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Property Noir July 2012

Author: Bill Barnett. Category: News Column - Property Report SEA. Posted: 1st Jul 2012

Talk the talk and walk the walk. The bartender growls out of the corner of his mouth - "last call". It's 3 am and the real estate industry is about to turn in, intent to sleep off a bad bender. Close the drapes and pull the sheets up high, till the bed seems like a cave.

China property is so chilled that the next stop is somewhere next to Margaritaville. A Singapore slingshot is more like rubber bullet time. Sure there is Hong Kong but for how long?

As for the rest of Asia, the cheap and the small dominate top movers. Napoleon with his small man's syndrome would have fit in well size-wise if he just could have gotten off that island.

Sure, there are the elusive big fish. In the resort markets it's a game of trophy marlin fishing, stick some ridiculous price tag and let it roll. Try to land the elusive Eastern European 'silly money".

I'm not quite sure how best to describe the money walk - except perhaps harken back to Monty Python's skit on The Ministry of Silly Walks. Bigfoot, Loch Nest Monster, aliens from outer space and yes illogical high net worth individuals looking for uber-luxury property.

Silly money continues to captivate a certain sector in the rough trade of bricks and mortar. Asia loves to gamble, be it a jet set away in Macau or in Hong Kong. For a time, stock markets became second wives or mistresses of the would be rich.

Downsizing into the middle class, a hammer down has created a new breed of real estate speculation in Thailand. Sign up early for a shoebox flat, pay 10 percent down and flick just before handover. Assuming prices have moved up you stand to make just a bit over single digits, but in the age of marginal bank savings rates, what else are you going to do just to stay in front of the hungry wolves of inflation.

Still we yearn for men with strange accents, a suitcase of money and no lawyer riding the coat tails for nonsense like due diligence. A fast close and as Tony Montana said...'the world is your oyster".

Have we entered the decade of small deals, lower margins and rather blase day to day routines in what used to be a rollercoaster ride which always rode the thin rail of success and disaster simultaneously.

My booze soaked dreams turn to the garlic cutting razor blade scene from Goodfellas. Edgy, violent and always with a wad of cash in their pockets, yeah the made men that knew how to live.

These days when I see a group of large men shooting rock tumblers of vodka, my optimism turns to angst, realising they are just a group of miners in from Vladivostok on a 13 day package holiday. Not even a glam squad of leggy blond Barbie's in tow.

Silly days it seems are gone for the moment, but there remains hope external with the Ministry offices burning bright into the night looking for plan B.

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