Hurray, it's a recession - let the bad times roll

By Simon Round, May 1, 2008

Over the past seven years or so I have become quite a big fan of my local paper. In fact, reading it has become an essential part of my weekend morning routine — along with screaming at the children not to jump from the coffee table on to the sofa, retrieving half-eaten jam sandwiches from behind cushions and emptying the potty.

My devotion to the Enfield Advertiser has nothing to do with the quality of the journalism, though if you enjoy a good story about recycling-bin thefts and library relocation sub-committee meetings, then I can thoroughly recommend it.

No, the reason I study the paper is to scan the property pages to work out how much my house has risen in value in the previous seven days. It has been a particularly gratifying process. The house has so far earned me a quarter of a million pounds while I have been busy recovering socks from inside the DVD player.

Unfortunately it looks like my house, having earned all that money for me, is going to lose it again. It’s not that it is a spendaholic or has got into bad company — it’s a pretty solid sort of a property, even if it does come from slightly the wrong side of the tracks.

The problem is the credit crunch. This is not a new thing for me — my credit was crunched some considerable time ago. But it seems the rest of the world has now caught up. Banks used not to trust me but now they don’t even trust each other, so they are refusing to lend each other money which means that some of them have run out of money and can’t lend it out when someone needs a mortgage — please let me know if I’m getting too technical for you.

The upshot of this is that house prices are slumping and therefore reading the local paper isn’t nearly as much fun as it used to be. On the plus side, it is good news for my children, who might well be able to get a foot on the housing ladder now (although whenever I try to broach the subject they just ignore me and carry on watching Peppa Pig).

Granted, a housing slump is bad news, particularly if it leads to high unemployment and thousands of repossessions. But recessions don’t have to be bad news. In fact, the last two slumps have coincided with particularly good times in my life. I remember the great recession of the 1980s with particular fondness. I was a student at Leeds University without a great deal of money — but then nor did anyone else, so prices at Morrisons were at rock bottom and beer was cheap. Plus, students could sign on in the summer in those days, so we didn’t have to get vacation jobs — and seeing as no one else had a job either I didn’t even need to feel bad about lazing in front of the telly watching the cricket the whole summer.

The next recession was just as much fun. All my friends were unencumbered with mortgages and rents were low. Plus, all of a sudden, you could afford to buy a property wherever you wanted. A young colleague bought a flat in St John’s Wood and a friend purchased a rather nice place with a roof terrace in Islington. I thought long and hard about buying a two-bedroom place in Crouch End before deciding that the area would never amount to anything. So I headed off to Israel for a couple of years instead.

By the time I came back, we were back in an economic boom — the good times were over. Now it looks like they could be coming back. So tighten your belts everyone, let’s enjoy the ride.

    Last updated: 3:32pm, September 23 2009