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Ghost In The Machine

Category: , Posted:04 Jun 2015 | 10:42 am

The mere image of a deranged Jack Nicholson hacking his way through the door with an axe in The Shining is enough to give anyone nightmares, let alone his bloodthirsty grin and infamous line, "Here's Johnny"
If you are familiar with the film and the Stephen King novel on which it is based, you'll know that the theme of a haunted house in the middle of nowhere is not for the faint of heart. In fact, from chainsaw massacres to exorcisms to the walking dead, the dark genre of sinister thrillers seems to thrive on empty houses.
London's thoroughbred real estate market has, of late, taken on a similarly arcane tone.
A sustained, supernatural skyrocket of capital appreciation has left a toxic vapour trail in its wake for locals.
Enter the overseas speculators who are snapping up any property with a pulse.
"Tick, tick, yes, sir, we have a pulse… call your solicitor immediately and let's close this deal.
Nowadays, the British capital's market is dominated by these international buyers who are only interested in capital play and give little thought to the short-term.
Damn the renter for even bothering to exchange pleasantries with the owner committee; it is passive investment at its finest.
And this is the real nightmare for locals who find themselves amidst a genuine housing shortage.
Prime land is snapped up and sold off in a speculative rage leaving little hope for communities to grow and paving the way for the emergence of ghost towns.
This situation, however, is not totally unique.
During the economic rise of the United States' middle class in the 1960s and 70s, there was an exodus from urban downtown areas to the newly minted suburbia (call in the Stepford Wives).
Once bustling city centre residences fell into decay and morphed into crack houses or worse.
The soul of the city was stolen in the middle of the night and discarded under in front of an ignominious shopping mall.
Even resort real estate bas its own ghoulish tales of externally vacant property.
Years ago I read a book titled "Whiteout: Lost in Aspen" by Ted Conover, who chronicled the shifting tide of the famed ski town that embraced suave outside real estate buyers and cast out the local population to live downstream in a more affordable climate.
Sure, the demands of the property play and houses of the millionaire and billionaire set still required servicing, but at the expense of an arduous commute.
There is always seat at the back of the bus for those really wanting to work.
I am in no way poking a stick at London property buyers or demonising them – the UK press is doing a great job of that already.
In this goofy, upside-down world, who doesn't want to buy in a stabilised marketplace? But The Big Smoke's real estate tagline in 2015 is undoubtedly 'buy-to-leave' When done right, the real estate industry's contribution towards a strong social fabric can be inspirational, but when it ignores the surrounding community, that's when the real trouble starts.
A cooling off period and regulation implementation seems inevitable in London, but the question remains: can the appreciation trend continue? Maybe there is something to be said about that devil you know, versus the one you don't.
Unless his name is Johnny, that is.

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