It's not at all like 2006

Posted by Mark on 28th Feb 2010
I, like many other people, have remarked over the last couple of months, that the market feels very much like the last days of the Roman Empire, sorry, 2006 with higher and higher prices being driven by a huge wall of liquidity looking to buy what few assets are available.  Clearly a major difference is that this liquidity is equity driven, rather than debt driven, but the effect on pricing is much the same.

However increasingly I am starting to believe that this time it is very different.

If I recall correctly, back in the boom-time mania of 2006 everybody actually believed in what they were doing.  Those nice Candy boys genuinely believed that they could pay vastly more than anyone else for prime sites because they could add more value, Modus thought that the UK needed 35 additional non-prime town centre developments, Peter Cummings honestly believed that every tubby middle aged man he was introduced to was a property genius, Gordon thought that he had abolished boom and bust......

What is very different now is the level of open cynicism abounding in our industry.

No one seems to genuinely believe in the current bounce.  After a bottle of wine (or two) fund managers will admit that it is clearly quite embarrassing to be buying back assets at a premium of 20-30% over what they sold them for less than 12 months ago, despite rents falling; but they are paid to splash the cash.

One agent described doing deals with them "like clubbing baby seals".

Other, allegedly more savvy, investors are buying on a momentum trade, knowing/hoping, that they are clever enough to get the hell out of Dodge before the next inevitable correction.

However, should there be a double dip, the Nuremberg defence of "I was only obeying orders" or if "I don't do it someone else will", will ring doubly hollow and as Warren Buffet would put it, we really will see some horrible sights/sites as the tide goes back out.

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