Estate agents have expressed fears over a slump in property prices on London commuter routes which they believe is linked to crisis-hit Southern rail.
Data from property sites Zoopla and You Move both show a slowdown in house value growth along the rail line, with Zoopla showing growth in Brighton, Burgess Hill and Lewes slowing by 3.49, 5.08 and 2.41% respectively over the past year.
Adrian Gill, director of You Move and Reeds Rains, said it was “inevitable” that the rail strikes would cause a “softening” of the market.
Laurence Hall, a spokesman for Zoopla, said the Southern Rail strikes were bad for house prices but stressed that the dip should be understood as part of a wider downturn across the British property market.(Property price growth across the South East fell by 2.69 per cent this year.)
Online estate agents HouseSimple went further, finding that house prices along the main lines to Brighton, Portsmouth and Seaford have dipped by £1,875 or 0.42% over the last three months.
All three experts agree that the slowdown can at least in part be linked to the southern rail crisis which has caused hundreds of thousands of passengers to endure a summer of commuter hell when the Rail Maritime and Transport union (RMT) started striking in April over the role of conductors on Southern services.
A combination of staff shortages and, later, industrial action has caused serious disruption to trains, forcing Southern to introduce a reduced timetable in July.
Gill said the rail strikes would have both a short and long term effect on house prices along the rail route.
“In the short term, if you take days out of people’s calendars because of strikes then fewer sales will happen because there will be fewer viewings, fewer people chasing houses and fewer offers, which will either lead to a softening of prices or your house just won’t sell.
“In the long term you have to deal with people’s perceptions of living in that area.
People who have a choice about where they live will think ‘I don’t want to live there because look at all the rail problems.’
“You just have to look at the difference in house prices between properties where cross rail will be and those on Southern routes down to the south coast; house price growth in Slough and Reading is higher than in East and West Sussex.”
Alex Gosling, CEO of HouseSimple agreed that while the house prices “haven’t gone into freefall” strikes were “hurting” local property markets.
He said: “It would be a real kick in the teeth if homeowners, who have had to endure the daily misery of train delays, cancellations and strike action, started to see the value of their homes falling because of the RMT and Southern Rail’s inability to reach a deal.”
For local estate agents the Southern strikes are the final straw.
Charles Wycherley, of Wycherley estate agents in Lewes, East Sussex, said: “We’ve had the second home stamp duty, the run up to Brexit, then the result, then August holidays, and now a spell of strikes – so we’ve had everything thrown at us.
“I have houses that just aren’t selling.
The market is not what it could be.”
Wycherley says the strikes are making people contemplate their living situations.“I think people who have come down from London are questioning if they’ve done the right thing and people up in London are thinking poor people down in Sussex let’s not move down there.”
Jonathan Hudson, director of Hudsons Property in Fitzrovia, says he has been approached by wealthy southern commuters looking for a pied-a-terre in the capital.
He said: “There has definitely been an upshift in people saying I can’t bear this, it’s a nightmare, I want to buy or rent something in London.
“I probably have had around ten of fifteen people coming in saying they were looking for something specifically because of the rail crisis.
“Many were looking to rent something for six months until the crisis blows over.”
RMT and Southern Rail have so far failed to reach an agreement and there are currently ten more strike days planned in the run up to Christmas.
A spokesperson for Southern said: “House prices are affected by many things, not least the uncertainty caused by Brexit.
If the industrial action by the RMT leadership is affecting house prices it will also be hitting its own members who live in the area.
This is another reason why the union should call off this unnecessary and futile industrial action in the interests of passengers and their own members.
We urge the RMT to accept the modernisation of train services and come to their senses.”
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