2nd homes: folly or fantasy?

I spent a fair bit of the summer thinking about second homes. At times it seemed as if every second person I knew had a second home – with plenty bought since lockdown started, as a getaway from urban London. They are (see map below) for the most part 2-3 hours drive form London; the Cotswolds just beyond Oxford and the Poole/Bournemouth coast in the southwest are particularly popular among my London circle.

I have had longstanding views on 2nd homes, so I found James Max’s summer FT article to be very thought-provoking on the topic.

Locations of 2nd homes of friends of mine

2nd homes as hassle and/or social problem

James Max starts with my position – that 2nd homes are fundamentally a hassle. Complexity. Things that can go wrong. Costs. An asset that is more of a liability. Like James, I don’t see myself letting a home out, via AirBNB, VRBO or the rest – so I wouldn’t see any income to offset the additional council taxes, utility bills, and occasional maintenance to deal with. Builders to find, gardeners and cleaners required.

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Sep 2021 – Inflation looms

All it needs is one idiot government minister to say ‘there won’t be any need for panic buying’ and, well, everybody’s panic buying.

The month started out with empty supermarket shelves and finished with North London petrol stations that still had petrol in them being a rarity, with queues that I assume will soon be rivalled by queues at car dealers for electric cars.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/16228841/petrol-stations-blocked-fuel-shortage-panic-buying/

In related news, there is a definite buzz returning to London. Clear differences with pre-pandemic life remain – widespread (tho mostly voluntary) masks, much more outdoor eating/drinking, testing regimes at offices and even before private social events. Thankfully, the trendy Dishoom restaurant chain is continuing to take bookings and hasn’t reverted yet to ‘queues only’. Oh, and the tube’s Northern Line has a new extension – the first tube addition for about thirty years.

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Aug 2021 – The Taliban returns

The Taliban’s back. The West has been vanguished. We all read the media. There wasn’t anything else to read.

The Taliban 2.0

I was surprised to learn that total UK deaths in the last 20 years in Afghanistan numbered less than 500. Total USA deaths: under 2400 (fewer than 1900 as a result of hostile action – leaving me shuddering about the other 500). A lot of treasure but not, in the scheme of things (compared to, say, road traffic, alcohol, let alone covid-19), that much blood. For reference, the UK lost 258 people in the Falkland conflict, 47 in the Gulf War and 179 in the Iraq War.

In the business press there is a lot of talk of supply chain shortages. Pictures of empty shelves. Tales of shortages of lorry drivers. Rampant inflation. I don’t see these things in evidence around me but what you see on the internet can’t be wrong.

London is starting to feel a little bit like normal. People wearing masks are a frequent sight – though almost always on a voluntary basis. Restaurants are filling up. I haven’t used the Tube in over a month but carriages are now sometimes standing room only again. People are getting covid but it is starting to feel like a nasty cold / flu / etc – nobody is panicking.

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