Thursday, 24 July 2014

"London workers boost rents in home counties"

More Ricardo's Law of Rent in today's City AM:

IMPROVING job prospects and growing demand from London workers hunting for homes outside of the capital has sent rents in the home counties soaring this year.

Figures released today by Knight Frank show that prime rents jumped 2.6 per cent in the three months to June, a marked increase on the 0.7 per cent growth in the first quarter.

The number of tenancies agreed across the home counties was 50 per cent higher year-on-year, led by demand from people working in London...

“UK tenants are still the largest proportion, with many looking to move out of London to the home counties for a bit more space,” [Knight Frank’s Oliver Knigh] said.

Despite two consecutive quarters of rental growth, rents are still 3.8 per cent down over the 12 months to June. But returning business confidence is expected to further boost rental demand in the UK as companies push ahead with expansion plans.

“I expect that we’ll see further rent increases as the year progresses as demand shows no sign of slowing,” Knight said.

An Excellent Example of Bureaucratic Capriciousness.

The retail FS business I co-own has one guiding principle.  That is when considering anything the question we ask ourselves is 'is this right for the client?'.

Now, clearly as we are all different some things clients want to do we wouldn't want to do.  But, it is not our money or our lives and all our individual motivations are personal.  It is not anyone's job to tell someone else what to do, unless specifically asked to do so, and even then - without coercion - you can only 'advise'.  Only the state can coerce.

We have recently been working with a number of clients who want, by their own choice and based on their own research and understanding, to invest in an unlisted security through their pension funds.  To be clear, we have not 'sold' the investment opportunity to them in any way at all.  All we have been asked to do is to facilitate the administration of the purchase.  Even then, just because we are Good Chaps we have done a considerable amount of due diligence on the investment opportunity, which FYI is not some mad stupid Bahamian property thingy, or whatever, but a simple capital raising for a straightforward clicks and bricks business.

Mostly this means transferring clients' money from pension manager X to a SIPP manager.  This has proved mighty frustration and difficult because, in part, of this piece of abject nonsense and appalling statist nannying from the Financial Catastrophe Authority. At some point I will set out and fisk the bloody thing, but I have to do some money earning work today.  If anybody else fancies a go at it, be my guest.

Clearly some people are persuaded to place pensions funds into what are completely unbelievable 'investments' that any sane person would just laugh at.  But why do they do this?  Well, if you run society as a kindergarten you get juvenile behaviour. The 'it's always someone else's fault' culture creates massive moral hazard and people just disengage their brains. The FCA's lunacy precipitates the failures that they rail against.


"Women under-represented in"

It's a man's celluloid world: study finds women under-represented in film

Women 'under-represented in world newsrooms'

Women under-represented in academic medicine

Women under-represented in freelancing

Women under-represented in Lords despite new additions

Protestant women under-represented in PSNI

Report finds women under-represented at senior levels in radio

Women under-represented in NHS leadership

Women under represented in fund management


Why are women under represented in the cannabis community?

Women under-represented in UK boardrooms, says survey

Women under-represented in construction, reveals guide

Women under-represented in senior advertising jobs

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

UK Users Shun Porn Filters

From the BBC

The vast majority of new broadband customers in the UK are opting out of "child friendly" filters when prompted to install them by service providers.

The industry watchdog Ofcom found fewer than one in seven households installed the feature, which is offered by BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media.

Another whizzo Cameron scheme down the pan.

They were never really going to work because blanket filtering doesn't work. You can filter on PCs quite well. If blocking software stops a child going to a site an adult can easily switch it to be unblocked. With blanket site blocks, if you switch it off then it all gets switched off. Both the site you think the kid should see, and also the freakiest porn around (assuming they go looking for it).

Prefabs sprout

There was mention on the news today of a new answer to the high cost of land in London, the return of the prefab. At first glance it looks like the trend for smaller houses taken an absurd level, with its 280 sq ft of floorspace, but it does make you think, how much space does one person actually need? It is certainly cheap to run, costing under a pound a week to heat and light. Could this be the shape of things to come?

Fun Online Polls: Budget hotels & planning regulations

The results to last week's Fun Online Polls were as follows:

UK budget and mid-priced hotel chains. Thumbs up, thumbs down, what? Multiple selections allowed.

Premier Inn 20 votes

Travelodge 11 votes
Ibis 7 votes
easyHotel 0 votes
Holiday Inn 5 votes
Mercure 3 votes
Novotel 2 votes
easyHotel 0 votes
Thistle 1 vote
Other, please specify 2 votes

'Others' suggested were Days Inn (have smoking rooms!), Comfort Inn and Big Sleep.

Premier Inn got the most reasonably favourable comments, so that appears to be the winner - but perhaps that is because there are more of them, so people are more likely to have stayed in one?
There appears to be some misunderstanding or disagreement as to planning regulations.

In my experience, local councils restrict the amount of buildings which developers can build on any plot; others (NIMBYs, Faux Libertarians and Homeys generally) appear to think that local councils encourage developers to build more than they really wanted to or more than what is appropriate.

It is possible that both are true: suburban and rural councils try and keep densities as low as possible (even when higher densities would make sense) and turn down more planning applications, and that urban councils ask developers to build as much as possible (more smaller units) and nod everything through.

(I'm not talking about the indirect effect on densities or home sizes of high land prices and taxation of profits rather than land values, I mean in terms of how much building a developer can put on a plot.)

So what's your experience/impression?

Vote here or use the widget in the sidebar.

"Loving This, Admit Israel And Hamas"

From The Daily Mash, six years ago (but just as valid sixty years ago and will probably still be relevant in sixty years' time):

ISRAEL and Hamas last night admitted the latest wave of deadly violence was one of the best they had seen in years.

As the international community condemned Palestinian rocket attacks against southern Israel and the corresponding Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip, both sides agreed it was ‘more fun than a barrel of heavily-armed suicide monkeys’.

Israeli prime minister ... said: “You’ve got to hand it to Hamas, they are the dog’s bollocks when it comes to unrelentingly insane terrorist opponents..."

Land Speculation and Housing Design

In an earlier post our host stated:

It's private, profit maximising developers who bash out the tiny homes because they can get away with it; ...

But why?  He then stated that:

...they arise because of the absence of state intervention. If local councils reintroduced minimum room sizes or better insulation requirements, this twat would still be shrieking about state controls and state rationing.

I do not think that this is the full story.  I think that the cri de cour for more state intervention is on top of existing failed state intervention, and policy failures.  Successive layers of intervention cannot surely be the answer?

It is generally observable in the free market that the magic happens and quality goes up as prices fall.  More is done for less every day. Cars are a good example of this.  There is no - as far as I can tell - state intervention in space standards or quality standars for cars.  (I am of course aware of 'safety' and 'emissions' standards).  Competion is pretty fierce between manufacturers.  And I will also concede that the car makers are the recipients of an awful lot of government subsidy, notably GM.

In the comments to MW's piece I related how I had known well two spec. house builders, and both were exercised as to how they could build good houses. The one I knew best, each year as part of his business planning sat down and worked out if he could build what he considered to be a suitable First Time Buyer three bedroom house and make a profit. His standards were close the Parker Morris Standards and were based on the analysis that the first house bought by a young couple may have to be suitable for ten years or so, and that this implied the need for at least three bedrooms to give space for children. By the late 1980's he could no longer do this.

You will recall that the Parker Morris Standards were space standards for public housing which were abadoned in 1980 under MW's favourite P.M.

So what is going on?  As regards house prices/space standards there are seemingly two factors that mitigate against competion delivering its magic.  One, that land is in finite supply and two, state interventions and policy failures.

We on here generally accept that LVT would sort out the unearned scarcity and exclusivity premium enjoyed by landowners.  We also know that existing tax policy favours land over production.

We also know that planning constraints driven by bureaucratic incompetence and nimbyism further restrict supply.

We also know that bad money and inflation (and that inflation is a function of money) drives asset prices, and specifically land price speculation. (We also know that speculators per se are not a Bad Thing in that in other areas of the economy they act as a form of insurance shouldering risk for others).

And with incipient inflation "honest work and sound production will tend to give way to speculation and gambling. There will be a deterioration in the quality of goods and services and in the real standard of living" [Henry Hazlitt - Man Vs. The Welfare State].

Surely then by removing the interventions and correcting taxation and policy errors developers would not be able to profit from speculation and standards would rise and prices fall.

MW adds: "By the late 1980's he could no longer do this."

Yes of course, because by then full-on Home-Owner-Ism was taking off, banks and building societies were lending higher and higher multiples; rent controls were being abolished; NIMBYism was becoming rampant; council housing was being sold off.

So from 1945 to the early 1980s, builders lived off volume and 'earned' profits (good design etc) not land price speculation. Selling prices were effectively capped (at approx. half today's unregulated prices), but the builders were still happy to build 200,000 - 300,000 new homes per year.

George Harrison memorial eaten by beetles

actually spat tea across my screen when I saw this, from the Indy

A pine tree planted in Los Angeles to commemorate the late-Beatles star George Harrison has died – after being consumed by beetles.
Planted as a sapling in 2004 near the Griffith Observatory, the tree stood 10-feet high but died recently as a result of an insect infestation.
The Griffith Park and its observatory are popular tourist spots in LA, but the trees there have been plagued recently by ladybug and bark beetles, both of which can cause extensive damage.
LA councilman Tom LaBonge, who represents the area, told the LA Times that the tree would be replanted. The paper said Harrison, who had a well-developed sense of humour, "likely would have been amused by the irony".

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Spreadsheet Sex

There's been a lot in the news this week regarding the use of accountancy techniques in order to document sexual activity and the excuses for lack of. Which you can read here for more details.

I think the response to the frustrated spouse should have been based on an economic model. Rather than an internet outing. Something like this perhaps.