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NJP

Our World Of Instant Gratification

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I've spent a little time away from HPC over recent months (more about that below, if anyone's interested) and it's given me chance to reflect on what's happening to the market at the moment.

Despite claims from the bears that it's dropping and from the bulls that it's as strong as ever, the reality is that it's standing still. At least for the moment, we're seeing stagnation.

So what's propping the housing market up? I'm starting to think that a shift in attitudes over the last 10 years towards 'instant gratification' is having a significant effect on house prices.

We live in a society which has been transformed by the internet, multi-channel TV, Sky+, mobile phones, 24 hour supermarkets and other stores open 72 hours a week. The effect of all of these on our lives is to save us having to wait a few hours, or minutes, or even seconds.

At work, if I don't answer a customer's email within a few minutes, they'll phone up to ask what's holding things up. On discussion forums, threads get 'bumped' back to the top in a couple of hours, rather than days. Friends will text me at midnight to arrange a trip to the cinema the following day. We've all seen it, and to some extent got used to it.

So what does this have to do with house prices?

Well, recently, I've spoken to some first-time-buyers. Now, I initially thought that they'd all fallen for the daily propaganda being churned out by vested interests, but oddly enough, they actually all agree that there is a significant chance of price falls.

As far as I can see the only reason they've been driven to buy is an expectation that they should have what they want now, and worry about possible consequences another time. "We've waited for a year already - we can't keep waiting forever"; "I could get run over by a bus tomorrow"; "You only live once".

I'm not trying to make judgements about their decision (although I have my opinions of course!), but I wonder if the market is currently being propped up by a small but steady stream of first-time-buyers who aren't prepared to wait to see what happens? Certainly some of the threads on here ("if prices don't drop by [insert date] I'm buying anyway") would seem to back me up.

I'd be interested in your thoughts.

On a slightly different topic, I decided to take a break from reading HPC every day, because it was making me unnecessarily bitter and miserable. I still drop by every no and again, but I'm much happer enjoying life, rather than waiting for every little sign that the market was crumbling. I'm still a bear - just determined not to worry about something I can't control. There really is more to life than a mortgage.

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Well the Sunday Mail finance section, true to form, was again yesterday promoting MEW for Christmas. Repleat with a picture of a happy family who were going to spend huge sums (off the value of their home :blink: ) on kiddie toys. I think the tide has pretty much turned and more people are willing to wait, but I hope that the rest of Britain doesn't buy it again.

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This does interest me. Is it now true that the majority have signed up to the "have it now" culture?

You see, when I was a youth studying Sociology it was considered that a major attribute of the "middle class" was deferred gratification.

Thus the belief in education as a means to a better future and the virtue of savings.

So has the easy debt culture changed that for good?

If that is the case, it is a very important change in a relatively short time.

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Thus the belief in education as a means to a better future and the virtue of savings.

So has the easy debt culture changed that for good?

'Enforced' student loans have made debt a way of life for thousands of graduates, unfortunately.

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'Enforced' student loans have made debt a way of life for thousands of graduates, unfortunately.

Of course our revered leaders would probably argue that these students should see these loans as an investment in their own future. I've oft heard the politicians trot out that graduates will earn £xxx extra in their lifetime. That future may not, of course, be so certain now.

Others might argue that, once started on debt, these same students may continue with that as a way of life.

So, perhaps a fundamental change in the attitude of the majority?

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I think that a profound shift has occurred and many, if not most, now go down the instant gratification line. I know too many people that have borrowed themselves into the lifestyle that they think they deserve. The de-stigmatisation of debt has something to do with this. I remember talking to an old school friend a few years ago (in 1999 or 2000) who said she borrowed 2000 to go on holiday. At the time I was not living in the UK and I was shocked, on my return I notice that this is actually the norm.

But something else is happening too - and this is more worrying:

There is a narrative - a life story - that we all aspire to. It involves studying, having kids, living in a nice place with a garden front and back, having a car and going on nice holidays. We all want it.

Yet in playing out this story we fall back on the experience of our parents and grandparents. They did these things in post war Britain during a period when the Welfare State was being set up as a service "from the cradle to the grave". In addition there was the post war boom of the 50s and 60s followed by the inflation of the 70s and 80s.

This combination gave people like my parents a favourable set of circumstances in which to acquire a free education, move up the property ladder unemcumbered by excessive debt, and retire on chunky final salary pension schemes.

Middle class expectations are based on copying this progression. Yet as the pensions debate shows, we may be entering a period when the old rules do not apply. Instead of basing the next 50 years on the period 1945 - 1995 try basing it on 1900 - 1945 for example. That would provide a totally different life narrative. Who knows what the next 50 years will bring but one thing is for certain, it will be very different from the last 50 years.

I find it very offensive that those who benefited from the post war period are turning round and pulling up the drawbridge for those following behind them. "Its different now" - they say as they introduce student loans, whittle away the welfare state and reduce pension entitlements.

They may be right - it may be different - but an element of contrition and recognition of the way that they benefitted in the past would be welcome. - It is the lack of this recognition that contributes to some of the bitterness felt by some people on here.

Finally, for those who do not have middle class expectations (and even for some who do) the world of celebrity has produced a dumbing down of monumental proportions. Plenty of non university educated people used to take an active interest in politics, philosophy and science. People were inspired by socialism, trade unionism and some by conservatism and even fascism - Ideology was important and ideas were valued.

Now all "isms" are seen as dangerous and outmoded. Aspirations have been reduced to hoping to win the lottery or a talent contest or anything to become famous. Even my daughter aspires to be famous. When I ask "What do you want to be famous for?" - she doesnt understand my question.

Strange times indeed.

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I think that a profound shift has occurred and many, if not most, now go down the instant gratification line. I know too many people that have borrowed themselves into the lifestyle that they think they deserve. The de-stigmatisation of debt has something to do with this. I remember talking to an old school friend a few years ago (in 1999 or 2000) who said she borrowed 2000 to go on holiday. At the time I was not living in the UK and I was shocked, on my return I notice that this is actually the norm.

But something else is happening too - and this is more worrying:

There is a narrative - a life story - that we all aspire to. It involves studying, having kids, living in a nice place with a garden front and back, having a car and going on nice holidays. We all want it.

Yet in playing out this story we fall back on the experience of our parents and grandparents. They did these things in post war Britain during a period when the Welfare State was being set up as a service "from the cradle to the grave". In addition there was the post war boom of the 50s and 60s followed by the inflation of the 70s and 80s.

This combination gave people like my parents a favourable set of circumstances in which to acquire a free education, move up the property ladder unemcumbered by excessive debt, and retire on chunky final salary pension schemes.

Middle class expectations are based on copying this progression. Yet as the pensions debate shows, we may be entering a period when the old rules do not apply. Instead of basing the next 50 years on the period 1945 - 1995 try basing it on 1900 - 1945 for example. That would provide a totally different life narrative. Who knows what the next 50 years will bring but one thing is for certain, it will be very different from the last 50 years.

I find it very offensive that those who benefited from the post war period are turning round and pulling up the drawbridge for those following behind them. "Its different now" - they say as they introduce student loans, whittle away the welfare state and reduce pension entitlements.

They may be right - it may be different - but an element of contrition and recognition of the way that they benefitted in the past would be welcome. - It is the lack of this recognition that contributes to some of the bitterness felt by some people on here.

Finally, for those who do not have middle class expectations (and even for some who do) the world of celebrity has produced a dumbing down of monumental proportions. Plenty of non university educated people used to take an active interest in politics, philosophy and science. People were inspired by socialism, trade unionism and some by conservatism and even fascism - Ideology was important and ideas were valued.

Now all "isms" are seen as dangerous and outmoded. Aspirations have been reduced to hoping to win the lottery or a talent contest or anything to become famous. Even my daughter aspires to be famous. When I ask "What do you want to be famous for?" - she doesnt understand my question.

Strange times indeed.

I think that a fear of "isms" is perhaps a legacy of WW11, the Cold War and currently, of course, fundamentalists in religions. Who knows, perhaps Consumerism is a "safer" ism, if all can be persuaded to sign up?

The other great change, possibly reflected in your daughter's views, I believe, is that we are now, in our society, encouraged to see our own individuality as supremely important. How often do we hear that respect for others and politeness have diminished?

This "desire" for fame doesn't seem to relate to any achievement or ability either.

We are told "you can be what you want", a laudable aim if it is to encourage people to work towards a goal, but many, as you suggest, seem to think fame and fortune will merely drop into their laps.

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House prices are high because large mortgages are affordable. IRs are low and people aren't even thinking about what may happen 5 years down the line.

Sieze the day - thats what people have always done. No mystery, no change in attitudes.

People are just richer these days and there is so very much more to do with your life. Just about every kind of mental and physical stimulation is on tap these days. With so much to do and so little time to do it in, no wonder is it, that people want it all now !

The world has changed and will continue to change. Don't spend your life thinking about this, just get on with it.

My father is 82, born in 1923 - if you just sit and think about how life has changed since then it is absolutely amazing. Just think about his life as a child and a young man before the war - no TV for starters, in fact no electrical stimulation at all !!

He didn't have too many choices, we now have too many choices if thats possible and its only going to get worse !!

Every 50 years or so, I think attitudes, technology changes, the world moves on and the 'givens' that applied 50 years ago, simply just don't work. The world from the end of world war 2, was often governed by the beliefs that developed as a result of the war.

A new world order is taking shape, things will be different in the future, old certainties will die away and be replaced by new ones. Sieze the day.

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IRs are low and people aren't even thinking about what may happen 5 years down the line.

More fool them.

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This does interest me. Is it now true that the majority have signed up to the "have it now" culture?

You see, when I was a youth studying Sociology it was considered that a major attribute of the "middle class" was deferred gratification.

Thus the belief in education as a means to a better future and the virtue of savings.

So has the easy debt culture changed that for good?

If that is the case, it is a very important change in a relatively short time.

Very interesting sociological point. I can't believe I missed it (only because about 10 years ago I wrote an entire thesis on precisely the same shift in Australia in the 1940s). Middle class values were not simply about deferred gratification, they were about education and knowledge and pointed away from a significant focus on ostentatious aesthetics. They were also the values that were promoted by the mainstream media. Quite the opposite of the values promoted today. Thatcher seems to have re-crafted the meaning of class in the 80s so that now there are a whole swath of people who consider themselves middle class by leave of their involement in consuming. So who are the middle class in this country and what are their values?

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  • 301 Brexit, House prices and Summer 2020

    1. 1. Including the effects Brexit, where do you think average UK house prices will be relative to now in June 2020?


      • down 5% +
      • down 2.5%
      • Even
      • up 2.5%
      • up 5%



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