September 22nd, 2009


Message from America

My brother Hugh sent me this email when he got back from the US:
Just coming back from America its a very different picture in living over there.

A large amount of America is still very rural and America is very large. Any kind of housing shortage that might have triggered this kind of boom was really only applicable to small very urban areas.

To give the largest comparison of size. The UK is 95,000 square miles (that includes NI) and has a population of 65,000,000
Wyoming is 98,000 square miles and has a population of about 500,000 (okay wyoming is the least populated state, but still America averages 10% of the population density of the UK)

As a couple of examples;

In Lima, where Meredith's family mostly lives, the lowest I saw you can get housing repossessions at the moment is for $6,000. Yes $6,000 for a house. In poor condition and only 2 bedrooms, but a house for less than I pay in nursery fees this year.

For $100,000 you can get a very nice looking house with 3 bedrooms and gardens out of town.
For $200,000 you can get a very nice looking 3+ bedroom house with big gardens in town. That would have multiple bathrooms, a 2+ car garage, etc...

Makenzie brought a small (e.g. the rooms aren't that big) 3 bedroom house (with 2 small bedrooms upstairs, one downstairs, a reasonable living room, a kitchen, a two room basement, back and front garden and a garage) for $70,000, which is about £45,000. This house is on the outskirts of Cincinnati (56th largest city) the largest city in Ohio, which is the 7th most populated state in America. Its about a 15 minute drive into town. Edinburgh would be the 36th biggest city in America. Manchester 4th biggest.

So, in other words, land is cheap n the states. I saw vast areas with closed shops on them for sale. I mean something the size of a football pitch in parking for a single store.

Which also means that the cost base for America is much lower than it is over here. If you think to include the cost of the land/building in everything that you buy over here you can see why prices are so much higher.

If you go to a restaurant then it costs more to build the restaurant cos of the land
It costs more to ship stuff to the restaurant, as everywhere where you buy things from also has a higher cost base
It costs more to grow food for the restaurant
It costs all the workers more to live because house prices/rent is higher so you need to pay them a higher wage

It also means that over here land/housing prices won't decrease as much. In America you can walk away from a house even if you owe far more than its worth, you can't do that here.

I don't know how applicable this is to other parts of America - but housing prices over here do seem to be staggeringly higher.

I'd love to know whether he's just getting an impression based on Ohio, or whether it's common across the whole USA...

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Stop me before I shop again!

I'm currently trying to resist ordering the Absolute edition of Promethea - on the grounds that the art is absolutely amazingly gorgeous, and thus will look even better on large high quality paper.

I may wait until it appears and then see whether anyone I know picks up a copy and reviews it...