Tony Hazell  

FCA should be a phoenix expert

Tony Hazell

Tony Hazell

The housing market is one of the great barometers of economic wellbeing. Yet I suspect it remains one of the least understood.

I suspect most experts know no more than the man or woman in the local pub. Some economists and financial advisers have prophesied doom again and again – yet prices creep inexorably higher. The latest figures suggest transactions are also on the rise again.

Is it any wonder that for so many people housing remains their number one investment choice?

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Remember all the doomsayers who warned that the buy-to-let market would collapse if the tax regime were tightened? Well, it has not happened even though the amount of income tax relief landlords can get on rental income will be reduced in the near future.

Now the Bank of England is concerned that the number of buy-to-let investors is becoming a risk to financial stability. Of particular concern are those whose rental income only just covers their mortgage.

We can be forgiven for being sceptical about Bank of England warnings given the debacle of its Brexit predictions.

With these concerns in mind, you might perhaps expect banks and building societies, those guardians of our money, to be ultra-cautious having learned the lessons of sub-prime lending less than a decade ago.

But memories run in inverse proportion to the size of bonuses in banking, so few constraints are in evidence.

Amid the murk two factors underpin the buy-to-let market: many youngsters cannot afford to buy so are forced to rent and some developers sit on huge landbanks, leaving supply painfully low.

Of course dangers lurk, among them interest rate rises, an increase in voids or a fall in house prices. But the way in which the housing market works (or for some fails to work) suggests buy-to-let will remain a key investment for many.

Ban all cold-calling

Sometimes you have to hold your hands up and say, I got that wrong. I am feeling that way this week regarding my recent comments on banning pension cold calling.

A couple of weeks ago, I outlined the reasons why I thought a ban on cold-calling would not work.

I still have my reservations because implementation and enforcement will be the test of success.

But I must concede that the positives far outweigh the negatives.

My change of heart comes after receiving emails from some of you and listening to Ros Altmann talking on the radio.

Two points stand out. Not all con artists are based abroad. And, once cold-calling is banned, you can tell consumers that anyone cold-calling them is breaking the law.