Bursting my property bubble

February 11, 2009


A little New York Times article just caught my eye.  It described what $600K could buy you in three different American locations: Middlesex, Vermont; Sandpoint, Idaho and Atlanta, Georgia.  In Vermont you get a five bedroom farm house constructed in 1820 set on 10 acres of land.  The house itself is pictured above.  Doesn’t it just look like the most picture perfect winter home you’ve ever seen (do you think that snow is staged?)  I want to eat lots of pancakes soaking in Vermont maple syrup in it and sit by the fire reading Thoreau’s Walden (or something else suitably New England-esque and nature oriented).  In Idaho you can have a very swank 3 bedroom condominium for your ski holidays where you can ski in / ski out.  And in Atlanta you can have a gorgeous 2 bedroom city living loft style apartment.

M. and I are currently thinking about buying a place in London.  So I can tell you exactly what $600K at current exchange rates (£415K) can buy you in a relatively central part of London.  A two bedroom apartment, probably with the need of some renovation unless you’re into retro kitchens and / or strangely proportioned bedrooms (we recently viewed a place where the second bedroom was 12ft long, but only 5ft wide.  Good for very thin people, and their equally thin furniture).  

While in both Atlanta and London you’re talking more than half a million dollars for a two bedroom apartment, the primary difference between the London and Atlanta flat is that a) while the Atlanta apartment is 1,800 sq feet, in London you would get about half that amount of space if you’re lucky (and that’s after prices in London have come down some 25% in the recent housing market bubble burst) and b) in Atlanta you would buy and actually own the flat.  In London, you would probably be leasing it for 100 or so years, after which it would become the property of the “free-holder” (i.e. not you).  For more on the oddities of the UK property market, see here.  

I’m just going to try not to think about that house in Vermont and all the pancakes I could fit into it while I continue the search for the perfectly imperfect London flat.  Like the one we viewed on Saturday where the floor in the hallway was so sloped you could sled down it, or another that had no gas central heating and was on the fourth floor of a walk-up but still cost more than half a million pounds, or…


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