- May 2002 -CELEBRATE! We Are Three Years old this month
Grief we are three years old this month of May
SECOND SHOE DROPS
Anecdotal evidence is pretty much based on what we see or hear going
on around us. Gossip plays a part; work and neighbours provide that
input and perhaps your local paper or the evening news. We form opinions
from this information and so live our lives using those facts.
We buy homes, cars, clothes, holidays based on anticipation of continuance
of life being the same or better than it was before. If you have kids,
you try to live in a neighbourhood where theyll make good friends,
find a good school and get home safely without being mugged or sold
drugs. If you own a car you hope to live in a street that wont
attract vandals. You find that home by instinct and asking around.
At least you did. Now, with rising house prices you try to find anything
you can barely afford and cross your fingers the neighbours wont
kill you when you go to sleep at night.
Well anecdotal evidence tells me that the long anticipated correction
is on its way. Sure I have been predicting this since Mother Theresa
was a young girl, but really, the evidence is coming in faster now.
Right now youll look at the stock market and see it is rising
again, both here and the USA and youll think to yourself, yes
all is fine. We have finally recovered from the terror attacks of last
year. OK holiday bookings are down apparently, but that means bargains,
so thats fine. Its a sunny day and there are no clouds on
the horizon and where there are clouds, well thats their problem.
Nevertheless everyone in my immediate circle has just been or about
to be laid off or be made redundant. OK many of these people are around
50 so you wont have any sympathy, but some are in there twenties.
I overheard my neighbour yesterday sympathising with a 30 year old man
whod just lost his job at a film company, another who had been
made redundant at media company. They live in Woking where Cap Gemini
(the French Financial house) is shedding around 20 percent of its staff,
where Telewest are shedding more than fifty percent of their staff and
could shed the rest soon if things dont improve for them.
All these people and they total nearly 2000 live in the same town and
they all probably have expensive mortgages.
The people I know work in market research or PR or print media and they
all know if they havent already lost their jobs, the axe is getting
closer. I have friends right now playing on-line scrabble in the city
with friends in Hammersmith because their offices have nothing to do.
Of course they are still getting paid to do nothing, but one day the
management will wake up and delete them- for sure. Its not the
office workers fault; the work has dried up, thats all.
More anecdotal evidence? I was in the Halifax Bank today. They are offering
mortgages at 3.99%. Two acquaintances told me that they are buying a
huge flat together for £300,000. One is borrowing five times his
income the other eight times. If they fall out and want to sell, who
is to say they can six months down the line? They think they will sell
it for £330,000 next May but maybe they wont be able to
sell at all and this mortgage protection clause only lasts for so long
if they lose their jobs. What if one loses a job and the other doesnt.
It could get ugly.
All over the UK co-habiting couples and friends are getting themselves
into debt like this because they see property as a one way bet, they
are all looking for a financial kill. Probably none of them have studied
what happened to property after the 1988 bubble burst.
So it does not take a financial genius or a pessimist like me to wonder
if Chancellor Brown can keep the balls up in the air forever.
This month, May 2002, the unemployment figure went up by 5000 to just
under a million (official figures) unofficial figures put them
at 1.38 million. But these werent Tesco jobs or Burger King; these
were highly paid media jobs, financial research jobs, engineering jobs.
Each job probably has a mortgage attached and with redundancy money
they probably think they are OK for a while
More evidence needed. Well Prime Minister Blair has suddenly warmed
to the Euro, after years of procrastination about it. So the pound will
start to fall as they pump up the volume for a referendum. Whether the
pound stays or goes, it will be damaged by the rhetoric and anticipation.
The weaker pound will help exports but drive up inflation and whoops,
invite higher interest rates. If you borrowed at five or eight times
your income you might not like that. Manufacturers may not like it either,
as they will have to lay more people off to cope with cost rises.
I know, it is hard to be so negative on a hot sunny day but there is
a lot of evidence to suggest that the UK housing price bubble is as
phoney as the dot com bubble of 2000 and doing as much damage to the
whole economy. Selling a house in a sudden downtown might turn into
a debacle as everyone tries to chase a profit before it vanishes.
More anecdotal evidence?
Bought a new car recently? What do you think it is worth now?
Two and a half years ago I bought a brand new Seat Toledo 1.8 for £14,500.
Nice car, fast, goes well, looks good. I just sold it for £6000,
best price I could get for a car still under guarantee. No callers despite
endless advertisements. 60% loss in 28 months. Regrets. I have a few,
but Im selling in a healthy market. In a downturn and when you
might urgently need the money to keep your mortgage going what will
your car be worth? House prices have risen but everything else is suffering
from incredible deflation. This does not add up anyway that you try
Question: How many redundancies does it take in one town to turn a housing
market? Woking may be about to find out soon. So might your town. The
balloon is looking decidedly saggy.
** Today the gold price is soaring $320 an ounce last time I looked
and the pound is falling hard against the Euro. A friend sold their
house in two hours in Wimbledon for the asking price this week. They
wish they had asked for more. The buyer turned up with cash... Methinks
when the crash comes it will be painful, but you say never, the economy
is as solid as houses...
THE FUTURE VALUE OF YOUR HOUSE
PPS: The Times newspaper predicted (April 29th) that by 2050 the average
price of a home in the UK will be 5 million pounds. This after they
predicted the average home would cost £666,000 in 2020. What do
they know we don't?
So if you are reading this and want to play a game, try this. What do
you think your home will be worth in 2020 and 2050? (Assuming you'll
live that long and could care). You need to state where it is and which
Now there are things you have to work out here.
1: First of all you have to be able to predict what global warming will
do to your property and whether you are in a low lying area or drought
stricken area. (Land values can fall too)
2:Then you have to predict the state of the global and local economy
in those years, figure out whether you neigbourhood is going up or down
(crime figures, industrial pollution, PM10s, that kind of thing) and
stability in those years, (terrorism, anti-capitalism, immigrant flux).
Hard isn't it. I had a go at looking at a reason not to buy a home last
year. Take a look and see what you think, then think about your values.
(Things Your Real Estate Agent Doesn't
want you to know)
email me with your predictions: editor
© Sam North May 23rd 2002
THREE YEARS OF HACKWRITERS
Hackwriters was born in May 1999 to enable writers of all ages all over
the whole world to find a place to write about their experiences of travel,
or life or work. It had been quite a revelation to discover who finds
us, who writes for us and how each month a new set of people discover
us and want to contribute. Hackwriters is free, has no sponsor (yes we
need one - as an economic model this site makes no sense whatsoever),
but we have had over two hundred good, exciting and talented writers contribute,
some on a continuing regular basis and some just finding their feet and
then disappearing into the ether again.
We have a regular readership now with the occasional spike of interest
when someone likes a piece and refers it around. We would like it to be
more, but then again, we aren't aiming to rival Slate. (Doesn't British
modesty make you weep! - Of course we want more readers!)
Hackwriters has had some surprises on the way. Just last week The national
UK newspaper 'The Guardian' ran a piece of ours by Kezia
Richmond and last year we won the Skylines Travel Writers of the Year
award. With our connection to Lonely Planet, The Times Higher and James
Campion's site as well as others, we get readers who do not want travel
pieces by journalists whose flight and hotel has been paid for. Our travellers
are there on their own resources, they get the guns in the face, or abandoned
by rickshaw drivers, they get stung and sometimes they donšt like what
they are doing at all. I think James Skinner who has just started a series
on Geriatric Cruises
would know what I mean. No luxury travel, but quality reporting nevertheless.
Our politics is pretty much taken care of by James
Campion and Dermot Sullivan, who together will not accept blandishments
from any politician. They want the truth, no matter how uncomfortable
it may be. Our lifestyles have their followers too. Tabytha
Towe has chronicled her young life these past three years and we have
seen her grow from a wild and crazy teen to er.. wild and crazy woman
and now her Ma Sara Towe
has started to write for us bringing a positive outlook to life providing
a natural balance to our generally sceptical tone. In three years we have
seen the dot-com boom and bust and we are still here. Still broke, but
I read in the Guardian that the average website lasts six weeks! Which
may well be because everyone is so obsessed with style, they almost never
think about the content. We have zero style and LOADs of content. In fact
there are over a thousand articles on Hacks if you could be bothered to
hack through the wilderness to read them. Most should be accessible via
our archives (which I admit are pretty eccentric). Sometime last year
we decided to archive month by month, just as it is, so you get a sense
of time and place. One amusing thing is to read older work and see which
predictions are wrong (Plenty of mine are absolutely wrong and I am still
waiting for this damn recession to arrive) Nevermind, my mistakes as well
as everyone elsešs are up there to see. Is this a good thing? In print
every month you have a fresh start and mistakes get thrown out with the
garbage. No one remembers anything so you can repeat what you like, but
on the web everything seems to hang around forever. It makes it harder
to change your position on something. (Though we still think Gary Glitter
should be taken out to sea and shot).
I want to thank all our contributors for
making time, for submitting their work and if you havenšt in a while,
well get writing; wešd love to hear from you. This month wešve raided
the larder and found two of our original writers to showcase. George
Olden is now working at Falmouth College in Cornwall and Esther
Loydall has just finished her PGCE and is in fact in her first teaching
job, no doubt terrorising her students and they her. Amy
Chan has returned with a funny moment when Mick Jagger loomed large
in Marrakech, Laal Gadger is
new to us and has very funny things to say about teaching English in India.
And let's hope Helen Weston and
Colin Todhunter continue
to write for us as well. We have three writers in Japan at the moment
and Mandy Mand (our
very first writer) is sending us her wacky diary each month and Brian
Wood's exploration of Tokyo district by district. Helen
Ruggiere writes on historic Japan.
Hackwriters continues to attract really interesting people such as Zia
Zaman who I believe lives in Singapore and Sidi
Benzhara who teaches nuclear physics in Arizona. From the anthropologist
Angie Eng, to the emerging fiction
writers Amy Chan, Johnathan
Garner, James Carrey and
travel writers Monique Jansen,
Mark Bass, Larry
Thompson, Dave Rich
and Angie Eng we have writers
on Hacks living extraordinary lives. There are scores more I havenšt mentioned.
Other writers writing their first novels who have allowed us to showcase
their first chapters. Thanks to all of them over the last 36 months. Just
ask the search engine on the site and almost any topic has been written
about and we are always searching for more. If you like what you read
this month, tell a friend. If you want know a sponsor with any spare cash,
email me. Either way, email us with your stories and opinions. We like
to hear from our readers.
May 15th Update:
Now welcome Karel Sloan who has joined us from the Chatam College Creative
Writing programme USA . His first pieces on Hacks this month. Landscapes
News this week from Helen Ruggiere who was approached to write about Japan
for an international travel magazine - proof positive that Hacks works
for aspiring writers.
Many thanks too to Graeme Garvey,
Ian Bowie and in particular to James Campion for his continued support
- his latest is on Parenting.
PS Want a special vacation try Shark
Diving off California
We welcome Claire Hill and many others too who have joined us this May.
All the best and happy reading
Sam North Managing Editor hackwriters.com
© Sam North
May 2002 - Editor
PS: A special thanks to George Olden who did the initial designs
as well as past editors Oliver, Stuart, Jaqui, George
the bumper April Issue? Read it
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