Investment in 2021: The ultimate roller coaster ride
As investors, how will humans behave following the effects of covid-19? On the one hand, there is the line of thought that humans have short memories and once we are through this pandemic we will very quickly bounce back to what may be considered normal, last witnessed in February 2020 – writes Adrian Cormican.
On the other hand, the opposing camp’s view is that we will never be the same again. The outcome will be fascinating for many professions.
We see adjectives such as ‘stoicism’, ‘thriftiness’ and ‘bargain hunters’ used to explain generational behaviours following world wars, financial crashes or great depressions.
What will be the behaviours of our society in 2030–40, and what word will sum them up due to the events of today? I am led to believe the Swinging Twenties were a reaction to the First World War and Spanish Flu. Will history repeat itself with the Swinging Twenties version 2.0?
What I do know is that upon initial pondering of the current day, my mind spins with disaster movie scenes. However, from an investor’s point of view in 2020 and now leading into 2021 I realise that throughout my investing career I have used the word ‘rollercoaster’ in the wrong context. Previously I have been on the teacups – but now we really are on the ultimate corkscrew amusement ride.
The UK property industry since the referendum of 2016 has been stale and relatively flat. Coming into January 2020 the rollercoaster started; it was that initial kick following a general election. The media dubbed it the ‘Boris bounce’ and the market was moving.
I realise that throughout my investing career I have used the word ‘rollercoaster’ wrong. Previously I have been on the teacups – but now we really are on the ultimate corkscrew amusement ride
We reached the first tipping point far quicker than anyone could have hoped or expected from a superior rollercoaster. This was a deep dive into a cavernous hole on the ride starting in March with the beginning of lockdown.
Those first few weeks of lockdown were a mini rollercoaster in isolation. While we had great weather and could spend some extra time with our kids in the garden, when you paused to think about the enormous task ahead it was mind-boggling.
Thoughts went from “It will be okay; humans have been through worse and survived as a species” to “Well, we have lost it all; but we have built it before and we can build it again.” Feelings during lockdown with the benefit of hindsight were irrational – and notice the word ‘feelings’ there, which as investors we are always encouraged not to bring the table when investing.
June arrived after another Groundhog Day, and the property market heated up with vigour; we were on the up again on the rollercoaster.
My view prior to this month was negative; I believed we would see price cuts. However, what we started seeing was mortgage approvals happening at levels never seen before. The human psyche changing to having had enough of staying put and not moving to a new house to a desire to get on with their lives.
The benefit for SME property developers was that usual rules did not apply. Usual rules being: build (12 months or so), market the product (two to three months), accept offers, and then work the way through to occupation over the following few months. Now, however, the windows had not even been fitted on SME housing developments and they were all under offer. The developers could not build them quickly enough; the speed of the rollercoaster was the highest we had seen since 2005/06.
As October/November arrived, after the initial flurry of those that wanted to get on with their lives, I was suspicious as to whether this had been a knee-jerk reaction.
My glass was still half empty, and I believed a high percentage of that initial excitement would fall away. Wrong again. The rollercoaster was still rising – and that sick feeling you experience as you tip over the edge on a ride is still to be felt pushing into 2021.
Having experienced thoughts that a lot of what you have worked for is gone, and then planning for a new start, was of course worrying. However, right now we are seeing our investments crystallise with the prescribed returns, which is still quite surreal. The mind turns to business development for 2021, towards reinvestment for the new cycle, post covid-19 on a new rollercoaster.
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