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Political risks and property

Jul 04 2011 09:31
A Fin24 reader writes:

I am considering buying a home. I can afford it, but I’m not sure whether it is really a good investment given the unstable political environment in our SA.

Erwin Rode, property economist and valuer at Rode & Associates, replies:

History has shown us that bad political choices have the potential to affect all asset classes - eventually.

However, before we get too despondent, may I remind the reader that some of us, or some of our parents, were concerned about the unstable political environment in 1948, 1961, 1976, 1986, 1994, and now in 2011.
Shares, the most volatile of asset classes, would dive more immediately than immovable property. But, make no mistake, in the end, property’s value is held up by continued demand, which in turn is partially determined by affordability.

Even “risk-free” government bonds would be affected by a political fallout, because political instability invariably brings in its wake unpleasant inflation, with interest rates that shoot through the roof, thereby depressing the market values of bonds.
Shares, bonds or property are the classic inflation hedges, provided inflation remains moderate; but once it goes into the stratosphere, thereby destroying the economy, even these asset classes will be of little help.
The alternative is to buy cut diamonds, tell no one and sew them into your pants (near the zip somewhere) or bra. In short, if you are contemplating Armageddon, don’t think of property. Think of something transportable.



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