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Why we can’t solve the housing crisis.

I attended the shiny London Real Estate Forum last week, an event ironically under canvas in the middle of Berkeley Square. Developers, investors, occupiers and senior property professionals gawped at detailed models of mainly London showing imaginitive and no doubt expensive visions of new property schemes. Seminars, meet-ups and break-outs both formal and informal gathered great brains (and me!) to discuss everything from the latest news on Earls Court to solving the supply conundrum.

I was generously invited to join a closed Estate Gazette group challenged to consider “Whose responsibility is housing?”. A full and much fairer summary will appear in the next edition of Estates Gazette and a modest summary appears here but amongst all the huge brains arranged around the table one theme struck me like a skip falling from the seventh floor; it’s only the industry (with the help of some notible, hard working charities) that bangs on about there being a “Housing Crisis” and to most members of the public this must sound like an excuse to build more and to make more money. A quick search of Hansard over the past 5 years failed to find a single instance of a current Government minister using these two words consecutively! If there is a housing crisis, most people think that it’s the price of houses not a lack that is the emergency.

These days we don’t get to see people sleeping rough. Local authorities and Government regulations means that since the Olympics in 2012 when people sleeping on the streets would have given a poor impression we have erected spikes in doorways to make for restless sleep. More and more I’m asked “where are all the people who need these new houses you say we need to built?” Indeed the 2011 Census helpfully points out that the number of homes across the country by and large is enough for the head count we have. We have net immigration and we have a lot of kids living with their parents it seems but this is the problem.

Until the average Waitrose shopper actually sees evidence of a housing crisis, until she steps over bodies as she exits the store or is faced by civil unrest such as she saw on telly in the summer of 2011 she isn’t going to accept that there’s a problem, let alone a crisis. Of course, she worries about how Jane and Michael are ever going to afford to rent let alone buy but she and her husband have equity in the house thanks to their shrewed investment stratergy (of riding the wave as prices rose) so they ought to be able to help the kids afford the high prices that they and their friends are asking.

This is what most people think. The current planning system is very complicated. This is good because it makes building in my area harder. A recent Mori poll in January revealed that “37% of those who agree that there’s a housing crisis disagree that there’s one locally”.  Interviewees complain that they want their kids to move out but that they can’t afford a home to which the public says “so you want to build a cheap one near mine so they can?”. Not surprising that most people are content that house building is so bloody difficult.

Frustrated by being able to build more homes (and make more money, critics would say) deligates at the Berkeley Square expo suggested that what was needed was a ‘Housing Tzar’. But here’s the problem, in doing so they admit that local democracy is the block on building more so the answer must be to circumvent local democracy. Call me old fashioned but I’m not sure I’m a buyer of this.

New power stations, new roads and railways, these are things central Government have to decide upon. My quest for a 2 bed flat in Mayfair for less than £200,000 is something that Mayfair residents should decide. There’s plenty of space on Hyde Park I argue but they should decide if that’s a price worth paying to make me happy. I fear it’s going to take more visable pain before the public empower one individual or worse a quango to decide what gets built near them. The worst bit is that I suspect they are going to get such pain before too long.

Marketing on Twitter

Whilst I am still waiting for some tangible benefit for being on LinkedIn I have done business thanks to Twitter. New clients have found me, I have found homes for clients & I have learned more about the market than I could possibly have done by just reading the papers.

To explore how much further I could push my luck I set up a series of .gif based Tweets going out every hour and result! A new enquiry by 10.00am! Here are a selection of what I posted;

Statistically the last time you bought a house was 7 years ago. I buy 1 a month. Who’s going to do the best deal?

Statistically the last time you bought a house was 7 years ago. I buy 1 a month. Who’s going to do the best deal?

Found a property you’ve fallen in love with? Naturally you’re just the right person to negotiate to buy it!

Found a property you’ve fallen in love with? Naturally you’re just the right person to negotiate to buy it!

It’s not easy to say “no” to an agent when you want a particular house but a #BuyingAgent can remain professional.

It’s not easy to say “no” to an agent when you want a particular house but a #BuyingAgent can remain professional.

You describe the dream, I'll find the home.

You describe the dream, I’ll find the home.

Clever marketing means a #BuyingAgent isn’t taken in by the beautiful front. It’s vital to check for an exposed rear!

Clever marketing means a #BuyingAgent isn’t taken in by the beautiful front. It’s vital to check for an exposed rear!

It’s not just about finding the perfect looking property. A #BuyingAgent can check that the face fits.

It’s not just about finding the perfect looking property. A #BuyingAgent can check that the face fits.

Finding the right home will be a compromise but you should have any arguments with me. Get a #BuyingAgent

Finding the right home will be a compromise but you should have any arguments with me. Get a #BuyingAgent

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Audio

FT Money show

The FT Money Show is one of the most popular of the paper’s regular podcasts. I was kindly invited to participate in this week’s edition following the Queens’ Speech looking specifically the extension of Right to Buy.

Personal finance editor Claer Barrett asks the questions, deputy editor James Pickford provides the gravitas and FT Money editor Lucy Warwick-Ching somehow manages to produce what will doubtless be yet another award-winning podcast.

podcast.ft.com/p/2753

Subscribe to this and future FT Money podcasts via iTunes

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Video

Time to pile your pension into property?

Changes to pension rules come into effect on 6th April 2015 but how do you know what’s right for you? There are options like investing via a ‘crowd-funding’ website for example, buying a property outright or perhaps just paying down your existing mortgage. Many people will find that the costs – not least the tax you may pay when cashing all or part of your pension will outweigh the risks of running your own retirement fund but for some the lure of investing in bricks and mortar may be too much to resist. As a rather naive commentator said on the Today program this morning (1hr 24 min, 46sec), “Over last ten years we’ve (Martin & Cº) have looked at the returns landlords have got, the lowest have been 6% and the highest 13% (per annum?). You’d struggle to find any other asset class that’s given that level of return. 13% even even beats bonds of the ten years“.

If you are thinking of transferring all or some of your pension then you may find my Pocket Agent service helpful. £150 (plus VAT) is a small price to pay for guidance on what you may be considering. As we are often reminded, past performance is not a guide to the future and you may want some reassurance that your instincts when it comes to property are right when considering how you will pay for your retirement.

If you’re confused about the new pensions landscape you may find this a handy 3 minute summary.

 

Suzie Pattison (of sponsor Ravensworth), me & BBC legend John Sargeant
Aside

and the ‘Property Commentator of the Year’ is…

On Monday night the annual Property Press Awards were held in London. The event, sponsored by LSL Property Services and meticulously arranged by the team at Wriglesworth was heaving with the Great & the Good of what would once have been Fleet Street. I was one of a 37 of judges who sifted the wheat from the chaff to come up with worthy winners in the various categories.

To my embarrassment there was a new award in 2015 – the Property Commentator of the Year which was generously thrust into my hands by retired BBC political editor & Strictly survivor, John Sargeant. The competition was stiff so how I ended up at the top of the heap suggests need for a Judicial Enquiry. Pending the outcome my thanks to my fellow judges for their sense of humour! The citation read;

“For this category, judges were looking for personalities who had their fingers on the pulse of the property market, making erudite and informative comment and analysis. […] The Gold Award Winner impressed the judges with the way multimedia commentary was delivered to the public in an intelligent and balanced way which is easily understandable and sometimes entertaining.”.

Suzie Pattison (of sponsor Ravensworth), me & BBC legend John Sargeant

Suzie Pattison (of sponsor Ravensworth), me & BBC legend John Sargeant

The full list of the winners is:

Property Business Journalist of the Year
Winner: Hilary Osborne, The Guardian
Silver: Hannah Brenton, Property Week
Bronze: Oliver Shah, The Sunday Times

International Property Journalist of the Year
Winner: Carol Lewis, The Times: Bricks & Mortar
Silver: Zoe Dare Hall, FT: House & Home; The Sunday Times: Home
Bronze: Nicole Blackmore, The Daily Telegraph; The Sunday Telegraph

Periodical Property Consumer Writer of the Year
Winner: Ruth Bloomfield, The London Magazine/Stylist
Silver: Claire Pilton, Condé Nast
Bronze: Zoe Dare Hall, A Place in the Sun; The London Magazine; Grand Designs

Property Trade Magazine of the Year
Winner: Show House
Silver: Property Week
Bronze: Estates Gazette

National Freelance Writer of the Year
Winner: Donna Ferguson
Silver: Ruth Bloomfield
Bronze: Fred Redwood

Garden Writer of the Year
Winner: Bunny Guinness, The Sunday Telegraph
Silver: Caroline Donald, The Sunday Times
Bronze: Pattie Baron, London Evening Standard: Homes & Property
Bronze: Naomi Slade, The Daily Telegraph; House & Garden

Consumer Mortgage Writer of the Year
Winner: Nicole Blackmore, Sunday Telegraph; The Daily Telegraph
Silver: Donna Ferguson, The Guardian; The Observer
Bronze: Anna Mikhailova, The Sunday Times
Bronze: Simon Read, The Independent

Regional Property Writer of the Year
Winner: Helen Davies, Liverpool Echo
Silver: Gill Oliver, Oxford Mail
Bronze: Deborah Churchill, Move To London

Property Commentator of the Year
Winner: Henry Pryor, Independent commentator
Silver: Yolande Barnes , Savills
Bronze: Roger Bootle, Capital Economics
Bronze: Kate Faulkner, Independent commentator

Property Columnist of the Year
Winner: Helen Davies, The Sunday Times: Home
Silver: Anne Ashworth, The Times: Bricks & Mortar
Bronze: Rupert Bates, Show House

Lifestyle & Interiors Property Writer of the Year
Winner: Emma Wells, The Sunday Times: Home
Silver: Hugh Graham, The Sunday Times: Home
Bronze: Alexandra Goss, The Sunday Times: Home

Scoop of the Year
Winner: Alexandra Goss, The Sunday Times
Silver: David Hatcher, Real Estate Capital
Bronze: Karen Robinson, The Sunday Times: Home

Property Staff Writer of the Year
Winner: Hilary Osborne, The Guardian
Silver: Lee Boyce, Daily Mail
Bronze: Francesca Steele, The Times: Bricks & Mortar
Bronze: Mark Bridge, The Times: Bricks & Mortar

National Newspaper Supplement of the Year
Winner: Anne Ashworth, The Times: Bricks & Mortar
Silver: Janice Morley, London Evening Standard: Homes & Property
Bronze: Helen Davies, The Sunday Times: Home

Lifetime Achievement Award
Winner: Jeremy Gates

Overall Journalist
Winner: Hilary Osborne, The Guardian

The gold award winners with John Sargent, former BBC political correspondent

The gold award winners with John Sargent, former BBC political correspondent