The price growth of an “asset” into which investors everywhere around the globe have poured billions since the financial crisis has slowed dramatically, and this should worry policymakers.
One thing that becomes clear to a foreigner after even a short time in Britain is how obsessed people are with homeownership. Expressions like “getting on the housing ladder”, “you can’t go wrong with bricks and mortar” or “rent is throwing money away” are all too common.
Despite this obsession — or maybe because of it — it turns out that the British are not all that careful when it comes to making sure they fully read and understand the terms of their mortgage.
This year, the UK government must come up with solutions to the main crises that eat away at some ordinary Britons’ well-being. One of these is the housing crisis, which continues unabated despite the billions of pounds thrown at the problem.
As the major central banks are slowly retreating from their policy of asset purchases, we will probably witness some of the side effects of this withdrawal.
Warren Buffett famously said that “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.” The tide is going out only slowly, but we are beginning to see, at least in the UK, the damage the ultra loose monetary policy has done.
The Bank of England has reason to pat itself on the back. During the financial crisis of 2007-2009, things could have taken a very ugly turn if it hadn’t cut interest rates to record lows and hadn’t started printing money.
A statement from Halifax shares the “good” news: home prices paid by first-time buyers are the highest ever.
In the first half of this year, first-time buyers paid on average £207,693 for a home, the highest price on record. This is 4% higher than a year ago, and 50% higher than five years ago.
The early UK election highlights the harm done by the Brexit vote, but also its short-term winner: the Conservative party. Hidden for now is the long-term loser: the British people.
One of the main complaints of some of the “Leave” voters was that Britain is a “small island” and it is “full up.” Immigration “puts pressure” on local services such as hospitals and schools, but, most importantly, on local housing.
Even Prime Minister Theresa May, when she was Home Secretary, said immigration was putting pressure on the housing sector.
Intriguingly, however, it seems the kind of foreigner whom the UK government welcomes is the foreigner who buys homes but never lives in them – the foreign investor.
Many people hope that the UK Prime Minister’s rhetoric calling for a fairer society means she will address what is by far the biggest inequality in today’s Britain: the housing crisis. But a recent speech, in which she outlined her plan for Brexit, seems to indicate that she is unwilling to really tackle the issue.
The announcement by Chancellor Philip Hammond in his Autumn Statement that letting agency fees charged on tenants will be banned has been met with cries of outrage from estate agents.
Their rage is in part justified. Lately, they have been asked to do much more administrative tasks than simply running credit referencing checks. They are also supposed to check immigration papers as well, to ensure that prospective tenants have the right to be in the country in the first place.