Panda watch, House of Fraser and bulk-buying in London…

Those of you who have followed the blog for a length of time will know that here at Cheshire and Co we have an avid interest in the possible pitter pattering of tiny panda feet.  If you are raising an eyebrow, look at some of last year’s blog posts. Giant panda Tian Tian, who resides at Edinburgh Zoo, would seem – according to the experts –  to be ready to get romantic with the zoo’s male panda, Yang Guang.  Fellow followers of  Ailuropoda melanoleuca will know that last year Yuang Guang just did not do it for her (I know how you feel big lad) and IVF was also unsuccessful.  This year, it is all systems go.  Well I have just looked at the ‘Panda Cam’ at Edinburgh Zoo – in between compiling Rightmove reports – and although I am no panda expert, I wouldn’t want to be wagering Mrs Cheshire’s collection of Louis Vuitton handbags on there being a need to buy a panda-sized babygro.

On matters more property minded, but still Chinese, there was yet another feverish report published at the weekend that the descendants of the Yan and Huang Emperors are contributing to the deepening UK housing shortage and bullying domestic homebuyers out of the market.  In the major cities, primarily the capital, developers are apparently increasingly selling direct to buyers in China at inflated prices, cutting out domestic purchasers altogether.  Michael Sacks of property development firm Sequre said, “New-build apartment blocks in Britain’s city centre are being bought en masse and then re-sold oversees, mostly to the Chinese, for significantly more than they are already worth.” Daily Mail Saturday 5 April 2014.  This then forces up the value of second-hand stock and according to Mr Sacks, “This is reminiscent of 2007…when people were buying property without doing their due diligence and simply believing the sales hype that the market is booming”.  Ok, let us look at this concern in its component parts.  Firstly, we are talking primarily about the capital city, one of the leading financial and cultural centres of the world.  We are not talking about Abertillery or a former pit village in County Durham. By definition of what it is, with the craving for international business that bolsters the economy as a whole, there is going to be a huge number of foreign investors.  Secondly, alluding to the first point about the economy, I can guarantee that the vendors of the said apartment blocks aren’t complaining.  If a phenomenally wealthy Chinese gentleman or woman, (for the ardent Germaine Greer supporters amongst you), wanted to buy a house or houses in Cwmbran, Ebbw Vale or anywhere this side of the bridge; if they could prove that they had the money and were prepared to pay what was being asked, then I don’t think that I, or any other estate agent  and certainly not our clients, the vendors would be wringing our hands about the possible housing shortage for domestic buyers.  We would be deciding what colour to have for our new Mercedes S-Class.  Thirdly, the value of something is determined not by what experts such as myself think, but what ultimately people are prepared to pay.  Simple.  Any professional in any market plae, housing or otherwise, should be able to give a true and accurate valuation of something.  This is based on comparable evidence, market changes et al.   Any agent should be trying to get the best possible price for a property within a realistic time frame and should advise their clients accordingly.  The due diligence of those buying should be met in equal measure by any agent who advises their client, the vendor that they should not always believe what they read in the papers.

Speaking of economies, the Chinese economy is under pressure and one of the only ways of getting money out of the country is to invest in foreign property.  Is this genuinely to be viewed here in the UK as a negative development?  Similarly, one of the UK’s High Street stalwarts, House of Fraser has been bought by a Chinese conglomerate who plan to spend around £80 million revamping the stores  throughout the country.  Is this perceived to be bad for British business?  Pull the other one.