Sunday, January 2, 2011

How to make a fortune in a declining property market.

For the lower orders of society, winning the national lottery is the most popular get-rich-quick fantasy. For the middle classes, it is property. Buy-to-let, gentrification and renovation - these are words that ring out as if they were sung by a heavenly choir, chanting of material salvation and escape from the daily drudgery of the office.

Newpaper editors know this. This is why all the quality newspapers have expansive property sections. That, and the fact that real estate advertizers are also quick to prey on the incurable middle class weakeness for housing speculation.

More recently, it is not so easy to offer up fantasies of untold riches for risk-taking professionals diving head first into the property business. Most housing market indicators are weakening. It is hard to sell a story based on the idea that prices will be up 10 percent next year.

However, editors know that the fatal attraction to property remains, regardless of market conditions. All that is needed is a slight twist on the easy money story.

This week's Sunday Telegraph offered up an enterprising alternative to the exhortation "buy property because prices never fall".  Today's headline offered the "Top 20 ways to profit from the downturn" and promised that "Canny homeowners can take advantage of the dip in the housing market."

Those twenty tips are reproduced below. They range from the bizarre to the surreal, with a strong dose of "blindingly obvious".  If some seem incomprehensible, I suggest you look at the original article if any further clarification is needed.

  1. Buy to Let - Carefully choose where and what to buy.  (Of course, we have to start with BTL)
  2. Nab a bargain - If you’re buying, try to find out why sellers sell. 
  3. Let out your driveway or garage.
  4. Buy a show home.
  5. Be like Sarah Beeny - If you buy a wreck at auction and then renovate as economically as possible, you could make a serious profit. 
  6. Buy a holiday home to rent out - Invest where prices are unlikely to fall and where there is year-round renting. 
  7. Buy a cheap house and convert to student lets.
  8. Let out your home to event organisers.
  9. Self-build - This is the hardest way to make money, but when you finish a house it gains about 20 per cent on its build costs.
  10. Extend a short lease.
  11. Separate your house into apartments.
  12. 'Fractionalise’ an overseas holiday home .
  13. Filming - Get your home into the movies, or at least in a television commercial, and the money rolls in. 
  14. Sell, rent, then buy at auction.
  15. Extend your house. 
  16. Get a bargain new home.
  17. Public sector leasing.
  18. Buy farmland.
  19. Win planning consent before you sell 
  20. Use your home as a B&B
However, the Telegraph does not have a monopoly on cheap financial advice. I can do it too. Here are my top ten useless suggestions for getting rich:
  1. Buy shares that will go up in value and avoid ones that don't.
  2. Don't buy shares in companies that are about to go bankrupt.
  3. If you are considering a speculative housing purchase, find a home in a rapidly gentrifying area and avoid those in areas that are about to see a sharp rise in crime, poverty, and urban desolation.
  4. Avoid taking out loans with high interest rates. Try to find loans with low interest rates.
  5. If you have a spare room in your house, take in a lodger.
  6. If you have a lodger, make sure she has a job, so that she can pay the rent.
  7. Buy low, sell high (or is it the other way round?)
  8. Don't invest in products with interest rates lower than the inflation rate.  This is called a negative interest rate. 
  9. Don't buy things you don't want.
  10. Finally, don't buy things in expensive shops when you can buy the same things in cheap shops.
There you go.  Follow that advice, and I guarantee that you will make a fortune.


  1. I have found my new investment guru! I can't wait for your next tips on how to profit from 2011's guaranteed runup, collapse or stagnation in the gold price.

  2. Leigh,

    The answer is obvious; buy gold when it is low and sell it when it is high. That is not a hard rule to follow.

    BTW, I checked out your behavioural economics site. I need to absorb its contents slowly. It looks like a great site.


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