If you saw the opportunity presented by UK housebuilders a few years ago, I salute you. The sector has gone like a house on fire, but investors will be unwilling to cast their money into the conflagration at this late stage. However, there may be an opportunity in the next few weeks, so get ready to feel the burn.
Housebuilding stocks have been red-hot in recent years, as rock bottom interest rates and housing shortages have sent property demand through the roof. The share price of Barrett Developments(LSE: BDEV) has rocketed 420% in the last five years. Incredibly, Taylor Wimpey(LSP: TW) has topped that, with a fiery 428% growth over the same period. Yet both stocks have struggled lately, falling slightly over 12 months. Higher building costs, concerns over affordability, and Chancellor George Osborne's tax crackdown on buy-to-let have combined to dampen sentiment.
The other factor hitting the sector is of course Brexit, with the crucial vote now just over two weeks away. Markets have been relatively sanguine about the risks until lately, with poll after poll showing the 'Bremain' camp comfortably ahead. IG's EU Referendum Barometer, followed by many in the City, has put the likelihood of the UK staying in the EU as high as 81%, soothing investor nerves in the face of Boris Johnson's antics.
Last week that changed, with new polls showing the gap between the Remain and Leave camps narrowing to as little as one percentage point, within the margin for error. The bookies still reckon Remain will win, with IG quoting a still overwhelming 77% chance of victory. Betfair puts the probability of the UK quitting the EU at just 28%, although this is up from 19% at the end of May.
Leave it out
A lot could happen in the next fortnight. Momentum is now with Leave. If the terrorist/refugee crisis flares up, it could pick up more speed. If bad weather hits turnout, die-hard Leave voters could swing it over Remain waverers. I still believe Britons will choose safety over uncertainty by voting to Remain but it could be "the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life," as Wellington said of Waterloo.
When Leave took the lead, the share prices of both Barratt Developments and Taylor Wimpey were rocked, and so was Land Securities(LSE: LAND). The UK's largest commercial development property company will inevitably suffer if voters take a leap into the dark. It has offloaded more than £1bn of UK assets in the last six months because of growing risks to the market, notably Brexit. Chief executive Rob Noel has predicted falling rental values and a reduction in construction commitments, particularly in London, making an exit "painful for the property industry and those it supports."
If you're confident that the UK will stick with the status quo, current wobbles could be a good time to buy these three stocks, which will get a major boost from a vote to stay in. Brexiteers will want to wait until after 23 June, when all three could suffer a short-term shock. This could also be a fantastic buying opportunity, unless Brexit turns out to be the economic meltdown that Project Fear was warning about all along.
At uncertain times like these, companies with global exposure have the edge. Especially young, fast-growing companies with a great future ahead of them.
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Harvey Jones has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.