A week seems a bloody long time in the Central London Property Market

Tuesday, March 20, 2012 by Ed Mead

A week might be a long time in politics but it seems like a bloody long time in the central London property market too. When I went away (OK, it was two weeks) the market was showing a few signs of life but after a lacklustre 2011 it did seem that perhaps 2012 might be another drab year. Its early still with barely 25% gone but perhaps either the Olympics or the prospect of the end of the world (Nostradamus, not Eurocrisis) has galvanised someone into doing something.

As I sloped off stock levels were 50% down on a year ago, itself hardly a bumper year on the supply side, and as I return they’re still down, but it seems that things that were an issue last year aren’t now. Secondary locations are suddenly beginning to sell, not tertiary or less mind – it’s not 2007 again, and foreign buyers seem so keen to dump cash that short leases no longer scare them half to death.

Every year we think January’s going to be busy, and it’s not. Spring is the time and after 30 years I should know that, but my glass is always half full. In fact at the moment it might be that my eyesight is deceiving me in that my cup is overflowing. Problem is that I think it’s a much smaller glass these days. I was talking to one of London’s finest developers earlier (Not that one, a proper one) and he said he thought this was a bubble in a bubble which was vaguely prescient – I think. Commentators are bored rigid of hearing how London continues to be disconnected from UK property PLC, but for each one pissed off or disenchanted with our Capital there are several more who benefit massively from what we have here.

I sat on my plane coming home and watched a film called Margin Call. It was obviously based on a Lehman/GS style Bank where a literal rocket scientist worked out they were all doomed unless they dumped all their [multi $trillion] worthless products in one day on a customer base they’d never be able to sell to again, sort of signing their own death warrant. I’ve felt like that several times in my career and yet it’s easy to forget sometimes that what I sell actually has a use, people live in it. Discovering ever cleverer ways of packaging and slicing the same derivative guff up and passing it on to some unsuspecting schmuck who pretends he understands, and then taking a cut, doesn’t appear to have much social use.