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Housing Consensus Dead Wrong

Before jumping right into housing affordability, it is necessary to consider the affordability of common stocks, investor interest and initial public offerings in the early 1980s through today. Back in 1982, stocks were the most affordable of my lifetime. I can remember pitching Coca-Cola (KO) to investors in 1981-1982 at six-times earnings with a 5% dividend. Only my father and cousin bought it. There was no demand for common stocks when riskless interest rates were offering double-digit returns. There was some issuance of new companies (IPOs) and secondary offerings of existing ones, because it was prohibitively expensive to borrow money at 15-20%.

Fast forward to 1996-2000, when Federal Reserve Chairman, Alan Greenspan , coined the phrase “irrational exuberance” to acknowledge how nutty equity prices were. Price-to-earnings ratios (P/E) rose to the highest levels in our lifetimes and an enormous bubble in IPOs reached a crescendo in late 1999 and early 2000.

London's housing market in prolonged slowdown

That's a lot of uncertainty to deal with when you're looking to fork out 486,000 pounds (S$874,000), the average London home price - or far more, if you're close to the centre.

The real problem is all those years of skyrocketing prices. Even with the current weakness, only a third of young adults can afford to buy a house in London on a 10 per cent deposit and a maximum mortgage of 4½ times their salaries, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

And the cost of the average London residence is almost 14 times the median full-time salary in the city.

For its part, Brexit has put off overseas buyers, reducing demand by as much as 70 per cent from 2014 levels, according to Mr Hyman.

"Brexit was the absolute final reason why the property market in London would come to a slide down," he said in an interview. "This is about affordability." To help people get on the property ladder, the government tried to crack down on equity-rich homeowners buying up property to rent out. It increased sales tax on second-home purchases and changed the tax relief for mortgage interest on rental homes.

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