I WAS standing outside the Liberal Democrats’ party conference a few years ago (bear with me here…) when a group of Hampsteadite activists began to seethe about some or other goings-on inside the hall. Eavesdropping, I discovered that Vince Cable had just announced plans for a “mansion” tax on properties worth over £1m – in other words, pretty much any old shoe-box in NW3. There had been no warning for Lib Dems in areas such as this, who suddenly faced an uphill task to retain property-owning voters.
The latest trading update from Berkeley reminded me of that day. Why? Because much of the talk was not about the company’s figures, but instead focused on the capricious way that politics can affect housing.
Chairman Tony Pidgley said he “remains alert” to the “uncertainty” around future policy, while MD Rob Perrins lashed out at recent mortgage restricting powers that had been handed to the Bank of England.
Yet Berkeley isn’t simply hostage to the fluctuations of politics and house prices. Not even one-twentieth of its sales are made through the Help to Buy scheme, for example.
And while London prices are up around 30 per cent since 2010, Berkeley’s share price has trebled over the same period. It may be responsible for around a 10th of all new homes in London over the past five years, but it is not just a bellwether for prices in the capital.
Berkeley has a healthy pipeline and a sensible long-term plan. The government’s housing policy may be wildly unpredictable, but Berkeley’s success is built on solid ground.