Thursday, November 11, 2004

Visitor Parking Permit Economics

Roupell Street. London SE1 - just like real houses, only smaller.
And without a toilet.

I strolled over to the family shop yesterday. It's a two mile walk and I took the time, as I do, to the walk the parish boundaries and check for general goings on in my manor.

Stopping at one of the fifteen or so estate agents on the Kennigton Road, and stepping over the prostrate figures of a couple of heroin addicts, I checked out the asking price for flats and houses in the area. One particular property caught my attention

'Roupell Street. Excellent Condition Throughout. £575,000 freehold'

You'd have to be familiar with the houses on Roupell Street to understand why this caught my eye. Cheaply mass-produced for poor working people 130 years ago, they are the classic Victorian 'two up two down'. A tiny kitchen and sitting room downstairs and two micro bedrooms upstairs; suitable only for dying slowly from TB and vitamin deficiencies in. No toilet, no bathroom just a small cobbled yard at the back. Working people in those days thought having a toilet inside their house was a pretty disgusting concept. This worked out nicely for the housebuilders who didn't have to worry about fitting silly little luxuries, like a mains water supply.

£575,000? That's US$1,070,000. 12,171,950 Mexican Pesos. A lot of money in anyone's language.

... for a property barely fit for human habitation by the standards of the 19th let alone the 21st century. Just as well most of the houses on that street are bought by lawyers then.

I remember, back in the early 1980's, when my grandmother was looking to invest part of my grandfather's estate, thought about buying one of them. At the time they were populated almost exclusively by white haired old ladies who had been living there since the last war. My grandmother decided against a purchase on the basis that they were rubbish and nobody would want to live in one. Selling price in 1983 c.£18,000.

In 21 years they have risen in price to £575,000. That's 3,000%.

That's why my family isn't rich. We constantly underestimate other people's stupidity.

But property was not the best investment opportunity available to my grandmother anyway. She should have found a way to sink her money in council tax charges, visitors parking permits, or crisps.

As part of yesterdays' perambulations I picked up a book of visitors parking permits so that some plumbers could park outside my front door today. The permits cost £3.50 per day. A year ago they cost £2.00 per day. A few years ago, they weren't necessary. That's a 75% increase in a year, but wait, if I had bought an asset that returned 75% I would have had to pay income tax or capital gains tax on that of 40%. So, if I had bought a stash of parking permits last year that would have been equivalent to an income return of 125%. Not bad. Now if I compound that over 21 years that's equal to a return of 24,878,997%. Back in 1983 I was tearing tickets in a West End Theatre for £2 a night. At parking permit inflation rates, that job should now be paying £49,760,000 per evening.

In comparison, local property taxes which have risen over the last seven years at 15% per year are a less impressive investment, but still pretty good nevertheless. Out with the calculator - 15%, add back the 40% tax = 25%. 125% ^ 21 = 10,840%. On that basis my old evening job would now only be paying £217 per evening.

Official UK inflation per UK government figures is something like 2% a year; presumably that excludes minor expense items such as house prices, property taxes, public transport, gas, electricity, water and fuel which have all been rising 10%+ per year for years now. Hands up anybody who thinks normal peoples' wages in the UK have risen by anything like that much.

A typical UK building society savings account is currently paying something like 3% a year, before tax.

Yes, the potential returns on hedging expenses rather than saving money in deposit accounts are fabulous.

Of course the fascist, monopolistic institutions that rule our lives are wise to the risks that ordinary people might invest their money wisely by pre-paying their property taxes for the next ten years and stockpiling huge caches of visitors parking permits or tube tickets. They prevent you from doing so. Quite explicitly.

The Golden Rule for any power structure is to keep its population down by keeping them afraid, ignorant and, wherever possible, poor. British people work longer hours, are significantly more stressed, less literate and have a less money in the bank than they did 10 or 20 years ago. So much for the benefits of all that new technology then.

The other significant potential advantage of hedging expenses rather than buying assets, like houses, is that expenses, unlike assets, never ever fall in price. Those houses in Roupell Street are worth £575,000 now but they fell sharply in price between 1988 and 1992 and it's likely they're about the fall in price again in the near future. Expenses on the other hand show a steady and satisfying increase year on year.

But, given that the ordinary person is prevented from hedging their expenses what other investment opportunities are out there that offer steady, positive returns?


Like napalm, Agent Orange and Eazy Cheez, crisps were invented by Americans so I really should use the American term to describe them; potato chips.

When I was very small, back in 1971, a packet of potato chips cost 2d in old money; that's 0.8p in new money. A 35g packet of potato chips now costs 35-40p. That's a 4,500% return over 33 years; comparable with UK house price inflation but, crucially, the price of crisps is not subject to recessive influences and has never fallen.

Unlike sugar, coffee and pork bellies there is no crisp futures market on the World's great commodity exchanges. If you want to invest in crisps you have to buy the physical commodity and store it somewhere. Asian shopkeepers have known this investment secret for years which is why they hate sell by dates so much.

Anyway, if anyone can come up with an investment instrument linked to UK property taxes or visitors parking permits could you get in touch with me.



David said...

Are Londoners dumped on more than any other residents in the world, including Iran? OK, they got Saddam, big fucking deal! Get that communist bastard Livingstone outta here!
Sorry about that, your comment on rude words inspired me. And Birmingham New Street station, the country's biggest rail interchange doesn't have a toilet either. The plague? Wait till Londoners are doing it in the streets again due to removal of public toilets. They'll bring back the hangings at Marble Arch next. Thanks Ken, for dragging us back to the middle ages.

Stef said...

Mmmm, I think calling Ken a communist is probably being unfair on communists. I can think of several shorter, more accurate names to call him.

Re. naughty words; as far as naughty words are concerned I think they're fine provided that they are used tastefully and in context