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Everything posted by montesquieu

  1. Duly signed. All part of the consipracy to get rid of the little things that make life bearable for people, so that TBTB can profit.
  2. In theory. Whether an increasingly isolationist USA would go to war to defend a bunch of Chinese against another bunch of Chinese in support of a promise made at the beginning of the Cold War is another question. And who would loan them the money to fight? Taiwan's Green Party are a serious bunch of nut jobs (looking back with nostalgia to the days when they were a Japanese colony for example - part of the reason for that being that the incoming KMT in 49 didn't treat the local Hokkien-speaking Taiwanese population any better than the Japanese did and in some ways worse - democracy didn't take hold till the 90s). Fist fights in parliament and so on, and pretty corrupt as well). The Greens are favourites to win the next election too and perfectly capable of doing something dumb enough to provoke China, potentially playing into their hands. In such a case the USA could easily declare 'all as bad as each other' and walk away.
  3. Been saying this on my regular visits to Taiwan and China for several years no but no-one can see the credit bubble all around them. I really don't know how they manage it but I've recently seen friends of my wife - academics - pay over £500k for a 3-bed apartment in a nice but nondescript block in Nanjing. There is nothing supporting such valuations except the flood of funny money, salaries are maybe a third to half of what they are even here (and even here, academic salaries are pretty rubbish). This has been replicated on a very widespread scale as people have found themselves in possession (somehow) of oodles of cash as well as access to apparently limitless credit. There are only two possible outcomes - a yuan crash and massive inflation (unlikely) - or a property crash on the Tokyo scale or even bigger. People have been drawing straight-line graphs of China's rise for a long time now but nothing is ever straight line. I'm not by nature a tin foil hatter - I still think Western economies will pull through somehow if only by changing the rules of the game - but I just can't see how China unwinds without massive pain across the board, possibly exceeding that of Japan (which had a far more mature economy and as well as a more stable society to cope with the shock). The whole of Chinese history is one of extremes, excesses and over-reactions - extremely turbulent especially at the boundaries of change. This will not end well. I fear for Taiwan - no-one has talked about this in the Ukraine context, but China must be looking at the West's feeble reaction and thinking that this is its moment, an ideal distraction from impending pain all around.
  4. Hmmm doesn't plastic age and crack in the sun? What happens then? or of some vandal comes round with a stanley knife? Looks like a pretty dumb gimmick to me.
  5. You really have no idea. I've seen discrimination time and time again in academia, in a far more blatant way than anything I've seen in my own field, IT, where we are frankly desperate to get women in senior roles because diversity really does deliver better results. Chaps play cricket or football or whatever it is and go drinking together, next thing you know junior chap is on the fast track. Part of this is just how guys have run the club for a long time. But it's so blatant. Women just don't play the game the same way (often they don't even have access to the playing field, at least not the playing field that matters). Ergo, for a different outcome, you have to force changes in how things are done. The measurement, surely, of equality of opportunity must be a shift in the statistics of the outcome. You are taking bollo**cks trying to split these apart.
  6. Well as the husband of a female academic (non-UK born), I see it at first hand. Very bright, very capable women, excluded time after time from what is very obviously boys' own club. I see it myself when I join her to attend seminars, she's the member of staff (8 years now at this London institution) but it's me, turning up in a suit, who gets talked to over coffee/warm white wine afterwards (depending on the solemnity of the occasion) as they assume I'm a professor from another department they haven't networked with yet. She gets only belatedly brought into the conversation as they realise I have nothing do with academia except as a 'husband of'. It's not just the women with kids who are disadvantaged in this game, women without kids a treated as if they about to disappear any moment, right into their 40s. I'm generally a very non-PC person but when you see discrimination at first hand it's a bit shocking at first, then angry-making. I admit the super-bureacratic response seems OTT but unless those who run the club know they are being watched, little will change.
  7. It's not simply a policy issue, it's a compliance issue. If you are a large employer and you get hit with a lawsuit, then you better make sure your ducks are in a row in terms of monitoring, policy, managerial education on the policy, reporting and so on. Otherwise you'll get hammered regardless of the rights and wrongs of the case. Large organisations of whatever stripe (public. private or 'third' sector) all have to comply with this nonsense.
  8. Is there a graph showing this adjusted for inflation? The rise is staggering of course but the trend has clearly moderated and even gone into reverse for a time.
  9. As an IT worker I've found myself increasingly working from home as teams become more distributied. For me the trend started in the 1990s - there's ittle point in going into a Thames Valley office if my boss is in Leeds, my co-workers on a given project in Manchester or Belfast. I can go into an office in Reading and find plenty of people I know but no-one I'm directly working with, unless I arrange a meeting. (Increasingly that is a video conference too). There are limits to this - some teams, doing some work, do need to co-locate (bids for example where there's brainstorming and co-writing to be done). I've noticed an increasing move back to campus working for some disciplines where bosses clearly feel the working at home trend has gone far enough. A swing back is definitely perceptible. Some people prefer office working and always go in regardless, perhaps because they have no work space at home (or noisy kids, for example in the school holidays) or they just work better in an old-fashioned working rhythm. (Some people struggle to focus when working alone from home). Given that most companies have already released savings by closing builidings and changing the shape of what they have - fewer allocated desks, more hot desks, meeting rooms and social/casual meeting areas - there are also limits to what expenses employers are prepared to pay to enable home working - it's all very well in theory living in Devon and going up to London two or three days a week but unless you are officially a home worker or attached to a local office, it may be hard to get the train and subsistence expenses approved - no change out of £600 or £700 a week for that. All things being equal it's still more likely we'd hire someone closer to a hub (Manchester, Reading, Warwick, London of course) than an outlier from Pembroke or Lincolnshire due to the hit on departmental budgets. Only the better off can really get the full benefit of all this though - in order for the wife and I both to have studies (since we both work from home a lot) we had to buy a 4 bed plus study minimum, within an hour of London, just to have three bedrooms available as bedrooms. Hard to find much even outside the M25 for less than £500k.
  10. Aren't Sainsburys bank just a marketing exercise fronting some kind of arrangement with HBOS?
  11. Sums it up. Quality of life vs yet another day you can go and buy useless tat for longer. There's an argument the other way actually - I'm all in favour of late night shopping but frankly I'd rather Sunday was for leisure rather than commerce.
  12. After nearly 10 years reading this forum and not buying we took the plunge last year, offering in Feb and completing in August. Buying suited my personal circumstances (I retire in 15 years and want to have a house paid off by then), we are also settled in the area (I'd originally started renting after moving down from Scotland in 2004 - I didn't want to buy before 2008 and after that I was in wait an see mode). There are a few Jeremiahs on here who have been predicting doom and gloom for years ... for some it's been the right thing to hold off, others really would have done better to buy earlier but hey, highsight is a wonderful thing. In most of the UK we've had our crash - not much in the way of nominal falls but in GBP compared to most other currencies the falls have been substantial, add in the effects of inflation since 2008 and real house prices are 20-30% down on the peak end of 2007. I took the view that nominal falls from here are unlikely but even if I'm wrong, it doesn't matter as my personal circumstances are driving things: with retirement looming, I'd never have been able afford to buy a house outright even with a substantial deposit already banked, because paying rent was getting in the way. In any case many of the things sustaining high house prices - a permanent move to two salaries from one (shifting the historic income multiple), high immigration, a housing shortage, and crap annuity rates driving people however misguidedly into BTL - these things aren't going to change in a hurry. While I don't believe HPI can carry on forever neither do I see dramatic nominal falls any time soon. (The madhouse that is London excepted but if you are talking abiout £140k, you aren't in London anyway). As for Zoopla, it's not gospe lbut it's a reasonable starting point. Assuming your circumstances are sensible - you won't need to move in a hurry, have a reasonable deposit and a reliable income - then £120k seems about right for the house you describe. In a reasonably desirable area of Berkshire we nevertheless offered 20% off the asking and agreed at 14% off - identical to another similar house in the street in 2011 and about 30% UNDER the zoopla valuation, which was based on a silly price the owners paid in 2000 just as things were hitting lift-off. (They made surprisingly little, really, for 13 years' ownership in the biggest housing boom the country has ever seen). Anyway, don't listen to the curmudgeons here, just don't do anything stupid (like pay over the odds or get yourself so trapped you can't move - if that's the case then wait till you are in a better position). If you want somewhere to live that's your own, and can afford to take a modest risk in this market in return for that (rather than rent) then by all means go for it. If falls do come I believe they will be modest - but my best guess is that things will continue to average out at a below-inflation rise - not a speculative investment, but not a diaster either for people buying now - factor in lost money renting and it may be a sensible decision (unlike when I was renting - over the course of 3 years we saw two landlords drop their asking prices by £100k and £160k respectively - our total rent in that time was a fraction of their 'losses' (losses that would have been crystalised for us if we'd bought and had to sell again in that period - renting at that point was by far the best place to be).
  13. +1 having just been through this particular pain. It will certainly cost more than you think and if they won't play ball then walk away and find something that doesn't need the work. Boiler - £5k, bathrooms at least £3k each by time you are finished (easy to spend more), carpet/flooring/decorating add another few £k depending on what quality you want, that's well over £10k for starters vs a property that's walk-in.
  14. Surprised they have anybody in the UK. I got one for 2 years interest free balance transfer and it's always India you get when you phone them. Bloody useless too it's like they've never heard a Scottish accent before. Every time.
  15. Some of this is probably illegal - the Working Time Directive exists for a reason (and it isn't to wind up the anti-regulation brigade). I a crash, say, an employer who condoned this could be liable.
  16. Isn't this precisely why Tesco is up to its neck in the brown stuff .. it was a great wheeze to boost short term profits by selling off the portfolio and renting it back. Now they have to pay a fortune in rents. Meanwhile Waitrose still own their sites freehold - result is that everyday stuff is now frequently cheaper in Waitrose, branded stuff is price-matched, and Tesco is basically stuffed. Great business model
  17. Bizzare mixture of French bordello and New York loft with (as we just heard) a hint of abbatoir thrown in. What's not to like?
  18. The main benefit I object to is Landlord Benefit. Withdraw it gradually over 5 years and use the billions saved to build social housing.
  19. Not forgetting absentee landlords like some celebrity SNP supporters ....
  20. We just bought a large-ish 4-bed detached on Berks-Surrey border. Built 1961 - originally a 2-bed bungalow. No pressure on space back then: the plot is a third of an acre. I reckon you could take the land from any pair of houses in the street (just about all have been extended, in our case extended 3 times) demolish them and put maybe 12 modern 3-4 bed houses on the plot. In fact the LA would probably require you to. When we were looking it was utterly depressing to see how small some 'gardens' were for largish houses, new builds in particular but even with some 80s and 90s houses, some seemed to have no garden space left after the obligatory kitchen extension (or in some cases, cheap conservatory) had been added. Luxury = space in my book.
  21. There has been a crash, if you look at the value of Sterling vs other reserve currencies, and also in real terms with regards to inflation, of something in the region of 20-30% depending how you look at it. The big nominal crash didn't happen because everything including the kitchen sink was thrown to stop it happening, and it worked. Are we still in a bubble or are we in a 'new normal' reflecting multiple earner households, historic and long lasting low interest rates, and record percentages of wealthy cash or high-deposit buyers (including foreigners seeking safe haven for their cash) looking to 'invest'? I don't know but all of the above trends seem quite persistent to me and unlikely to reverse all at once any time soon. The collapse from where I'm sitting is far less imminent than it seemed in 2004, when I started reading this site. I offered on a 4-bed detached at the start of last year, after STR in late 2004 when I first got the wobbles about the whole thing partly from reading this site, and decided to rent not buy when I moved area from Scotland to Somerset. By the time I completed the purchase last summer that meant over 9 years when I could have been paying down a mortgage instead of saving at crap rates while paying rent (aka someone else's mortgage). For a long time I valued the flexibility, while I just didn't want to buy at pre-2008 prices, but now I just want to have a place fully paid off before I retire in 15 years. So I bought with a 15 year term, on decent deposit with a 4% 10-year fix. Now, I don't care if rates go up and nominal falls finally happen, I'm done with putting this particular life goal on hold. I don't regret my time spent renting but I'm glad I bought now in the SE 45mins out of Paddington, at something around the 2005-6 purchase price level (some years earlier in real terms). There may well be a train wreck down the line but my purchase actually feels like value to me and I don't want to live my life praying for bad news any more. And after 10 years of magnolia walls, no pets, limited privacy, and the constant threat of being thrown out as soon as the landlord hits a cashflow crisis and needs to sell up (twice that happened) I'm seriously happy in my new place.
  22. Indeed visiting an old (German) mate in Prenzlauerberg - a few tram stops from the Alexanderplatz - left me wondering if I'd left home at all.
  23. If your move to Oxford is permanent then sell up and move. The London merry-go-round will stop at some point no-one knows when but if it were me I'd sell up and buy a house where I intend to live. That way you won't lose out regardless what happens to the market as you'd have taken your accidental London profit and invested it in your long-term home. In any case making life-changing decisions on the basis of what a bunch of people (mostly VIs in their own way) say on a forum is plain bonkers. Either a house is a family home, or an investment and decisions need to be made based on which you think it is. It can't really be both except by accident (those who have benefited from HPI may congratulate themselves for their brilliance but the reality is, it's all down to luck). Indeed I would go so far as to say that putting lives on hold trying to second-guess the market has led to almost as much misery among those who have tried it as any other approach. Either take a decision based on how you want to live and hang the short-term market noise, or throw the dice and be prepared for a 50-50 chance you will 'lose' in some shape or form.
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