Will markets ever be normal again?

Publication Date05 Mar 2018
AuthorNick French
SubjectProperty management & built environment,Real estate & property,Property valuation & finance
Will markets ever be normal again?
I remember that in the final months of 1999, I was in the common room at The University of
Reading and I was asking my Professors Byrne and Ward what the new millennium would
offer to the property market. Almost as one voice, they both said that everything would
change and everything will stay the same. Seventeen years later and they were right.
Maybe it is just that I have matured and I have seen it all for myself, maybe it is that
everything does repeat? But the truth is that, regardless of market cycles, the world stays
very much the same.
So what does that really mean for property markets? I think if I had to determine the
most used word in real estate and business for the last ten years, it has to be uncertainty.
But if things stay the same, how can there be more uncertainty? I think the answer is to do
with all the noisein the market these days. The newphenomenon of social media has
changed how we use and understand information. Once upon a time, information was
filtered by discussion and decanted by a common viewpoint and eventually a market
sentiment was formed. It is only indicative, but at the IPF conference each year, the great
and the good in our profession in the UK come together to discuss the market. In the 1990s,
I would argue that there was a consensus view of the world formed at this and other
professional forums and that property investment was played at the margins. Today,
the same forums have many more disparate viewpoints and it is that lack of consensus that
is the uncertaintythat we feel and perceive.
It is my opinion that social media feeds this uncertainty. First, the speed of comment
means that viewpoints are eclipsed within hours and not the weeks and months of
yesteryear. Likewise, the veracity of what is being said is secondary to the statement itself.
Just like Ouroboros, the snake that devours itself, we are in a world of information that may
not be informedand we are gradually eating ourselves. That may sound grand and, in the
scheme of things, it may not matter at all as the markets will find their level regardless of the
noise. But, if what I am saying is true, then we are in a position where good research really
will offer the users of such a market advantage. A return to rigorous, insightful research will
become the noise-cancelling headphones of the market.
So to return to my professorsprophesies of 2000, will things stay the same as everything
becomes uncertain and constantly changing? The answer is probably yesbut if you are a
researcher and you want to make a contribution, then this is a great opportunity to provide
the answers.
Nick French
Journal of Property Investment &
Vol. 36 No. 2, 2018
p. 134
© Emerald PublishingLimited
DOI 10.1108/JPIF-01-2018-0002

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