Farewell 2013. Welcome 2014. I suppose.

As the season of goodwill staggers to the finish line – not that ‘goodwill’ would have been the sentiment that first came to the fore if one had had to suffer another enfilade attack (consult your military manual if you don’t know what it means), from the screaming hoards in the aisles of a well-known supermarket – I have decided that in the pursuit of self-improvement, I will in the coming months resolve not to be so cynical and critical of my fellow man.  After all, not everyone can be as close to perfection as myself.  2014 will begin with a greater understanding of the frailties of the human condition, engendering sympathy for those less fortunate than myself, thus fostering a more harmonious relationship with all those with whom I interact.  But that is 2014, next year. Wherever one currently is in the world it is still 2013, so I have chosen in the final blog of this calendar year to remain true to form and vent my spleen on some of the shysters, prevaricators, fabricators and fibbers.  Having just studied the Rightmove figures for the past few months I am – at first glance – awed, humbled and not a little envious of the success of many of my fellow agents, who appear to be listing on average, 17 new properties a month and have been doing so for the past 5 years. On a second, more measured appraisal of the figures, I am suspicious and quizzical, then enlightened.  If these agents (most of whom it should be noted are of the younger generation), are as staggeringly successful as they claim through their Rightmove listings why are they still operating from their office in South wales and not their day bed poolside on the Costa Del Crime whilst Svetlana rubs them down with oil and not much else?  The answer is because on closer investigation, the ‘new’ properties listed are existing stock and having renewed the tenancy the agent is claiming them to be fresh on the books of their agency.  These properties then repeatedly appear as available every six months.  It seems to the older and more jaundiced eye of those of us that have been around since the Rolling Stones were genuinely a ‘new’ band, that these young thrusters of the estate agency world do not wish to build their business through referrals, recommendations and old-fashioned graft. It is instead a competition to compare the size of one’s genitalia through the numbers game of Rightmove listings.  Size is everything.  Now remember ladies, when it comes to size, the male of the species can be prone to exaggeration.  That is why so many of you are so rubbish at parking your car, as your appreciation of what constitutes 6 inches bears little correlation to a school ruler. 

“Such is the human race, often it seems a pity that Noah… didn’t miss the boat” [sic] Mark Twain  I really couldn’t have put it any better myself.

All I want for Christmas…

As a certain S Claus Esq makes the final preparations for tonight’s journey – go faster stripes on the sleigh, go faster juice given to the reindeer, (no way that they would pass a British Horseracing Authority dope test; unless of course they belonged to the rulers of an oil-rich country…), elves careering around like workers in an Amazon warehouse and a hip flask of something warming, but legal, (Cheshire and Co does not condone drink-driving, even in the stratosphere) – it is heartening to read that just like the worn fairy that I made in kindergarten, (I am now a very young-looking 55), that still perches precariously on the tree, some things never really change but are recycled again and again and again.  I am talking about the hot topic of 2013; no, not Miley Cyrus and her twerking but the housing bubble that has taken – if certain parts of the media are to be believed – a place in the universe that is bigger than the hole in the ozone layer.  In fact I wonder whether Santa Inc. has done a risk assessment on the possibility of Rudolph and Co crashing into the said bubble and whether as a precautionary measure Santa will sport a rather fetching high-visibility vest and Donna, Blixen and the rest of the quadrupeds will wear similarly natty quarter sheets and flashing lights?  Aside from the attire of the man in the sled, I read with bemusement/amusement in yesterday’s press that although house prices are set to rise by a predicted 4-8% in 2014, the Halifax believes that there is, “little current sign of the excessive behaviour associated with a house price bubble” [sic] Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, The Times 23 December 2013 

The experts at the ‘H’ – of which I once was, many eons ago – concur with their counterparts at the Nationwide Building Society, Rightmove and The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors – that there is a likelihood that more people will buy a property in 2014 as the economic recovery continues.  It is though a healthier, gradual increase that is predicted with a muted rise post 2015 as the growth in peoples’ earnings is tempered by the eventual rise in interest rates.  To be frank, (and I haven’t even started on the mulled wine so I cannot be accused of succumbing to ‘In Vino, Veritas’ declarations), one did not need to ask the man in the red suit (and high-vis vest), for a crystal ball to work it out.  This is despite the mutterings and typical hand-wringing and teeth-sucking of Meddler-in-Chief Vince Cable.  I have to agree with Grant Shapps that Mr Cable is becoming the, “rude old uncle at Christmas”[ sic], although I think that ‘Christmas’ could be substituted with All Hallow’s Eve, 4th of July or any date in the calendar.  On that seasonal note of goodwill, I will bid you all a Merry Christmas. Perhaps NORAD (North American Aerospace Defence Command), who as well as scrutinising the skies for possible threats posed by enemy missiles and hijacked planes, also track the global flight path of the distinctive rotund individual in the sleigh, will have their task made considerably easier in that he and the reindeer will be wearing more personal protective equipment than you would find at a Health And Safety convention.

Merry Christmas

Tis the season….

…of  The Strictly Come Prancing Grand Final, dodgy jumpers, realisation of why one never sees certain members of one’s family the rest of the year, people photocopying their nether regions at the office Christmas party and lists.  For some reason yet to be determined by medical research, the final death throes of the current year (working by the Gregorian calendar) generate a litany of lists of, who has done what, who will do what in the coming months, who will do whom, you get the picture…  In keeping with this ‘tradition’, here at Cheshire and Co we have compiled our own list for 2013, looking forward to 2014.   In no particular order and with only a slight nod in the general direction of the property world, here for your perusal, contemplation and discussion:

1. How will the introduction of plastic bank notes affect Nigella and will the drinking straw container in her local McDonald’s deplete overnight?

2.  Is there any one in Cwmbran, nay the universe who doesn’t know that I have been ill?  If not, why not?

3.  If our Lord Sweet Baby Jesus was to arrange a second coming, would he get the same amount of press coverage as the death of Nelson Mandela?

4.  How did Andy Murray win Sports’ “Personality” of the Year?

5.  Will Flavia see the error of her ways and perform for me… on Strictly Come Dancing?

6.  Did Ronnie Biggs have a train set as a kid and if so did it have a Walschaerts gear mechanism? (Come on all you train spotters).

7.  Should I ring Kylie back or just send her a text telling her to stop pestering me?

8. Will vendors ever start listening to the experts?

9. When will people realise that there is no such thing as a free lunch?

10.Will Spurs ever win anything?

11. Will Shane and Liz get back together? If not, will he go back to looking like a fully heterosexual man as opposed to a life size version of Ken and more importantly, will Liz give me a ring?

12.  Will all the virgins in Cwmbran have to move next year’s Christmas party from a phone box to a room of a Westbury starter home?

13. Will the housing market stabilize, boom or stagnate and will I be writing this next year from my villa in Marbs or my caravan in Treco Bay?


Festive greetings


There is no proof…

It was announced this week by the Metropolitan Police that there is, “no credible evidence”, that the SAS were involved in the death of Princess Diana in the Pont de l’Ama road tunnel in Paris in 1997.  However many times Mohammed Al Fayed and the Daily Express keep printing that elements of the British monarchy (that would be you, Phil The Greek) and/or parties within our country’s security forces were all in on the act, it doesn’t change the outcome of the investigation.  On the subject of media hysteria, this segues with the on-going highly emotional state of certain parts of the press who are adamant that there is a housing bubble in all parts of the country.  If these are to be believed, positive sightings of a gentleman sporting a rather fetching red and white number with his alternative, environmentally-friendly mode of transport would be more credible.  According to research by the Council of Mortgage Lenders, there is, “more mortgage debt in South West London than in the whole of Wales” [sic] Daily Mail Wednesday 18 December 2013.  Areas in South West London including the very smart environs of Wimbledon, Earls field and Clapham have a total mortgage debt of £29.2 billion.  In comparison the whole of Wales has a debt of £28.5 billion.  When evidence shows that there is a greater debt in a few boroughs of London than in an entire country (even if that includes Llanelli, Skewen and The Guernos Estate), then there may well be a housing bubble ballooning in London, but there is, “no credible evidence”, that there is one in Wales – whatever the postcode.

The certainties of life…

…death and taxes.  George’s Autumn Statement last week contained some interesting estimates from the Office of Budget Responsibility (I wonder how you get the gig in there?).  The general consensus in their figures was that house prices will increase by a fifth over the next three years.  This has led to the usual chorus of shock and horror from the usual protagonists; step forward Vince Cable. Chancellor Osborne defended himself, insisting that it was right to help people buy homes but that he would not allow a bubble to develop.  My initial reaction was, ‘Good on you George’; but delving deeper into the OBR report I became increasingly cynical.  According to the OBR, if these house prices do come to fruition, then the amount paid to the Treasury in stamp duty will jump from the estimated £8.9 billion in 2013/14 to £16.8 billion in 2018/19.  Thus handing the Chancellor of the day (George hopes that it will be him; get back in your box Vince, Boris, Ed  Nigel et al), an unexpected yet gratefully received giant windfall.  This would be a major boost to any election campaign and Government credibility.  To think that only 12 months ago politicians of all colours were suggesting that one of the ways forward out of the financial mire was to scrap stamp duty.  Now one can understand why George, ‘cocked a deaf ‘un’.  There is possibly more chance of Vince pulling on his pumps to trip the light fantastic with Flavia than stamp duty facing the dance-off.

If you are not going to play with it…

In keeping with the current festive theme – including mince pies being out of date by the 1 December – the recent decision by the Bank of England to stop Funding For Lending will resonate with every parent who is being blackmailed at every given opportunity by their offspring to purchase the latest must-have gizmo for the aforementioned little darlings’ Christmas present. They want it, they have to have it, if they don’t get it that will be the reason why they fail all their GCSE’s in years to come/get pregnant by one of the local n’er -do-wells/take drugs etc etc. On receipt of the said gift that Santa’s little elves (I wonder if they are on zero hour contracts?), have slaved to get to the base of the tree, it is played with for all of 5 minutes before being discarded only to reappear in a local charity shop/shopping auction site before the Christmas tree has lost all of its needles.  Having the bitter memories of past Christmases to call upon, parents are now wise to the entreaties of the younger members of their family and now issue the warning that if they aren’t going to play with it, the elves will lug it elsewhere.  Mark Carney, has adopted a similar approach with the high street banks, in particular those owned by the state (i.e. you and I).  The headlines claimed that the money tree was fenced off to prevent the creation of the illusive housing bubble and that it was for the befit of the country. No it wasn’t.  Mr Carney took it away because the demanding children – the banks – didn’t play with it.  Instead of lending it out to those who wanted mortgages or small business loans, they either sat on it to ensure a healthy glow emanated from their balance sheets or they loaned it to fellow banks.  Perhaps it is to be taken as a sign of encouragement that the Bank of England is influencing the behaviour of the high street banks and the tail is no longer wagging the dog to such an extent.