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Zaranna

High House Prices In An Era Of Low Inflation; Future Ramifications?

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I have been thinking about the economic ramifications of high house prices now that we are assured that we are in an era of permanent low inflation. (Regardless of whether this is, or will remain, true - taking for a moment the new "permanent low inflation era" we are told we are in as a given, I'm speculating on what this means for the future economy).

We've been warned by many prominent figures, Mervyn King among them, that low inflation will mean that the size of mortgage debt will not shrink for today's homeowners in the way that inflation shrank the debts of those who bought, say, in the 70s and early 80s. The effect of this being that mortgage payments on these enormously high house prices will still be relatively large well into the end of the mortgage term. Leaving aside pay rises, and so on, the effect will be that large monthly payments (though "affordable", apparently :) ) will remain relatively large monthly payments for a long time. So mortgage debt relative to income won't reduce over time by inflation in the same way as for previous generations. Correct?

(Yes, many people can expect to have pay rises, and see their incomes increase, but FTBs in their 30s who are nearer the peak of their earning power can't expect this as much as previous generations; and added to that, performance-related pay, 'portfolio careers' and fixed-term contracts mean there are now few sectors where young people can expect the automatic pay rises or promotions that used to be standard in many jobs or professions. Plus, one person in a couple leaving work to care for a family could mean many current FTBs see their total household incomes DECREASING over time, rather than increasing).

SO, this seems to suggest that if you try to maintain high house prices in a low inflation era, what you are doing is effectively CONSTRAINING DEMAND LONG-TERM. You're ensuring that if inflation stays low, the people who take on high mortgage debt today will not have a significant amount of disposable income for a very, very long time. And surely this will have incredibly negative effects on UK consumer demand and growth in the medium to long term?

Compare my parents, who took on what seemed a large mortgage debt in the 70s and early 80s, but saw wages rise fast and rapid inflation shrink the impact of their monthly payments. Now they can afford nice holidays, TVs, new cars, nice clothes, to pay for their children to go to university (just about :blink: ), to have the house redecorated twice in five years, more expensive consumer durables, etc. They're the generation who are now able to spend money. Where they had little disposable income during their 20s and 30s, in their 50s they have cash to burn - MUCH MUCH more disposable cash, I hasten to add, than the IPod generation, who might be happy spending 130 quid on an IPod but aren't able to splash out 5k for a new kitchen or 15k for a conservatory or 25k for a new car. BUT if you take on a huge mortgage debt today and it won't be eroded by inflation, by the time your pay creeps up in 10 or 20 years' time other demands on your disposable income - children, education, pension, will be much more pressing, and the amount of disposable income you can spend on propping up our consumer-led economy will be much, much more limited. People taking on a 200k+ debt aged 30 today, with no wage inflation to iron it out, will not be spending wildly on TVs and holidays and cars when they are in their 50s. Correct?

If retailers are finding it tight right at the moment as consumers tighten their belts, surely to follow a policy where you try to keep house prices high (oh, sorry, "stable" :P ) is setting up huge economic problems for the future - constrained consumer demand in the long term. SO WHY aren't the govt, BoE, etc. trying to burst this bubble? WHY are high house prices seen as a good thing by economists, such as HousingOutlook (among others)? Am I missing something? How are we expected long term to spend spend spend on consumer goods, but also take on huge mortgage debt that doesn't erode much over time? Where is the disposable income going to come from in the future? Even further credit slackening isn't going to generate enough money to maintain consumer demand if people simply don't have enough disposable income to support it.

Please discuss any aspect of the above! I'm a social scientist, and though I've had a limited amount of economics training I'm not an economist, so I'd be grateful if others can correct any aspect of these economic musings they think I've overlooked..... :)

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If money is going into repayments, its not going into the economy for the duration of the loan. This equates a crippling effect to economy activity which we don't immediately recognise given the short termism of most peoples perceptions.

Its worrying that any control on inflation will only be effective on salaries. Lack of Unionism and cheap foreign labour means we will likely see relatively poorer years ahead as our income buy less and less.

Energy costs will feed through to EVERYTHING. So inflation will rear its head despite wage control, the worst scenario for us plebs.

The only upside l can see to this is that eventually energy costs will demand localised production. Give it a few decades and we will get our Norwich dye and shoe industry back!

High house prices and low interest have enabled a lot of MEW and credit spending. This has headed off a long overdue global recession whiuch will simply bite later and harder. Politicians are only interested in the enxt election..4/5 years max. Short termism yet again!

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The only upside l can see to this is that eventually energy costs will demand localised production.

I doubt it: shipping is pretty energy efficient. For any item where labour makes up a significant part of the cost, it would take a very large increase in energy costs to make paying $10 an hour to a British worker more sensible than paying $0.50 an hour to a Chinese worker.

Also, who's got the savings to invest in building massive new factories in the UK, and who would do so with all the regulatory hoops they have to jump through?

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If money is going into repayments, its not going into the economy for the duration of the loan. This equates a crippling effect to economy activity which we don't immediately recognise given the short termism of most peoples perceptions.

Its worrying that any control on inflation will only be effective on salaries. Lack of Unionism and cheap foreign labour means we will likely see relatively poorer years ahead as our income buy less and less.

Energy costs will feed through to EVERYTHING. So inflation will rear its head despite wage control, the worst scenario for us plebs.

The only upside l can see to this is that eventually energy costs will demand localised production. Give it a few decades and we will get our Norwich dye and shoe industry back!

Yes - money illusion. Most people don't see that the impact of their 30 or 50 percent of income "affordable" mortgage payment will not be reduced over time, and that their disposable income will be severely constrained long-term. But my argument is that you would expect economists and central bankers to be worried about this, wouldn't you? So why don't they seem to be?

The only thing that can sort out high house prices or return them to historically affordable levels will be either falls in prices OR higher inflation. With wage inflation depressed by global competition this looks much less likely. (Say you ran a small business: ask yourself which would have a greater negative impact on your business: sudden rises in wage inflation or a HPC?) A HPC looks like the best solution for the economy long-term, with less negative impact than a bout of massive inflation. So why are economists, govt and bankers talking up the housing market??? :huh:

Edited by Zaranna

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A HPC looks like the best solution for the economy long-term, with less negative impact than a bout of massive inflation. So why are economists, govt and bankers talking up the housing market???

A crash won't save the economy though, because people will still pay out 50% of their income on housing, they'll just get a better house.

The problem is that people don't understand what 'low wage inflation' means. They saw their parents take out a mortgage costing 50+% of their income in their 20s and have it reduced to 20% or less after a decade by wage inflation, and expect the same to happen to them when they buy in their 30s while competing with Chinese workers on a fraction of their salary.

What is really needed is a realisation that you can't buy a house, save for retirement, raise kids, pay high taxes to support the boomers and have a life when you're spending 50% or more of your income on a mortgage. When that happens, the economy will recover and house prices will crash through the floor.

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I doubt it: shipping is pretty energy efficient. For any item where labour makes up a significant part of the cost, it would take a very large increase in energy costs to make paying $10 an hour to a British worker more sensible than paying $0.50 an hour to a Chinese worker.

Also, who's got the savings to invest in building massive new factories in the UK, and who would do so with all the regulatory hoops they have to jump through?

I agree, it would have to be significant. Given oil is used for just about everything else, from packaging, rubbber, plastics to fertiliser..you might find that burning it is the last thing we will want to do - so it may still happen. Remember those goods have to be moved to and from the raw source, factory, ports, storage, outlet and consumer.

Local production is harking back to pre victorian, but it seems lots can happen in a few decades.

l think you will see the impact of this concept on food and spoilables sooner than you might imagine.

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A HPC looks like the best solution for the economy long-term, with less negative impact than a bout of massive inflation. So why are economists, govt and bankers talking up the housing market??? :huh:

So they stake their claim to the future money while Joseph's "seven fat cows" get thinner.

People assume that the bankers know what they are doing.

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A crash won't save the economy though, because people will still pay out 50% of their income on housing, they'll just get a better house.

The problem is that people don't understand what 'low wage inflation' means. They saw their parents take out a mortgage costing 50+% of their income in their 20s and have it reduced to 20% or less after a decade by wage inflation, and expect the same to happen to them when they buy in their 30s while competing with Chinese workers on a fraction of their salary.

What is really needed is a realisation that you can't buy a house, save for retirement, raise kids, pay high taxes to support the boomers and have a life when you're spending 50% or more of your income on a mortgage. When that happens, the economy will recover and house prices will crash through the floor.

Agree with you absolutely. So why isn't the economic establishment gently encouraging HPC (or at least trying actively to cool the housing market), when it's sure to happen at some point in the next 50 years; but if it doesn't happen for a while more and more people will become financially constrained in the long term (with the consequent devatating knock-on effects on consumer demand, retail, service sector, production, etc.)?

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Agree with you absolutely. So why isn't the economic establishment gently encouraging HPC (or at least trying actively to cool the housing market), when it's sure to happen at some point in the next 50 years; but if it doesn't happen for a while more and more people will become financially constrained in the long term (with the consequent devatating knock-on effects on consumer demand, retail, service sector, production, etc.)?

Jobs, Zaranna.

Jobs jobs jobs. The house is merely a convenience mechanism that is a means to an end: Supply jobs.

If something existed OTHER than the house market, we would never have had this boom, or it would have been moderated.

All of the bulls on this site overlook this important point: The moment the house market gets so severely silly that even the silliness at present looks sane, and it finally goes tits up as people stop spending, the government won't give two shits about anybody's house price because crime will be rocketing and riots will be breaking out because (the risks are) people will have no jobs, no food, no house, nothing to do any more.

Edited by megaflop

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SO, this seems to suggest that if you try to maintain high house prices in a low inflation era, what you are doing is effectively CONSTRAINING DEMAND LONG-TERM. You're ensuring that if inflation stays low, the people who take on high mortgage debt today will not have a significant amount of disposable income for a very, very long time. And surely this will have incredibly negative effects on UK consumer demand and growth in the medium to long term?

I did a topic on this going back a while

As I've mentioned here before I nearly bought in 1998, 3-bed terraced house in Bristol at £52K. To cut a long story short I didn't and haven't bought since.

Now if HPI had been 2.5% between 1998 and 2005 the house would now be valued at £60K. (2.5% is still higher than average inflation during that period).

Today I have a £30K deposit.

If I bought the house at £60K today my £30K mortgage would be £177 monthly (repayment based on 5%)

However, the house is today worth around £200K. If I use my £30K deposit today I still need a £170K mortgage, the mortgage costs £1005 (repayment based on 5%)

So due to the excessive HPI of the last 8 years, today I would have to pay £828 more monthly (£9936 yearly, approx £13000 of gross pay!!!!) for the same property. £828 which is not going into the economy, into savings, pension etc etc.

Add up all these £800s and it's clear to see that the future for the UK is not very bright, especially now that real average incomes are probably on the way down.

What has amazed me upto this point is just how the economy hasn't already collapsed given that so much money is going on debt servicing. I guess the MEWing and HPI has offset that to some extent but now house prices have stopped their dramatic rise the effects of all this debt servicing and inreased costs will surely be felt by the economy - I think we are seein this now with retail sales

Yes - money illusion. Most people don't see that the impact of their 30 or 50 percent of income "affordable" mortgage payment will not be reduced over time, and that their disposable income will be severely constrained long-term. But my argument is that you would expect economists and central bankers to be worried about this, wouldn't you? So why don't they seem to be?

You make some very good points and are absolutely right.

According to Nationwide the av. FTB uses 40% of income to service mortgage. That's the av. so there must be a lot more using 50%+ of their income.

Unfortunately it seems to be a human trait that most of us don't look forward. I do but rarely meet people that do.

I put my sister off buying recently. Her boyfriend is 35 and they want to start a family soon. I had to try and explain how a 2-bed property will be outgrown very quickly and at their age it isn't much use and they will waste buying costs etc. I told them to wait until they can get somewhere they can grow into at least. It was very hard to explain, hard to get them to think forward and not just live in the now.

1 and 2-bed properties for 34 years olds (av. FTB) are absolute waste of time, fine if you are in your 20's and yet this is all FTBs can afford. Probably part of the reason the birth rate has fallen through the floor - see my signature below

Edited by munimula

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What has amazed me upto this point is just how the economy hasn't already collapsed given that so much money is going on debt servicing.

Not that surprising, surely?

This would only be a gradual erosion of the economy "turning japanese", as the young generations fail to properly contribute to the economy as your example shows well. But all of the boomers, and the "older brothers and sisters" who bought cheaply can still contribute to the economy NOW.

The issue is that debt and losses for new landlords has effectively become a barrier-to-entry to the housing market. We should be scraping the barrel soonish, there can't be too many more rich numpty boomers who want to lose money every month on landlording, and there can't be that many 37 year olds who are going to fork out for a "first time buyer" terrace house.

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So due to the excessive HPI of the last 8 years, today I would have to pay £828 more monthly (£9936 yearly, approx £13000 of gross pay!!!!) for the same property. £828 which is not going into the economy, into savings, pension etc etc.

What is even more shocking is that with the extra £9600 I'd now be spending on mortgage debt I could pay off the £30K mortgage if the house was at 1998 prices+ inflation - IN 3 YEARS!!!

And this is just a terraced house, 2 doubles and 1 single. Nothing that special but what I would say any mid 30's person requires if they want to start having a family.

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I have been thinking about the economic ramifications of high house prices now that we are assured that we are in an era of permanent low inflation. (Regardless of whether this is, or will remain, true - taking for a moment the new "permanent low inflation era" we are told we are in as a given, I'm speculating on what this means for the future economy).

We've been warned by many prominent figures, Mervyn King among them, that low inflation will mean that the size of mortgage debt will not shrink for today's homeowners in the way that inflation shrank the debts of those who bought, say, in the 70s and early 80s. The effect of this being that mortgage payments on these enormously high house prices will still be relatively large well into the end of the mortgage term. Leaving aside pay rises, and so on, the effect will be that large monthly payments (though "affordable", apparently :) ) will remain relatively large monthly payments for a long time. So mortgage debt relative to income won't reduce over time by inflation in the same way as for previous generations. Correct?

(Yes, many people can expect to have pay rises, and see their incomes increase, but FTBs in their 30s who are nearer the peak of their earning power can't expect this as much as previous generations; and added to that, performance-related pay, 'portfolio careers' and fixed-term contracts mean there are now few sectors where young people can expect the automatic pay rises or promotions that used to be standard in many jobs or professions. Plus, one person in a couple leaving work to care for a family could mean many current FTBs see their total household incomes DECREASING over time, rather than increasing).

SO, this seems to suggest that if you try to maintain high house prices in a low inflation era, what you are doing is effectively CONSTRAINING DEMAND LONG-TERM. You're ensuring that if inflation stays low, the people who take on high mortgage debt today will not have a significant amount of disposable income for a very, very long time. And surely this will have incredibly negative effects on UK consumer demand and growth in the medium to long term?

Compare my parents, who took on what seemed a large mortgage debt in the 70s and early 80s, but saw wages rise fast and rapid inflation shrink the impact of their monthly payments. Now they can afford nice holidays, TVs, new cars, nice clothes, to pay for their children to go to university (just about :blink: ), to have the house redecorated twice in five years, more expensive consumer durables, etc. They're the generation who are now able to spend money. Where they had little disposable income during their 20s and 30s, in their 50s they have cash to burn - MUCH MUCH more disposable cash, I hasten to add, than the IPod generation, who might be happy spending 130 quid on an IPod but aren't able to splash out 5k for a new kitchen or 15k for a conservatory or 25k for a new car. BUT if you take on a huge mortgage debt today and it won't be eroded by inflation, by the time your pay creeps up in 10 or 20 years' time other demands on your disposable income - children, education, pension, will be much more pressing, and the amount of disposable income you can spend on propping up our consumer-led economy will be much, much more limited. People taking on a 200k+ debt aged 30 today, with no wage inflation to iron it out, will not be spending wildly on TVs and holidays and cars when they are in their 50s. Correct?

If retailers are finding it tight right at the moment as consumers tighten their belts, surely to follow a policy where you try to keep house prices high (oh, sorry, "stable" :P ) is setting up huge economic problems for the future - constrained consumer demand in the long term. SO WHY aren't the govt, BoE, etc. trying to burst this bubble? WHY are high house prices seen as a good thing by economists, such as HousingOutlook (among others)? Am I missing something? How are we expected long term to spend spend spend on consumer goods, but also take on huge mortgage debt that doesn't erode much over time? Where is the disposable income going to come from in the future? Even further credit slackening isn't going to generate enough money to maintain consumer demand if people simply don't have enough disposable income to support it.

Please discuss any aspect of the above! I'm a social scientist, and though I've had a limited amount of economics training I'm not an economist, so I'd be grateful if others can correct any aspect of these economic musings they think I've overlooked..... :)

Great post and a subject many of us have raised in one way or another. I agree it seems a long term disaster but politics is a short term game. Ironically, if low inflation (well, official inflation and thus wage inflation) remain low for a long time (another 5-10 years) then I think we will have a HPC even without interest rate rises for the reasons you describe - one day everyone will realise that there is no ladder for them any more and that they just can't afford the things their parents could during their 40s and 50s (including pensions contributions, savings, kids, etc etc). It also puts greater strain on retaining job security in later years where you have higher relative payments to make.

The sad thing is the way people are now being forced to adapt their lives to meet overriding financial needs (eg the necessity of dual incomes, later or no children, child-farming etc in order to afford a home). Previously people tended to use money to meet or fit their life needs (with the odd luxury thrown in) - now its the other way around - people need to live and work to meet their debt burden above all and adapt theiur life needs to ensure this priority is not jeopardised.

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Agree with you absolutely. So why isn't the economic establishment gently encouraging HPC (or at least trying actively to cool the housing market), when it's sure to happen at some point in the next 50 years; but if it doesn't happen for a while more and more people will become financially constrained in the long term (with the consequent devatating knock-on effects on consumer demand, retail, service sector, production, etc.)?

I agree with OzzMosiz this is an excellent thread.

Of course your question is easy to answer, elected politicians hold short term goals. Their long term view is five years on [will we get re elected] And they just hope some sh@t will come along in the mean time that they can blame their short time failures on, if and when it happens.

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A crash won't save the economy though, because people will still pay out 50% of their income on housing, they'll just get a better house.

Given that the housing stock is relatively fixed, how can the average person get a better house? If the average house price declines, it stands to reason that the average outlay on housing will also decline.

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Given that the housing stock is relatively fixed, how can the average person get a better house?

For one thing, the old farts living alone in four-bed houses could sell them to the next generation and buy a granny flat with a sizable wad of cash in the bank.

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I agree with OzzMosiz this is an excellent thread.

Of course your question is easy to answer, elected politicians hold short term goals. Their long term view is five years on [will we get re elected] And they just hope some sh@t will come along in the mean time that they can blame their short time failures on, if and when it happens.

Elected politicians yes; but what bothers me is that the BoE and independent economists also seem to take a majority view that maintaining high HPs is a good thing. Why aren't there more mainstream economists saying, basically, "High house prices are bad for the long-term future of the economy"? Why aren't opposition parties saying it? Are they saying it and just not getting reported? Do they think it but don't say it? Do they not make the connection? (Hard to believe). Do they assume that something will happen in the medium term (wage inflation, HPC) that will restore our collective appetite for (and ability to pay for) an economy based on consumption of cappucinos and new TVs???? :unsure:

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Elected politicians yes; but what bothers me is that the BoE and independent economists also seem to take a majority view that maintaining high HPs is a good thing. Why aren't there more mainstream economists saying, basically, "High house prices are bad for the long-term future of the economy"? Why aren't opposition parties saying it? Are they saying it and just not getting reported? Do they think it but don't say it? Do they not make the connection? (Hard to believe). Do they assume that something will happen in the medium term (wage inflation, HPC) that will restore our collective appetite for (and ability to pay for) an economy based on consumption of cappucinos and new TVs???? :unsure:

Personally I think that HPC.co.uk represents the cutting edge of economic analysis. Most of those so-called economists are people who have fallen into it as a career because they couldn't find anything else to do. Are they really that interested, or just doing a 9-5? That is mainly directed at academics.

Those in the private sector working for banks etc. have their own agenda, and the actualite doesn't come into it.

Edited by Smell the Fear

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Personally I think that HPC.co.uk represents the cutting edge of economic analysis. Most of those so-called economists are people who have fallen into it as a career because they couldn't find anything else to do. Are they really that interested, or just doing a 9-5? That is mainly directed at academics.

Those in the private sector working for banks etc. have their own agenda, and the actualite doesn't come into it.

All the above is irrelevent as in either an inflationary or deflationary enviroment, the real cost of housing will rise when the population is set to reach 70m inside a decade with no debate.

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Elected politicians yes; but what bothers me is that the BoE and independent economists also seem to take a majority view that maintaining high HPs is a good thing. Why aren't there more mainstream economists saying, basically, "High house prices are bad for the long-term future of the economy"? Why aren't opposition parties saying it? Are they saying it and just not getting reported? Do they think it but don't say it? Do they not make the connection? (Hard to believe). Do they assume that something will happen in the medium term (wage inflation, HPC) that will restore our collective appetite for (and ability to pay for) an economy based on consumption of cappucinos and new TVs???? :unsure:

There's an excellent two part video program charting the history of the power the banking industry exerts over national governments. Someone not as lazy as me will nodoubt supply the link for you if you have not yet seen it. It's about three hours long in total.

"Give me control of a nation's money and I care not who makes it's laws" -- Mayer Amschel

Bauer Rothschild

"Banking was conceived in iniquity and was born in sin. The Bankers own the earth. Take it away from

them, but leave them the power to create deposits, and with the flick of the pen they will create enough

deposits to buy it back again. However, take it away from them, and all the great fortunes like mine will

disappear and they ought to disappear, for this would be a happier and better world to live in. But, if you

wish to remain the slaves of Bankers and pay the cost of your own slavery, let them continue to create

deposits".- SIR JOSIAH STAMP,(President of the Bank of England in the 1920's, the second richest man in Britain):

these and other quotes and others concerning banking can be found at

Banking and Federal Reserve Quotes

Edited by Catch22

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There's an excellent two part video program charting the history of the power the banking industry exerts over national governments.

The entire global economy is designed to funnel money to the banks. If I'd realised that as a teenager, I'd never have considered any other line of work.

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A suggestion - effectively spending that would be spread over many years is pulled forward. This is the PFI wheeze, you spend now by borrowing against a future income stream, writ large. Fuelled by cheap money.

In large part BTL consists in mortgaging the future income streams of young professionals by those who have access to enough capital to put down a big enougth deposit, or who can somehow or other persuade banks to lend them the money. This prices FTBs out of the market and ensures that they can't build up assets in the same way. Coupled with high and rising levels of student debt, and inflation in necessities, and increases in taxation (particularly council tax, which is paid by renters as well as by owners), and you get a truly toxic cocktail in the medium to long term.

This largely speculative BTL demand is also behind the huge increase in house building going on in the SE, and also lots of infrastructure projects. Certainly I've seen lots more road building and road repairs going on in the last few months than I've seen for years. This pulls in foreign workers, particularly Eastern Europeans, who all need somewhere to live, pushing up demand at the lower end of the housing scale.

So it goes on, with each trend feeding on and reinforcing the rest. Putting students into massive debt is simply a way of pulling forward spending, the govt lends them money which they spend now; and this leads to universities and private companies building more accommodation, pulling in more EE labour, and so on and so on. Meanwhile we're told that this will go on for ever (it's the new paradigm, after all) so companies and individuals gear up their spending (debt-servicing commitments) to present levels of inflated activity, and this drives the spiral up another notch.

Question is, how does this end? Or does it really go on for ever...

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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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