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Reply From Guardian Journo

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Dear all,

I wrote a letter to the Grauniad a few days ago...here is the letter, the reply, and my reply back:

Dear Sir,

I have just read your piece of blatant propaganda on the state of the BTL market [bTL bounces back..gently, Sat 4th March]. Can you please answer a very serious question that I have: namely, do you just receive these 'articles' as press releases from vested interests in the property market, and then publish them verbatim?

I ask this because I have, with mounting dismay, noticed increasingly slanted economic reporting in the Guardian. I ascribe this to either (a) the natural financial naivetey of a left-wing newspaper or (B) a worrying indication that you have in fact at some point sacrificed your principles, and climbed into bed with certain parties that have an interest in the publication of misleading and often downright wrong articles - either in the form of the journalistic laziness that I have alluded to in the first paragraph, or something more sinister. I am unsure of what to make of an article that is so blatantly a piece of propaganda rather than news.

Anyway, giving you the benefit of the doubt and assuming you are simply suffering from affliction (a), I will take here the opportunity to just point out a few discrepancies and untruths in your article in the hope that you will not try and print something so silly in the future...here they are:

1) If investors are piling back into BTL in such numbers as RICS would claim, why are the lending criteria applied by lenders to these investors being relaxed?

2) Given the upbeat tone of the article, can the author please explain to me what is so good about an investment which has (i) high transaction costs, (ii) an increasing likelihood of capital depreciation, despite what the vested interests say and (iii) a yield of 1 to 2 %. Is this meant to be a joke? Seriously.

3) Again, if so many BTL investors are piling in, then why are the Land Register 'off the shelves' figures the lowest in 6 months?

4) You state that 'A recovery in the housing market in recent months has also served to turn frustrated first-time buyers back to the rental sector.' This is reported as if the inability of FTBs to be able to afford a modest first-rung home in over 90% of the country is something to be happy about. Do you think a two-tier 'rentier' society is something that sits easily with the vaunted socialist position of your paper? Perhaps it sits more easily with the champagne-socialism of liberals like your own Will Hutton who combine left-wing soap-box posturing with large property interests?

5) At the bottom of the article, there are several links to mortgage lenders (apply-for-a-line etc...). A bearish article on housing investment would not sit well with these revenue sources; does this fact colour the quality of your impartial 'journalism' in any way? Surely not.

This article can be measured alongside many others that you have written which are highly questionable: I have watched the decline of the Guardian over recent years, and it saddens me. This is to the point now where I am unfortunately forced to believe that journalistic integrity has now left your newspaper. However, I would warn you: the explosion of bias-free, detached, and highly intelligent economic, financial and social analysis now available on the internet shame the sponsored rubbish that has increasingly become your hallmark.

Marko.

His reply:

Dear Marko

Thank you for your letter. I agree that buy-to-let may prove to be a

terrible mistake for some people. Balance is provided by our very own

Buy-to-Let investor, Vanessa Whitting, who bought a new build flat,

discovered damp and suffered several voids. An update on her situation is

expected in the next few weeks. Her example is not isolated and shows the

kinds of problems people can suffer. But looking at the wider investment

scene, arguably there are more people still nursing losses from the stock

market crash.

At the moment, over valued or not, property continues to enjoy favourable

long term support, not least from a chronic shortage of homes and

demographic changes that have increased demand. With no crash in sight,

investors can accept low yields at the outset believing that any rent rises

will increase yields in subsequent years. And if they last the course there

is a whopping terminal bonus.

If you have examples of other people who have suffered problems with

buy-to-letting, please tell us and we will feature their story.

regards

Phillip Inman

My reply to his reply:

Dear Phillip,

Thank you for your reply (to be honest I was not expecting anything, except maybe an automatically-produced reply!)

I don't know any more, I really don't: given the colour of the reporting in the Guardian now, I am being driven to some unpleasant conclusions about the agenda of the newspaper. There seems to be a constant bias supporting the notion that the current house price bubble is good for the nation.

You make the point that 'arguably there are more people still nursing losses from the stock

market crash', but this is a non sequiter. The stock market crash has already happened; of course there are going to be more people still nursing losses from it. The housing price crash is yet to happen (I personally believe it has just started), so of course for the majority of people who are in denial - i.e. it has not happened yet therefore it won't happen ever - everything is still wonderful.

Please be under no illusion, property IS very overvalued. This is a consequence of the laxity in lending that has followed a protracted bout of well-below-average interest rates (the money supply has increased hugely in recent years), combined with a flight of money from the aforementioned stock-market crash (with a general distrust of the UK public in the financial sector in general, house-is-my-pension attitude etc.).

The sense of perceived wealth that people have enjoyed due to the inflated value of their homes has precipitated enormous borrowing and spending through remortgaging. To facilitate this, the housing market now represents nothing more than a classic Ponzi-scheme: everything is fine whilst the music still plays and there is a fresh supply of mugs willing to join at the bottom. This is why many commentators state that first-time buyers are required for the market to operate. Of course they - any pyramid scheme relies on a fresh supply of 'greater-fools' who are willing to pay even more to join the game.

Our collective hypnosis by high house prices is arguably the most visible and obvious symptom of denial about what is happening to our economy: as wage inflation is suppressed and jobs continue to flow Eastwards, we as a nation have foolishly maintained the illusion of wealth by collectively diving deep into debt. Essentially we are borrowing from tomorrow to finance our lifestyles today: this is not, and never has been, sustainable. We are living in economic la-la-land.

This deception has proved a useful tool for current government (and Gordon Brown in particular) to deceive the UK public into the notion that we inhabit a 'miracle' economy. It has allowed our economy to 'function' whilst we have lost more than a million manufacturing jobs since 1997 (you know, jobs where things are actually made - terribly old-fashioned I know, but regardless of all the new economy hyperbole, somebody has to make the widget). This would be OK if during this process of 'creative destruction', these manufacturing jobs were replaced by more highly-skilled technical jobs which add more value (the often-touted goal of this government), but the reality is they have been replaced by low-skilled McJobs, along with massive public sector employment of dubious value (to wit, the hideous proliferation of non-jobs that can be seen in your Society section every Wednesday).

This is not a sustainable path to real increases in future wealth. Real wealth is measured in productive capacity, not how deep in debt you are. I cannot believe how many people nowadays seem to confuse the two.

Also, housing does not suffer chronic shortages - there are over a million houses standing empty in this country at the moment. I concede that demographic changes (increased single households etc.) may have helped increase prices somewhat, but please don't try and suggest that this explains the entirety of the price rises we have seen in recent years.

You state that 'With no crash in sight, investors can accept low yields at the outset believing that any rent rises will increase yields in subsequent years'. This is not sound economic sense: in valuing any asset, the present yield should be considered. I am afraid that what is really happening in BTL is landlords are operating under the expectation of capital growth, and are therefore happy to accept low yields. This is exactly what was happening at the height of the dotcom bubble, when the focus was entirely on capital growth, and people were buying and selling shares at ridiculous prices in companies that had NEVER paid a dividend. Then what happened...

Finally you say that if I supply you with BTL horror stories then you will publish them. I am rather afraid that this is not necessary: just wait 12 months, and you will have plenty to write about. The economy is beginning to unravel as I write.

Regards (and thank you again for your reply),

Marko.

Anything else I should have mentioned?

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What else can be expected from the NuLeft? Its dog eat dog now and to hell with FTBs and anyone else who has not bought into the "Miracle Economy" based on HPI and unlimited MEW.

Roll on David "Scotty" Cameron and the radical centre!

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Dear all,

I wrote a letter to the Grauniad a few days ago...here is the letter, the reply, and my reply back:

Dear Sir,

I have just read your piece of blatant propaganda on the state of the BTL market [bTL bounces back..gently, Sat 4th March]. Can you please answer a very serious question that I have: namely, do you just receive these 'articles' as press releases from vested interests in the property market, and then publish them verbatim?

I ask this because I have, with mounting dismay, noticed increasingly slanted economic reporting in the Guardian. I ascribe this to either (a) the natural financial naivetey of a left-wing newspaper or (B) a worrying indication that you have in fact at some point sacrificed your principles, and climbed into bed with certain parties that have an interest in the publication of misleading and often downright wrong articles - either in the form of the journalistic laziness that I have alluded to in the first paragraph, or something more sinister. I am unsure of what to make of an article that is so blatantly a piece of propaganda rather than news.

Anyway, giving you the benefit of the doubt and assuming you are simply suffering from affliction (a), I will take here the opportunity to just point out a few discrepancies and untruths in your article in the hope that you will not try and print something so silly in the future...here they are:

1) If investors are piling back into BTL in such numbers as RICS would claim, why are the lending criteria applied by lenders to these investors being relaxed?

2) Given the upbeat tone of the article, can the author please explain to me what is so good about an investment which has (i) high transaction costs, (ii) an increasing likelihood of capital depreciation, despite what the vested interests say and (iii) a yield of 1 to 2 %. Is this meant to be a joke? Seriously.

3) Again, if so many BTL investors are piling in, then why are the Land Register 'off the shelves' figures the lowest in 6 months?

4) You state that 'A recovery in the housing market in recent months has also served to turn frustrated first-time buyers back to the rental sector.' This is reported as if the inability of FTBs to be able to afford a modest first-rung home in over 90% of the country is something to be happy about. Do you think a two-tier 'rentier' society is something that sits easily with the vaunted socialist position of your paper? Perhaps it sits more easily with the champagne-socialism of liberals like your own Will Hutton who combine left-wing soap-box posturing with large property interests?

5) At the bottom of the article, there are several links to mortgage lenders (apply-for-a-line etc...). A bearish article on housing investment would not sit well with these revenue sources; does this fact colour the quality of your impartial 'journalism' in any way? Surely not.

This article can be measured alongside many others that you have written which are highly questionable: I have watched the decline of the Guardian over recent years, and it saddens me. This is to the point now where I am unfortunately forced to believe that journalistic integrity has now left your newspaper. However, I would warn you: the explosion of bias-free, detached, and highly intelligent economic, financial and social analysis now available on the internet shame the sponsored rubbish that has increasingly become your hallmark.

Marko.

His reply:

Dear Marko

Thank you for your letter. I agree that buy-to-let may prove to be a

terrible mistake for some people. Balance is provided by our very own

Buy-to-Let investor, Vanessa Whitting, who bought a new build flat,

discovered damp and suffered several voids. An update on her situation is

expected in the next few weeks. Her example is not isolated and shows the

kinds of problems people can suffer. But looking at the wider investment

scene, arguably there are more people still nursing losses from the stock

market crash.

At the moment, over valued or not, property continues to enjoy favourable

long term support, not least from a chronic shortage of homes and

demographic changes that have increased demand. With no crash in sight,

investors can accept low yields at the outset believing that any rent rises

will increase yields in subsequent years. And if they last the course there

is a whopping terminal bonus.

If you have examples of other people who have suffered problems with

buy-to-letting, please tell us and we will feature their story.

regards

Phillip Inman

My reply to his reply:

Dear Phillip,

Thank you for your reply (to be honest I was not expecting anything, except maybe an automatically-produced reply!)

I don't know any more, I really don't: given the colour of the reporting in the Guardian now, I am being driven to some unpleasant conclusions about the agenda of the newspaper. There seems to be a constant bias supporting the notion that the current house price bubble is good for the nation.

You make the point that 'arguably there are more people still nursing losses from the stock

market crash', but this is a non sequiter. The stock market crash has already happened; of course there are going to be more people still nursing losses from it. The housing price crash is yet to happen (I personally believe it has just started), so of course for the majority of people who are in denial - i.e. it has not happened yet therefore it won't happen ever - everything is still wonderful.

Please be under no illusion, property IS very overvalued. This is a consequence of the laxity in lending that has followed a protracted bout of well-below-average interest rates (the money supply has increased hugely in recent years), combined with a flight of money from the aforementioned stock-market crash (with a general distrust of the UK public in the financial sector in general, house-is-my-pension attitude etc.).

The sense of perceived wealth that people have enjoyed due to the inflated value of their homes has precipitated enormous borrowing and spending through remortgaging. To facilitate this, the housing market now represents nothing more than a classic Ponzi-scheme: everything is fine whilst the music still plays and there is a fresh supply of mugs willing to join at the bottom. This is why many commentators state that first-time buyers are required for the market to operate. Of course they - any pyramid scheme relies on a fresh supply of 'greater-fools' who are willing to pay even more to join the game.

Our collective hypnosis by high house prices is arguably the most visible and obvious symptom of denial about what is happening to our economy: as wage inflation is suppressed and jobs continue to flow Eastwards, we as a nation have foolishly maintained the illusion of wealth by collectively diving deep into debt. Essentially we are borrowing from tomorrow to finance our lifestyles today: this is not, and never has been, sustainable. We are living in economic la-la-land.

This deception has proved a useful tool for current government (and Gordon Brown in particular) to deceive the UK public into the notion that we inhabit a 'miracle' economy. It has allowed our economy to 'function' whilst we have lost more than a million manufacturing jobs since 1997 (you know, jobs where things are actually made - terribly old-fashioned I know, but regardless of all the new economy hyperbole, somebody has to make the widget). This would be OK if during this process of 'creative destruction', these manufacturing jobs were replaced by more highly-skilled technical jobs which add more value (the often-touted goal of this government), but the reality is they have been replaced by low-skilled McJobs, along with massive public sector employment of dubious value (to wit, the hideous proliferation of non-jobs that can be seen in your Society section every Wednesday).

This is not a sustainable path to real increases in future wealth. Real wealth is measured in productive capacity, not how deep in debt you are. I cannot believe how many people nowadays seem to confuse the two.

Also, housing does not suffer chronic shortages - there are over a million houses standing empty in this country at the moment. I concede that demographic changes (increased single households etc.) may have helped increase prices somewhat, but please don't try and suggest that this explains the entirety of the price rises we have seen in recent years.

You state that 'With no crash in sight, investors can accept low yields at the outset believing that any rent rises will increase yields in subsequent years'. This is not sound economic sense: in valuing any asset, the present yield should be considered. I am afraid that what is really happening in BTL is landlords are operating under the expectation of capital growth, and are therefore happy to accept low yields. This is exactly what was happening at the height of the dotcom bubble, when the focus was entirely on capital growth, and people were buying and selling shares at ridiculous prices in companies that had NEVER paid a dividend. Then what happened...

Finally you say that if I supply you with BTL horror stories then you will publish them. I am rather afraid that this is not necessary: just wait 12 months, and you will have plenty to write about. The economy is beginning to unravel as I write.

Regards (and thank you again for your reply),

Marko.

Anything else I should have mentioned?

Superbly put actually. You might tuck him away for some correspondence in 6mths time or so, if things are looking markedly worse, perhaps providing him with material for a more bearish article.

Edited by Scooter

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Guest Fiddlesticks

Balance is provided by our very own

Buy-to-Let investor, Vanessa Whitting, who bought a new build flat,

discovered damp and suffered several voids. An update on her situation is

expected in the next few weeks. Her example is not isolated and shows the

kinds of problems people can suffer ...

If you have examples of other people who have suffered problems with

buy-to-letting, please tell us and we will feature their story.

This sounds like a good invitation to me! I've not been following the Vanessa Whitting story, but here he's offering to publicise some of the BTL pitfalls. Can't we muster a few people who have suffered BTL difficulties??

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chronic shortage of homes

How often do we hear that old chestnut.

Could someone tell me where are these camps with row upon row of tents full of homeless families?

There is a shortage of cheap houses to buy. No shortage of expensive ones. No shortage of homes to rent either as far as I can see.

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This sounds like a good invitation to me! I've not been following the Vanessa Whitting story, but here he's offering to publicise some of the BTL pitfalls. Can't we muster a few people who have suffered BTL difficulties??

Call Singing Pig? get some troubled wannabee expats as well... :)

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What else can be expected from the NuLeft? Its dog eat dog now and to hell with FTBs and anyone else who has not bought into the "Miracle Economy" based on HPI and unlimited MEW.

Roll on David "Scotty" Cameron and the radical centre!

Marko,

Very well written; far better than their usual journalistic interpretations! Perhaps you should apply for a job at the Guano.... <_<

I agree, things are starting to unravel, but the Blair Brown Corporation will also defend the economy until the last repossession hits No. 10 Downing Street and we reclaim it for the people. :ph34r:

JD

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This sounds like a good invitation to me! I've not been following the Vanessa Whitting story, but here he's offering to publicise some of the BTL pitfalls. Can't we muster a few people who have suffered BTL difficulties??

Great idea. And thanks to the Internet, not difficult to do.

Just look at some forums (MSE, fool.co.uk, pig) to find BTL failures - many would be glad to be features in the media, especially if they have an axe to grind with vendor, builder, mortgage company, IFA, etc.

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My reply to his reply:

Dear Phillip,

Thank you for your reply (to be honest I was not expecting anything, except maybe an automatically-produced reply!) ........

What an excellent reply. This is my favourite bit:

"...we as a nation have foolishly maintained the illusion of wealth by collectively diving deep into debt. Essentially we are borrowing from tomorrow to finance our lifestyles today: this is not, and never has been, sustainable. We are living in economic la-la-land. "

Well done.

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super stuff, Marko.

Well done, you. :)

Yes well done Marko. I think it's great that you have entered into a correspondence with this guy. Journalists have their own views, of course, but in my experience they are interested in developing links with anyone whom they think might be useful as a source of future stories.

Contrary to opinions sometimes expressed on HPC, the priority for many, if not most, journalists is not to act as propagandists for any point of view but to fill the white space of the looming edition with stories that have news value. One of the reasons the VIs get so much space is that they know how to play this game. They present journalists with ready made stories presented in a newsworthy manner.

BUT one big item that defines what counts as news is conflict. If a journalist can add a bit of conflicting opinion to their story they will often be willing to do so. Indeed it is often this that adds news value. And if they have a source who will reliably come up with a contrary view they will cultivate him or her.

SO, I say yes, anyone who can give Marko some leads on negative BTL stories will be helpine our cause. Let's try working with the jounalists who are open to our arguments rather than dismiss them all as biased. As the HPC unfolds the demand for this will grow and now is the time to build the links.

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Damn those aliens..

Damn them too hell..

There were all of these houses.. thousands spare.. there must have been for prices to drop..

Then the Alians come down and take the houses away..

The fastest house building programme since Dubai found another puddle of oil the size of wales and decided to build a full scale replica of London for shi*s and giggles can not keep up with the ..

Aliens stealing the houses..

Docklands flats.. arent they a third empty..?

Bare with me... I am trying to get the ONS to supply property statistics.. it has taken months...

Still no where..

Grrrrrrrrr

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Contrary to opinions sometimes expressed on HPC, the priority for many, if not most, journalists is not to act as propagandists for any point of view but to fill the white space of the looming edition with stories that have news value....

I think you are right NewB, they just want to write interesting copy that gets noticed: to this end conflicting opinions are nice to include because they add 'flavour' to the piece.

On the other hand there does seem to be a press-release approach which is quite damaging...whether this is down to journalistic laziness or time-pressure or sinister string-pulling I couldn't say. That there is a definite aggregate tendency for positive spin on housing in the media as a whole, I have no doubt.

I would say that Phillip Inman certainly seems open to us providing him with an alternative view on the state of the market, and his statement that he will feature examples we provide him with is encouraging...but I will believe it when I see it. If anyone has anecdotals on the bearish side of BTL, I would suggest that we write to him pronto and try and encourage him into using them.

Edited by marko

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I think you are right NewB, they just want to write interesting copy that gets noticed: to this end conflicting opinions are nice to include because they add 'flavour' to the piece.

On the other hand there does seem to be a press-release approach which is quite damaging...whether this is down to journalistic laziness or time-pressure or sinister string-pulling I couldn't say. That there is a definite aggregate tendency for positive spin on housing in the media as a whole, I have no doubt.

I would say that Phillip Inman certainly seems open to us providing him with an alternative view on the state of the market, and his statement that he will feature examples we provide him with is encouraging...but I will believe it when I see it. If anyone has anecdotals on the bearish side of BTL, I would suggest that we write to him pronto and try and encourage him into using them.

If I had a story I'd pass it on to you. Unfortunately (?) I don't know any BTL landlords - except the one I rent from and that would not be good for my relationship with him.

BUT how about this? The Guardian present updates every so often from "our very own

Buy-to-Let investor, Vanessa Whitting". It's about time for another one. Why not offer to write a short alternative view in response to her report? Her last one admitted that her investment was indefensible - except for the supposed capital appreciation of the flat she bought (in 2004 I think). Keep it objective - but this should give plenty of scope for setting out just how risky BTL has become.

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Guest Winners and Losers

Finally you say that if I supply you with BTL horror stories then you will publish them. I am rather afraid that this is not necessary: just wait 12 months, and you will have plenty to write about.

:lol::lol::lol:

My favourtie part!

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Hah, so I see! What a con! And to think I was taken in that he really penned that reply for me and me alone. I feel dirty....!! :lol:

What a load of ********! No wonder he didn't address any of my points....the mofo probably didn't even read it!

roblpm send something back about this.

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Hah, so I see! What a con! And to think I was taken in that he really penned that reply for me and me alone. I feel dirty....!! :lol:

What a load of ********! No wonder he didn't address any of my points....the mofo probably didn't even read it!

roblpm send something back about this.

OK maybe it's disappointing to find that your two hearts do not beat as one. But are you that surprised? Or shocked to find he has used a text that will more or less cover the issue you raised? Don't you ever do that? I know I do.

The point is he made an offer - why not take it up?

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It's my view that if you look at the Guardian's response to your letter, and decode it a bit, there are some strong clues about their opinions on property.

But looking at the wider investment

scene, arguably there are more people still nursing losses from the stock

market crash.

This clearly means "Stocks are meaningless pieces of paper which seem to go up and down in value without good reason. Stocks are not a good investment for ordinary people. Ordinary people cannot make good judgements in the stock market."

At the moment, over valued or not, property continues to enjoy favourable

long term support, not least from a chronic shortage of homes and

demographic changes that have increased demand.

This is to be read "people will always want property: the reason is that they aren't making any more land and Britain is a tiny, overpopulated island. Divorces and immigration ("demographic changes") mean that there is huge extra housing demand.

With no crash in sight,

investors can accept low yields at the outset believing that any rent rises

will increase yields in subsequent years. And if they last the course there

is a whopping terminal bonus.

This could have come straight out of the mouth of Property Guru on singing pig: "There will not be a crash. BTL pays for itself (no cash flow issues), provides an income, and is bound to be worth a fortune after 25 years."

The last point "a whopping terminal bonus" is particularly outrageous. Can you guarantee that in 2030 a 1-bed new build built in 2005 will be worth 6 x average salary in that year? Of course not.

So you can see that the Guardian journalist is echoing all the property myths which are familiar to members of the general public. There is no analysis here, they are just repeating the opinions they hear from everyone else. I don't doubt the Guardain's high standards of journalism in some areas, I think they just have no clue about finance and investment, and are not interested in establishing a good reputation in that area. The BTL article was a classic piece of "filler" which is designed to get advertisers queueing up to get a slice of the mindshare of Guardian readers.

frugalista

EDITED: slight grammar error

Edited by frugalista

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This clearly means "Stocks are meaningless pieces of paper which seem to go up and down in value without good reason. Stocks are not a good investment for ordinary people. Ordinary people cannot make good judgements in the stock market."

As BB said yesterday - "Yup, bits of paper in companies that actually do something productive, employ people, pay taxes and generate real profits and returns year on year. You can't really compare that to a bile of bricks that can only rise in value and eventually fall down."

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  • 302 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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