Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Property Snake

Scarcely a day seems to go by at the moment without another new prediction of doom and gloom for the British housing market. Last month, the International Monetary Fund informed us that property in Britain could be overvalued by as much as 50%. Last week, Hometrack, the market analysts, reported prices fell by 0.1% in October – the first drop in two years – while the Council of Mortgage Lenders has predicted that next year would see a sharp rise in repossessions. Even those estate agents who, only six months ago, were confidently predicting the market would keep going up and up, defying the laws of gravity, are starting to look distinctly queasy.

Not worried enough yet? Then try logging on to Property Snake (, a website that describes itself as the “opposite of the property ladder” and carries details of more than 100,000 properties that have had their prices reduced, in some cases by as much as 44%. Many of the most dramatic examples on the site, compiled electronically from various other sources on the web, may not be what they seem – the result, perhaps, of prices that were input incorrectly and then corrected, or of comparisons of like with unlike.

Nevertheless, there are some startling genuine examples, such as a four-bedroom flat in west Hampstead, north London, which went on the market in August at £1.33m and has been reduced three times over the past few months – a total drop of 24% – to its current price of £999,950.

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