Monday, February 28, 2005

Property owning democracy

Glasgow is for rent, or most of it. That’s how it seems, as the estate agents’ notices mutter forlornly from dozens, no hundreds of windows. That buy-to-rent dream is going horribly wrong, and yet still the riverside flats soar upwards, all pre-stressed concrete and increasingly stressed developers.
The housing market is about to go into freefall, and the only question is: will it become obvious, will it hurt, before or after the election? If the Government can hold things back until the summer, they will, but it is unstoppable. The whole culture of property investment, fuelled by an entirely ludicrous system of tax relief and the Thatcher myth of a “property-owning democracy”, is about to implode.
Except in Shetland, and that’s really an adjustment. Once, about six years ago, you could get an owner-occupied three-bedroom crofthouse, in good, restored condition, with 4 acres of in-by land, some of it pretty good, outbuildings and 100 acres’ share in the common grazings, for £20,000. Nowadays, and I think this will be constant for at least another year, because these prices are a whole lot lower than the rest of the country, you’re looking at £100,000 for the same property.
Let’s face it, what can you get for £100,000 in one of the big cities? True, the whole living-off-equity process needs a bigger pot than it used to (I remember when folk were flogging their £250,000 flats in London and buying a £20,000 croft, then living the candlemaker dream off the interest from a building society) but still. Shetland remains the last dream destination with relatively low (but higher than they used to be) property prices.
Even that won’t last, so if you’re thinking of heading north, do it soon. And do I have a property for sale? Well. Maybe.

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