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Stuff happens

Nick Churton in our UK office in London takes a mid-year look at the international real estate market and reflects on an irony that seems prescient on both sides of the Atlantic.

 nick churtonIt was exactly two hundred years ago this year when Napoleon met his Waterloo – at Waterloo. This battle in Belgium was very important in world history – and not just for beginning the end of French imperialism. It also helped give rise to the British Empire and acted as a spark that would ignite German socialism. If Waterloo teaches us anything it teaches us that stuff happens – and not always in a good way.

Stuff still happens in Europe today. The Greek financial crisis threatens not just continental unity but global financial stability. Problems in the Ukraine remind us of long running territorial sores that never seem to go away, and the rise of religious fundamentalism in Africa and the Middle East knocks at the very doors of Europe and cannot be ignored.

Despite a UK economy that seems to be in strong recovery – with a lengthening succession of monthly figures showing lower unemployment and higher wages and GDP – the UK real estate market, while active, does not seem to fully reflect a resurgent national confidence. It seems to me that, in many ways, this mirrors what is going on in the US. Perhaps there are just too many underlying international geo-political and financial issues to make buyers and sellers completely comfortable. Plus in the US there is the ever-looming presidential election next year creating yet more uncertainty. There is no better illustration of this than the luxury property sector. In the UK this manifests itself in low inventory and extremely cautious buyers. In key parts of the US there is high inventory but perhaps even more extremely cautious buyers. The results are the same: functioning but hesitant real estate sectors.

But despite world and national events people still have to move – for myriad reasons – and still do. So how does the occasional visitor to the real estate market make head or tail of the situation? On both sides of the Atlantic there is only one answer. Hire the broker with the best name and the agent with the most tenacious and persistent attitude – and one unafraid to tell truth-to-client for all the right and most kindly of reasons. Do this and you will find crucial allies.

In real estate, as in war, stuff happens – ask Napoleon! But bad stuff needn’t necessarily happen with the right support – ask the Duke of Wellington as he saw the delayed Prussian army finally arriving late in the afternoon to save that dreadful June day in 1815.