To Buy Or Not To Buy?
26 August, 2007
In those days, there was no obsession with property ownership - it was quite normal to rent at all levels of society - and 19th century census returns show that there was a large rentier class providing accommodation to willing tenants.
What has turned this sensible situation on its head, so that normal families worldwide spend up to half of their income on buying properties, running horrendous risks on interest rates and underlying valuations?
Books have been written on that, and I only care about understanding it because I am thinking of buying myself a little pad somewhere in the Mediterranean for when I get too old to find rich boy-friends any more. And I don't want to buy at the peak of the market!
I can see that government-inspired inflation has undermined belief in money during the last 100 years, so that people want real assets; and I can see that governments have given tax incentives to borrowers for much of that time. So far so good, that creates demand, and there is a limited supply of properties, especially in nice places. I'm not thinking of buying an apartment in downtown Minsk. But I can also see that there has been a boom and bust situation in property values. How can you explain 600% increases in house prices in Malta in the last five years? Or 300% in Cyprus? Just because they joined the EU?
In the past, asset crunches in the USA have had knock-on effects in Europe and emerging markets. The bull market in house prices has lasted in most places for 15 years or more. When is it going to stop?
And yet . . . and yet . . . the enormous piles of money in offshore tax havens keep on growing at silly annual rates. That's more asset demand, isn't it?
Help! I don't know what to do. I think I'll stay with my current boy-friend for a while and keep thinking!
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