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More Comedy From The Coalface

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See Thursday 26th

‘At last,’ exclaims T excitedly, pointing to his computer screen and the Green Paper report, ‘the government has an affordable housing scheme. Maybe we can buy after all.’

‘They had one of those before.’ I tell him voice laden with irony and T, S and F all turn towards me expectantly. In the background moribund money manipulator M shakes his head and levers himself from his sagging chair, then heads for the kitchen.

‘When was that then?’ Asks T inquisitively, snaffling the bait.

‘In 1989.’ I tell him, as M voluminously breaks wind in judgement on the well-signposted pun as he leaves. ‘It just took a while to take effect – about the early nineties as I recall.’

‘I don’t get it.’ Says F summing up his default position on just about everything.

‘He means a property crash.’ Spoils B from her letting desk enclave. ‘Some of my landlords are already getting twitchy and bailing out, it’s the last thing we need.’

It’s a moot point. With my targets I’ll be hung out to dry if the market does hit the buffers, let alone plunge into reverse. But paradoxically it will be the only way I’ll get the kids off my hands before they hit forty and start trying to shunt me into care to prise their inheritance free. I’ve got so much untapped equity that a twenty percent drop won’t hurt me personally - just professionally.

Last time round it was a painful, but in retrospect necessary correction. Although I’m just not sure I can face all those repossessions again. One upside was it took about half the agents in town out of business, freeing up some office space and culling some of the cowboys. A sort of property-peddler Darwinism in action before my eyes, as one by one the windows were painted out and the commercial boards erected. The trouble is I have the feeling that this time round, tired and ageing as I am, I’ll be the one who ends up extinct.

‘Will head office alter our targets if the market does crumble?’ Asks S naively.

‘No, I doubt it,’ I tell her as the rain lashes against the window again and a lone figure battles past umbrella threatening to implode, like prices. ‘Our budget numbers are like commercial leases – upwards only reviews’

‘It’ll be staff cuts and cost trimming,’ mutters M ominously through a munching mouth as he returns from the kitchen, ‘we’ll all have to pull our belts in.’

‘But there are still more buyers than properties aren’t there?’ Asks F uncertainly.

And I agree with him. For the right home at the right price there always will be, unless taxpayer funded social housing really can top-up the market. Which bearing in mind they’ll be building on flood plains is probably not the best turn of phrase.

‘If supply does start to match dwindling affordability, you’ll see a bit more gazundering.’ I announce.

‘Gazundering?’ Queries F with a frown

‘Yep, it’s when the buyers finally get to shaft the sellers, and start dropping the agreed price half way through. It makes up for all the gazumping they’ve suffered. What goes around comes around.’

‘And we’ll start getting more issues with mortgage valuations.’ Predicts M as I debate telling him he has a shard of flaky pastry on his lower lip. ‘The surveyors will be frightened of their own shadows and down-valuing everything.’

‘He’s right.’ I tell the despondent gathering as a slow drip starts leaking through the air conditioning unit in the ceiling and T rushes to place a waste paper bin underneath again. ‘The slightest hint of a problem on a purchase and the buyers will be wanting a chip, or start pulling out,’ I forecast with weatherman-like accuracy, ‘and telling them someone else will dive-in if they start pissing about won’t seem quite so credible.’

Then the phone interrupts our gloomy discussion.

‘It’s the buyer of Riverside Avenue.’ Whispers S urgently, palm over the handset. ‘She wants to know if the road has ever flooded before she goes ahead.’

‘Splashes out you mean?’ I say to groans all round.

Informing her the clue is in the name isn’t an option, any more than waiting for an inept government to launch a housing lifeboat is.

‘Say not as far as we know,’ I instruct warily, ‘and remind her we’ve several other couples waiting to jump-in.’

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