Monday, 31 December 2012

A Do-Er Upper's 2013 Forecast

Over the last few weeks I've been inundated with London estate agent forecasts for the next year.

Most of them show a remarkable similarity to horoscopes in that they could be interpreted in an almost endless variety of ways and made to fit any eventual outcome.

Many, for example, predict a 'flat' market.

Now, I take it that this doesn't actually mean a good market for 'flats'. But it could.

Seriously though, the messages coming out of the so-called gurus are muddled, conflicting, ambiguous, or incomprehensible.

In other words, they don't have a bloody clue.

No surprises there then.

Anyway, as I'm about to bet our entire capital on the capital's property market, I've had to take a view myself and determine my own predictions for '13 (unlucky for some!).

1: There will still be a property market. Unlike Foie Gras and Caviar, a roof over our heads is pretty much an essential. And they are building less new roofs than ever. Ergo.... work it out for yourselves.

2: People will still want a better, bigger or smarter house. I once knew a St Tropez based yacht salesman who told me he had never, ever met an owner who didn't covet a bigger, better, faster boat. Nobody ever really traded down! The same, I believe, is true of property. Even downsizers want to move to a smarter address with wet rooms, cinema rooms, calf leather floors and walk-in bidets.

3: London will still be popular. This city is not prone to violent revolution, fundamentalist religious uprisings or even French-like confiscatory tax regimes. When the sun shines, it's actually pretty. And the choice of great restaurants makes Paris look like a motorway service area. So where else would anyone go? Nasty New York - I don't think so.

4: SW London will not get any bigger. My grandfather repeatedly told me "land is the one thing they don't make any more". Actually he repeatedly told me hundreds of things (that's old age for you), but this one stuck with me. So, Chelsea, Knightsbridge, Kensington, Notting Hill ain't going to be getting any bigger any time soon. Yet the number of people who want to live (or own property) there is still growing. Even my flaky knowledge of economic theory can work that one out.

5: Bricks & Mortar will do better than Stocks & Shares.  I've had at least two paper fortunes, and I can tell you now I'd rather have a Bricks & Mortar one! Ok, yes, if you'd bought a few Apple shares 15 years ago, you'd be a billionaire by now. But with the global economy currently about as potent as a Citroen 2CV, the stock market is little better than the National Lottery. So my money's on property. Literally.

6: Borrowing money will get easier. The world does not learn lessons. Following some terrible event, it will pretend for a few years that it has....and then a new generation take charge and permit exactly what others swore never to allow again. That's why we still send men (and women these days) to be killed in wars. That's why the US doesn't ban guns. And that's why the financial world (and government) will eventually forget the causes and curses of the Credit Crisis and throw cash at people once again. It may not happen in 2013, but it will happen. And my guess is that it will very gradually start to happen in the coming year.

7: Builders won't get any better, Solicitors won't get any faster. Some things are destined never to change. When I see how long house refurbishments take in my area, I am staggered that anything ever gets built at all. The influx of cheap, skilled, hardworking Polish artisans seemingly created only a temporary improvement.
Although I have a great solicitor who is both fast and efficient, he usually has to work with incompetent fools on the other side of a deal. It recently, for example, took us FIVE weeks to get a West Country solicitor to respond after various letters, numerous emails and countless phone calls.

8: I will get grumpier. A year spent cajoling and cursing builders, designers, architects, estate agents etc is not, I think, likely to reduce my grumpiness quotient. I will therefore be asking the doctor for a higher dose of blood pressure tablets for my sake, and maybe a stock of Valium for my suppliers sake. If anyone tries to sell you the idea that people mellow with age, he must be an estate agent. It's simply not true.

Happy New Year.

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