Is it a sad indictment of our society that “selfie” – a digital self-portrait – is the Oxford Dictionary “Word of the Year”?
Or am I just a curmudgeon (my candidate for 2014 btw)?
I suppose it’s when the already self-absorbed “C” listers harness it and the Hello magazine readers lap it up that it moves from harmless fun to something less healthy and I start to feel my blood boil. I am not sure whether that proves I am a grumpy old geezer or not.
However, when I heard of the “unselfie” – a digital self portrait with a sign for a charitable cause held up in front of the face – and how it was being harnessed, I felt a surge of redemption on behalf of the human race (not that I am pompous as well as grumpy, of course).
Now I am wondering whether “Help to Buy” is like “Selfie” – dangerous when harnessed by politicians and lapped up by home owners?
It does nothing for the real problem in the housing market – making it easier for people to borrow money when the issue is actually affordability rather than credit (build more houses for goodness sake!).
Does that mean that last week’s Bank of England “volte-face” (my candidate word for 2015) on the housing bubble debate indicates a shot of redemption? Of doing the market equivalent of an Unselfie? Evidence that the public servants (as opposed to their political masters) are capable of selflessly acting in the interest of the market after all?
This indication follows the announcement by the Bank that one of the measures introduced to stimulate the market (the Funding for Lending Scheme) is being withdrawn from the housing market.
After echoing, in June, the blandishments (my candidate for 2016) of the politicians about the unlikeliness of a housing bubble, we now see the Bank, bold as brass, saying that a housing bubble is a concern – a volte-face, or U-turn, if ever we saw one.
Stimulating the market by making credit easier to obtain is as stupid as looking at a “C” list celebrity Selfie.
It creates a spike in the market by (a) delaying transactions until it is available, (b) creating a false impression of affordability while it is in operation with low interest rates, and (c) advancing transaction that would have taken place after it is withdrawn.
Both (a) and (c) would have occurred anyway while (b) is irresponsibly storing up problems for later. It does the housing market no favours. It creates operational problems of capacity planning for service providers (estate agents, conveyancers etc). Politicians are the housing market’s “C” listers and it makes my blood boil!
What we need is the equivalent of the Unselfie in the housing market. The problem is that this equivalent – “Help to Build” – is as unpalatable to the politicians and home owners as the Unselfie is to the “C” listers and the “Hello” readers.
Building more homes makes property more affordable, which doesn’t win votes from home owners who will lose value in their properties as a result of the increased supply.
So we are doomed to a market of crash and boom as self-interest dictates its operation.
* Mark Riddick is an entrepreneur and investor with 30 years of experience in the property transaction market. He is the founder and ex CEO of SearchFlow and is currently chair of Search Acumen