How many times have we heard the doomsters warn that Britain's overblown property market is about to crash? Pundits have been predicting a painful end to Britain's ludicrously inflated house prices for years, and have got it wrong time and again.

The latest property horror story splashed over the front of the Daily Mail today is that the average first-time buyer has to commit 42% of their income to financing a purchase. And for that they'll probably be rewarded with a dodgy one-bed apartment on the edge of town.

This is grist to the mill for the pessimists at It's one of a number of sites that have sprung up predicting the inevitable burst of the bubble, with page after web page of price and affordability data said to herald impending doom. Trouble is, the site was born on October 26 2003, nearly three years ago. Britain's property bubble - if that is what it is - has disappointingly failed to do what it is supposed to do and burst in the style of the early 1990s.

Should we be alarmed that house prices are moving further and further out of the reach of first-time buyers? Yes. Are we paying too much for bricks and mortar? Almost certainly. Does that mean a crash beckons? Not necessarily.

The boring answer is that two things have to happen for a price crash to take place: a rise in interest rates and a rise in unemployment. UK interest rates, at 4.5%, have levelled out and last night's 0.25% rise in the Fed Funds rate has sent Wall Street surging ahead. Why? Because the Federal Reserve intimated that further rises may not be on the cards.

So interest rate rises aren't going to come to the rescue of the doomsters. Unemployment, however, just might. The claimant count figures are on a firm trend upwards, although they are nothing like the order of the early 1980s. Mortgage arrears are rising, and bad debt levels at the high street banks are on an upward trend. But again, the scale of the increase is modest. If they suddenly escalate upwards, the doomsters will finally be proved right. But it's not happening yet.

The latest mortgage approvals data reveal that the volume of money being lent to buy houses is at record levels. Understand what these figures mean: more money is chasing after the same amount of stock. Result? Prices must rise.

Britain's population is increasing. Immigration is at record levels. We build pitifully few new houses. These are not the conditions in which property markets implode.

It's miserable for the millions of young adults who yearn for their own place. But when so many people want the market to crash, it won't - because there are simply too many buyers willing to jump in just as soon as prices fall. Only when we dump our property fetish and decide that long-term renting makes more sense (which right now it does) will the support for the market be kicked away.



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