement kitchen and bathroom market along with it. It mobilises an army of manufacturers and suppliers, fitters and finishers, painters and decorators, landscape gardeners, soft and hard furnishers…

Keeping these industries moving preserves them and ensures the housing market is ready to go as soon as restrictions are lifted – and in an industry that moves slowly, this is surely vital. The rest of the economy can’t afford for the building industry to slow to a stop. Too much else depends on it.

So will any of this happen? We hope so. This Government has distinguished itself so far by a remarkable willingness to listen. Solutions have been proffered and adopted almost as soon as the problems have been identified. And we imagine they will continue to do so. The first four measures above would have been a welcome response to the housing crisis even in normal times. But now we’ve had a crisis upon a crisis, they have become imperatives.

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CapitalStackers is authorised and regulated by the FCA. Investment through CapitalStackers involves lending to property developers and investors. Your capital is at risk. Investments through this and other peer to peer lending platforms are not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. Unless otherwise stated, returns quoted are annualised and gross of tax.
Call us on: Office: 0161 979 0812 | Steve: 07774 718947 | Sylvia: 07464 806477

Are the hands of your watch moving as slowly as mine? And pure irony, isn’t it – as soon as Boris tells us to stay at home, it stops raining and out comes the sun?!

The vast majority of us are adjusting to home working and getting on with ‘social distancing’. Those businesses that are allowed to work as ‘normal’ are getting on with that too. Except the construction industry has come under intense fire for keeping building sites open. At the beginning of the week, the media’s attention was focused primarily – if not wholly – on London. Candid shots of a crowded Tube and big, tight construction sites in the Capital’s centre featured high on news editors’ agendas alongside calls from the London Mayor and Scotland’s First Minister to halt construction altogether.

Thankfully, the Government has held its nerve, for now at least, and hundreds, if not thousands, of SME housebuilders are continuing to do their level best to keep the home fires burning. And with safety at the top of the agenda. We’re going to come through this some time in the not too distant future and in the meantime it’s imperative that we fight hard to keep as much of the economy going as is humanly possible. The point is made very persuasively here by Jamie Blackett of the Telegraph. Those keyboard warriors who have been sniping at small builders would be better off directing their ire at the hordes of ‘long distancing’ walkers descending en masse to the same locations and the parents who allow their kids to roam unchecked. They are the ones posing a real danger to everyone else’s efforts to #flattenthecurve.

Some of the national housebuilders have stopped building but there’s a suspicion the shutdown is more to do with the ability to sell finished product during a lockdown than the working practices on site. The Construction Leadership Council is all over the latter like a rash. It, and other professional bodies, have circulated comprehensive site operating procedures. Certainly, all the contractors on sites we are funding are on the ball. Site meetings are virtual, hosted on Skype or Teams or Zoom with monitoring surveyors conducting site visits outside normal construction hours. It’s sensible, measured, meets Government guidelines and is safe. There is certainly no more risk than doing the supermarket shop.

This Insider article about a regional housebuilder serves as a fine counterpoint to the stance being adopted by some of the nationals as reported in Property Week. By the way, access to Property Week online is now free until 19th April in case you want to read more.

Disappointingly, some of our borrowers are reporting difficulties with the supply chain. Builders’ merchants and timber factories going into lockdown isn’t helping and will only serve to push out build programmes. We’ve reviewed and remodelled all our deals to take this into account.

I’m going to finish this blog with a link to someone else’s on the basis it’s good to finish with something more upbeat. Earlier this month, Savills revisited the housing market forecasts they penned in November last year, concluding that market fundamentals continue to underpin their medium term view. They subsequently published further coronavirus opinion after the lockdown in which they expect short term price falls in the order 5% – 10%. You can read more here.

Oh, and anecdotally, it’s interesting to note that since this kicked off, we’ve had just one investor looking to sell a loan participation in our Secondary Market (that’s a rare event given most choose to stay in for the whole ride). It was posted late yesterday and went under offer this morning. Make of that what you will, but I think it’s a strong sign of underlying confidence.

Stay safe.

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CapitalStackers is authorised and regulated by the FCA. Investment through CapitalStackers involves lending to property developers and investors. Your capital is at risk. Investments through this and other peer to peer lending platforms are not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. Unless otherwise stated, returns quoted are annualised and gross of tax.
Call us on: Office: 0161 979 0812 | Steve: 07774 718947 | Sylvia: 07464 806477

Total transparency has always been a core function to us at CapitalStackers, but in the current climate, just like handwashing, this element of normal housekeeping takes on critical importance.

We’re fully aware that our investors will be looking to us to keep them informed as the COVID-19 crisis unfolds. Of course, detailed information has always been available in the individual deal rooms on the platform. But for those investors who may not go looking for this, there’s a chance they could miss important information.

So to be clear, we’ll be reporting even more regularly to you – both in general terms, and on a deal-by-deal basis. We’ll give you all possible detail on how conditions on the ground are affecting the specific projects that you’ve invested in.

Clearly, we can’t predict how things will pan out, but by continuing to give you regular, exhaustive progress reports on each project – both from the borrower, and from the independent surveyor – we hope to give you all the information you need to assess the ongoing safety of your investments.

If you’re investing through a pooled platform – across a variety of consumer and SME loans – your capital is more likely be affected in the immediate to short-term. If you’re able to, you might want to withdraw your funds quickly because the situation is volatile and information hard to come by, but this may no longer be possible.

On the other hand, when you lend direct on a property development scheme through CapitalStackers, the situation is going to be played out over a longer term (excepting projects where completion is imminent), so the need to move quickly is not quite so crucial.

Of course, you’ll want to keep a closer eye on the situation – but you’ll also have an ongoing, detailed rundown of every key element of the investment. As we say, this is available on the platform at all times, but over the coming months we’ll go further and interpret it more frequently so that you don’t miss a thing.

And while the current situation could never have been foreseen, our standard due diligence builds in some fairly significant downsides for every scheme because we have always felt it prudent to do so. This, therefore, leaves you a fair amount of headroom before the virus infects your capital.

For instance, if we’re (collectively) lending within our typical range up to a maximum 75% Loan-to-Value including interest, this means the sale price will have to fall by more than 25% from the appraised valuation before your capital is affected. However – this is also after we’ve allowed for potential construction delays, cost overruns and deferred sales.

That’s quite a lot of breathing time.

Then again, we’re not rejecting the possibility that property values could be hit hard in the coming months, but as you’d expect, we’ve considered this in our risk analysis too.

And without doubt, the most important thing you want to know right now is how all this could impact our deals, and your investments. We’re going to try to answer this question here, but please be aware that the answer will extend and adapt as the situation does.

 

What could the effects be?

This is new territory for everyone. The whole world has changed and seemingly changes again every time the sun comes up. Accurate prediction is nigh on impossible but here are our best conjectures about the immediate impact:

Project periods may need to be extended because:

  • Skilled labour supply might be reduced;
  • The supply chain could be interrupted;
  • Utility companies may decrease output or even go into self-imposed lockdown;
  • A blanket lock down on all sites could be imposed by the Government if on-site working practices on some sites fail to adhere to safe distancing rules.
  • Projects nearing completion will certainly be impacted by the current general lockdown. If people can’t view, they won’t be able to buy and so selling periods will become protracted.

We can expect longer construction periods to lead to increased costs and higher interest accrued through longer-than-anticipated loan terms.

In addition to the above, property values may fall due to a weaker economy.

These factors will eat into the profit margin and push up the Loan-to-Value ratio.

 

So what are we doing about it?

In short, we’re going through our daily downside sensitivity routine, but on steroids. We’re appraising each deal in the context of where it is now, assessing the possibility of a total construction lockdown, evaluating delays to construction and sales with interest continuing to roll up.

Through this exercise, we’re able to give you a progressive insight into how much values could fall before you are on risk.

Although the situation is unprecedented, we’re also able to draw from historical examples in our modelling, and this gives us some cause for optimism.

The last massive interruption to the market came in 2008 when the banking sector imploded and liquidity almost completely dried up. As you can see from the chart below, the market fell less than 20% in the eighteen months from the peak in September 2007 to the trough of March 2009. This, of course, is less than the minimum 25% headroom all CapitalStackers deals allow for.

Financial hygiene is even more important during the COVID-19 crisis

The banking sector at that time was less robust than it is now. Some banks collapsed, others simply pulled out – leaving the property sector in the lurch. It took a long time for the market to get back to where it was.

Today, banks have better capital ratios and their real estate exposure is significantly more conservative. The expectation and likelihood is that they will remain supportive while the market repairs itself, and that the repair should be quicker and more stable than last time.

So to summarise, as always, we’re maintaining close contact with our borrowers, senior debt providers, monitoring surveyors and estate agents – but everyone is on high alert and we’re fully aware of the increased importance of full and detailed information.

And as ever, we’re making ourselves fully available to investors. You’re used to that, of course, but now, more than ever, if you want to discuss the outlook either generally or specific to any deal, you’re welcome to call us at any time. Our contact numbers are below.

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CapitalStackers is authorised and regulated by the FCA. Investment through CapitalStackers involves lending to property developers and investors. Your capital is at risk. Investments through this and other peer to peer lending platforms are not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. Unless otherwise stated, returns quoted are annualised and gross of tax.
Call us on: Office: 0161 979 0812 | Steve: 07774 718947 | Sylvia: 07464 806477