Here's what 2023 will bring, as revealed by my crystal ball - Rob Aberdein

The new Chancellor recently announced plans to dismantle much of his predecessor’s mini-budget, and laid out a new set of tax and fiscal proposals. Many of the mini-budget’s original measures had unleashed chaos in financial markets, required an emergency £65bn intervention from the Bank of England and invoked harsh criticism from the IMF.

Scotland was already feeling the pain of a Fed-led interest rate rise cycle that's not yet finished. Supply and demand-led inflation continues to be rampant and consumer sentiment is hammered daily as we turn on the news, pick up a paper or flick through our social feeds. Against this backdrop, what is the outlook for the medium term? Looking into my crystal ball I think, for law firms, 2023 could look something like this.

Residential property

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The residential property market will soften with a more acute impact on first-time buyers and flats. Money is becoming more expensive monthly and this will be a new experience for Gen Z, Millennials and some Gen X. I don't believe there will be a crash but we will see the end for now of closing dates in hot spots with eight or nine offers and prices 20-30 per cent over Home Report values.

Rob Aberdein is Managing Director, Moray Group, which includes Simpson & Marwick

Scottish property still offers exceptional value and the movement out of England's main cities will continue as buyers continue to recognise the quality of life and property north of Hadrian’s Wall. Sterling has also significantly devalued, representing opportunities for the international buyer.

Whilst the wealthy might be experiencing a temporary blip in the growth of their equity portfolios, there is still a demand for properties in the prime section of the Scottish property market. It will also be a great time to move up the property ladder for those looking for a bigger family home or a long-term investment.

Remortgages and repossessions

Interest rate rises are likely to result in a major increase in remortgages at a time when record numbers of two, three and five-year discounted mortgage deals will be maturing. Product switches will become popular as home-owners no longer meet affordability and LTV (loan-to-value) criteria.

Rob Aberdein predicts that the residential property market will soften in 2023, with a more acute impact on first-time buyers and flats

Repossessions will begin to increase – this will impact on supply, price comparables and the courts in different ways but those firms acting for lenders in front-end lending and back-end recoveries will be very busy.

Debt and asset recovery

This won't be exclusive to mortgage debt, as we see increased levels of debt and asset recovery in commercial and business loans, motor loans, asset finance and consumer debt. Naturally, this will drive sequestrations, liquidation and administrations and see the insolvency and restructuring and debt recovery teams in many firms spring back into life after many years of hibernation.

Lettings market

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The lettings market is buoyant. Rents have increased as a result of reduced supply due to new regulatory and tax regimes making it a far less attractive option for accidental and amateur landlords. The escalating cost of borrowing will squeeze out first time buyers, leading to further demand pressures as they opt to rent instead.

Wealth and investing

Firms with large private client and wealth offerings will want to focus on these areas, which are typically stoic in negative economic cycles. They will also offer growth potential as clients become more tuned into asset protection, wealth transfer and annual yields as a result of decreasing real incomes and reducing asset bases due to falling markets and house prices. Tax advisers, private client lawyers and wealth managers will be in demand as clients will seek much more face time than in recent years.

Investment in start-ups and early phase growth companies will be limited as angel investors and smaller investors hoard cash, wait for portfolios to recover and try to find a sense of order in a chaotic economic and fiscal landscape. That won’t stop investment in counter-cyclical businesses and bolder investors will see value in certain companies that are underperforming in the short term.

Counsel

In the coming months and years it will be more important than it has been for some time for wealthy individuals and families, entrepreneurs and business owners to take counsel from a broad church of professionals. A holistic view of the world from a diverse set of legal, property and financial advisers will help them navigate choppy waters and ensure they capitalise on the opportunities that arise.

Rob Aberdein is Managing Director, Moray Group, which includes Simpson & Marwick, and Chief Commercial Officer at Progeny.

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