Shares in quoted estate agents and online housing sites look set to take a hit today as it emerged hedge funds have taken short positions against property firms exposed to a downturn in London’s housing market.
The move, which is essentially a bet on a company’s shares falling, is the first sign investors are looking to profit from a residential slowdown in the capital.
According to a report in the Financial Times, several hedge funds have taken out short positions against estate agents Foxtons and Savills, alongside online property group Zoopla, and London’s largest housebuilder Berkeley Group.
The capital faces a glut of expensive homes as developers rush to profit from foreign demand to buy in London.
While the bets are still small they represent the first sign hedge funds have begun to move against the UK property market after several years of surging house prices.
London house prices have risen by 50% in the past five years according to the Office for National Statistics, but the top end of the market has stalled in recent months as a crackdown on foreign investors and the threat of a mansion tax has caused uncertainty.
Foxtons, which focuses on the more expensive parts of the capital, listed in 2013. Last month is revealed its sales commission in the final quarter of 2014 slumped by 25% as a result of a “challenging” market.
Zoopla’s subsidiary site PrimeLocation is the most prominent website for upmarket property sales, and a third of Zoopla’s revenues come from the London market, according to estimates by analysts at Exane BNP Paribas.
It has also been hit recently by the launch of a rival portal, OnTheMarket, by a group of estate agents including Savills.
Berkeley group stated recently that after a couple of years of spectacular performance London’s housing market has returned to “normal market conditions”.
Arrowgrass and Brookfield Asset have sold short 1.56% of Savills stock. Ennsmore Fund Management and GLG Partners are short 1.13% of Zoopla, according to regulatory disclosures. Foxtons meanwhile is being sold short by Numeric and Altair Investment Management, which have built up a collective short position against 3.59% of its shares.