Down in the docks. . .
I WONDERED how soon the first crack in the house market would follow the crack in the stock market. Now we have the answer from Pilot Properties, which has been putting up a cluster of houses by the Regent's Canal, in what lesser developers might have called Greater Venice or Canonbury East. Pilot calls it Hackney, and, maintaining this admirable level of candour, says that there seems to be quite a lot of it about — property marketed as handy for the City and looking out over water, pages and pages of advertising for it, with some of the same properties coming round week after week. To com- plete the sale of its Hackney development, Pilot is now offering five per cent price cuts. Good tactics — the first cuts are the best. Travelling, as I now find myself doing, between metropolitan London and the Isle of Dogs (or North Greenwich) I have time to observe all the new houses, old warehouses, and riverside flats at various stages of readiness for the ever- expanding City population which was ex- pected to flow out eastwards. Certainly, the prospective owners had no trouble in financing their purchases. Some found it possible to borrow the full purchase price and, on top of that, enough money to service the loan for three years. They happily calculated that within the three years, house prices would have risen far enough to give them a free ride for the duration and a capital stake at the end of it. In some developments, sold off the draw- ing board, a secondary market has de- veloped. The game is to put down a deposit on a flat, intending to sell it on, before completion. Since the normal deposit is one-tenth of the full price, this is a market operating on 90 per cent margin. A great game, so long as the markets — in houses, shares, jobs, salaries and bonuses — were going upwards. It looks like a bruising game, now that the music has stopped.