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Preparing for Some Kind of Future

I have been running a blog about real estate since before the world wide web took over from what was called in the UK the public data network. That means I have been sending out online real estate advice for over forty years. Prior to that I produced a tipsheet based on material derived from a government handout called the Historic Buildings Bureau. My first recommendation was a redundant church for sale in a village just to the north of Marlborough. Another was a castle on the Scottish east coast which was for sale for £5. The catch was that you had to do the repairs.

Usually all my advice is based upon how things function. After all, everything we do is based upon a set of parameters that we learn. When I first came to live in Portugal if rain was forecast we got the candles out because we knew the electricity was likely to go down, and we didnít expect the phones to work, which also meant no internet.

As we go through life we learn to expect that Y follows X in the scheme of things, and we learn to adapt and prepare. I buy houses after a crash when prices are low and interest rates are high but falling. I buy things according to the value of other things, and the value of money. I invest on the basis that I can have a reasonable idea of how things are likely to develop over the course of the next few years.

Sadly, we are living in a world were there appears to be a distinct lack of sanity and a lack of any way of working out what is likely to happen next simply because there is very little rhyme or reason to what does happen next. That makes preparing for tomorrow difficult. It makes preparing for some time in the future impossible.

I have decided to divide up the next few issues of this real estate blog so as to home in on some topics that we need to understand to be able to prepare for some kind of future.

Some things appear to be easy to prepare for. We are currently in the midst of a revolution in transport. Those who stopped fuming at those new-fangled canals and realised how they would revolutionise the way things were moved from one part of the country to another were in a position to start new businesses and do well for themselves. A similar situation arose nearly a century later when railways took over from the highway coach. Now we have system 4.0 of an automatic driving system in operation in several countries of the world. It is no doubt going to be difficult to perfect system 5.0 which will be fully automatic, requiring no driver at all, but that day cannot be far away.

However, it should be possible to look reasonably confidently into the future and persuade our kids not to set up a taxi service because in a few years time that will be a failing business. Large scale pubic car parks will be a thing of the past. Who will need to pass a driving test? And so on.

Some things may be slightly more difficult to predict. Will hotels be remotely similar in twenty years time when so many people will be using augmented reality? Will people want to visit the Taj Mahal when they can slip on the headset and go there from the comfort of their armchair at no cost and no inconvenience? And why visit Niagara Falls when, headset in position, you can get into a boat and go over the falls, experiencing all the thrills but none of the danger?

Iíd like to pursue these various ways of trying to second guess whatís likely to be around in ten years time, so that we can maybe prepare for the future. However, there are problems.

Letís just look briefly at a couple.

Questions I am asked are: Should I buy a house now? Is now a good time to sell my house in town? Should I buy in the country, or get an apartment? And so on. Usually I can answer those questions very easily. But have the parameters one uses to come to a reasonable answer become muddied so that trying to plan ahead is no longer easy?

How about something just as simple? Last summer I asked myself an unusual question: should I stock up on tinned foods and cereals?

That question should never have arisen in the first place, but in order to come to a sensible answer to the question I have to go back to 2014 and the events that led up to the Minsk Agreement, which is when the war in the Donbas started. That agreement as we all now know was backed by France and Germany, and required the Kiev government to stop bombing the Donbas region and start talks. The Kiev government refused, and one thing led to another and here I was wondering if Europeís breadbasket, the Ukraine, was going to be producing any food in the near future, which in turn led to me deciding to be safe rather than sorry, and my collection of tinned foods and cereals started expanding.

The general question that arises from all this is: what should we be taking notice of now so that we dont get caught in the future? A good question, and for certain reasons there doesnít seem to be a good reply. Thatís the problem. Next week I will start to try and explain why and what the heck we are supposed to do about it.


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