Safe As Houses? A Historical Analysis of Property Prices by Neil Monnery
|Safe As Houses? A Historical Analysis of Property Prices by Neil Monnery|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: A look at house prices and how they how faired over the years. Considering that it's a book about numbers it's as readable as it could be as well as being thought-provoking.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 220||Date: September 2011|
|Publisher: London Publishing Partnership|
Neil Monnery was asked to become a trustee of a local charity with most of its assets in local residential property. Over the years this had yielded good results and the charity was concerned as to whether or not they should continue on the same basis or diversify and Monnery said that he would look into this. That discussion was the genesis for this book as he began to research the history of house prices – in the UK and elsewhere – for as far back as he could go to establish whether or not houses were, well, as safe as houses.
I was dreading starting this book. I felt that it was something which I ought to read, but like St Augustine, Not Just Yet. It was when I found myself dusting it that I gritted my teeth and started reading. The reason for my reluctance? Well – on the back cover it says:
Whether we own one and worry about its value or aspire to own one and are frustrated by their high prices, nobody can avoid the issue.
I can avoid the issue and a considerable number of other people could too – particularly if they avoided Daily Mail-type headlines such as the mythical 'Underage Sex with Asylum Seekers Leads to Cancer of the Housing Market'. If you own a house and have no intention or need to move then its value is irrelevant. You need somewhere to live and if you sell then you still have to move somewhere. Even if you're in negative equity it's not a problem unless you have to move. Yes – I know – I'm fortunate to be able to take this approach, but I don't like worry being introduced when there's no need.
Then I read that we all get warm feelings when house prices rise (if we own one, that is) – but I'm afraid that I don't. My blood runs cold with the thought that my grandchildren might have to work into their old age before they're in a position to own their own home. So, I reminded myself that a book is not a bad book just because you disagree with the author - and I started reading.
Firstly, making a readable book which is essentially about numbers is not easy when it's directed at the general reader. You can supplement the text with graphs (as this book does) but Monnery does a good job of attracting and holding the reader's interest as well as explaining some complex ideas. He was noticeably more fluent at the end of the book when he made suggestions as to how the housing market might evolve and I would have wished for a little more of this earlier in the book.
There's an examination of housing markets in several different countries and over varying periods of time which do lead to some quite startling conclusions about how little – or how much – prices have varied in real terms, as opposed to telephone numbers unadjusted for inflation making banner headlines. It is, as you might have gathered, a subject on which I feel strongly and I was slightly surprised to get to the end of the book and realise that Neil Monnery and I were not quite so far apart as I might have assumed. He also managed to push my mind into some corners which it hadn't visited for some time, which was refreshing.
You want to know what's going to happen to house prices, don't you? Well, there's a chart in chapter 9 called 'Drivers of Real House Prices' and it's gold dust. Armed with a crystal ball to tell you what's going to happen socially, economically, demographically and financially you'll have no difficulty in deciding what to do.
For more on a similar subject we can recommend The Fall of the House of Credit by Alistair Milne If you're looking at buying a house as an investment then you might find The Long and the Short of it: A Guide to Finance and Investment for Normally Intelligent People Who Aren't in the Industry by John Kay informative.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Safe As Houses? A Historical Analysis of Property Prices by Neil Monnery at Amazon.com.
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