BoE stress tests: all you need to know

The Bank of England has released the results of its latest round of its annual banking stress tests and its semi-annual financial stability report this morning. Used to measure the resilience of a bank’s balance sheet in adverse scenarios, the stress tests measured the impact of a severe slowdown in Chinese growth, a global recession […]

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Draghi: Eurozone will decline without vital productivity growth

It’s productivity, stupid. European Central Bank president Mario Draghi has become the latest major policymaker to warn of the long-term economic damage posed by chronically low productivity growth, as he urged eurozone governments to take action to lift growth and stoke innovation. Speaking in Madrid on Wednesday, Mr Draghi noted that productivity rises in the […]

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Asia markets tentative ahead of Opec meeting

Wednesday 2.30am GMT Overview Markets across Asia were treading cautiously on Wednesday, following mild overnight gains for Wall Street, a weakening of the US dollar and as investors turned their attention to a meeting between Opec members later today. What to watch Oil prices are in focus ahead of Wednesday’s Opec meeting in Vienna. The […]

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Banks, Financial

RBS emerges as biggest failure in tough UK bank stress tests

Royal Bank of Scotland has emerged as the biggest failure in the UK’s annual stress tests, forcing the state-controlled lender to present regulators with a new plan to bolster its capital position by at least £2bn. Barclays and Standard Chartered also failed to meet some of their minimum hurdles in the toughest stress scenario ever […]

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Barclays: life in the old dog yet

Barclays, a former basket case of British banking, is beginning to look inspiringly mediocre. The bank has failed Bank of England stress tests less resoundingly than Royal Bank of Scotland. Investors believe its assets are worth only 10 per cent less than their book value, judging from the share price. Although Barclays’s legal team have […]

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Categorized | Property

Go local with Airbnb for a fresh take

Posted on September 21, 2016

(FILES) This file photo taken on April 28, 2016 shows a woman browsing the site of US home sharing giant Airbnb on a tablet in Berlin.
A Berlin court on June 8, 2016 began hearing a challenge brought by four individuals against the German capital's authorities over their ban on private holiday rentals. / AFP PHOTO / John MACDOUGALLJOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images©AFP

This summer I have enjoyed a variation of Through the Keyhole
, the British television game show in which contestants try to guess the identity of a famous homeowner by looking at their belongings. So I have been poking around strangers’ bookshelves and spice racks, opening cupboards of barely touched exotic liquors gathering dust, piecing together the personal and professional lives of the residents. Is Corporate Finance for Dummies the bedtime reading of a young banker or of a hobbyist hoping to sprinkle dinner-party conversation with jargon? Is a bottle of Mekhong whisky a sign of desperation or a souvenir from a holiday in Koh Tao?

This nosiness has been facilitated by Airbnb, the property-sharing app. While builders have been attacking my own home, I have been renting flats in my neighbourhood for a few days at a time between housesitting friends’ flats.

    The experience has on the whole been a good one, although I was not too impressed when a host cancelled the day before we were due to turn up. But a cursory read of the “uncensored stories from hosts and guests” on website Airbnbhell — “Unstable Host and Airbnb Turned my Vacation into Hell”, “Traumatic Airbnb Experience in Philadelphia”, “Not My Blood on that Airbnb Host’s Duvet” — shows that others are not so lucky.

    Our hosts have proved to be incredibly conscientious. One even dissuaded me from booking her property because she worried that building work next door would spoil our stay. Another kept sending messages to check that we were happy.

    And seeing your neighbourhood from a slightly different vantage point is refreshing. In the routine of work and family life, it is all too easy to tread the same path and stick to the familiar. When your starting position is even just a few streets away, you are forced to observe the environment, discover new parks and cafés.

    Yet the experience has also widened the generational chasm when it comes to property. I am lucky, as a member of Generation X, to own my flat. When I stepped on to the property ladder, my then partner and I paid three times our joint salary. When I sold the property, 12 years later, it was worth almost six times our — increased — earnings. This was the result of luck not skill: we simply benefited from London’s rising house prices.

    For many of my homeowning peers, Airbnb has proved to be a buffer for insecure incomes. Some supplement their salaries by renting their own properties out while they are on holiday or letting a bedroom if one of the children is away. One who is suffering a drought in work has taken to visiting friends all over the country while she Airbnbs her flat. While not ecstatic about packing her bags every weekend, she is keenly aware that she is lucky to have a hard-working property when she is underemployed.

    Another couple credit the website with facilitating their divorce. Were it not for the extra revenue from hosting tourists, they would have been unable to afford to split up and go their own ways.

    Yet not only is Airbnb reinforcing the divide between property haves and have-nots, it may also be exacerbating rental market problems. Browsing the site, it is obvious that many of the hosts are professional landlords.

    Notebook: Lisa Pollack

    Feeling uber-guilty for using Uber

    A policeman intervenes as Kenyan taxi drivers signed up to ride-hailing service Uber [UBER.UL] attempt to eject a passenger from one of the Uber operating taxis during a strike after the company slashed prices in the face of growing competition from similar local firms in Kenya's capital Nairobi, August 2, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

    There is a frustrating absence of advice for consumers using gig economy services

    The Residential Landlords Association is concerned that private landlords are taking flats and houses off the rental market in the hope that they will make more money through holiday lets. One property owner in Leeds was reported as trebling his income after making the switch.

    It is a trend worrying landlords and renters alike. Hannah Williams, founder of Rental Raters, which helps British renters share information about landlords and properties, says: “Good properties go on Airbnb and are withdrawn from the rental market, leaving less quality available.”

    It is not just in London. In San Francisco, for example, campaigners distributed posters campaigning against Airbnb landlords “destroying affordable housing for immigrant, minority, and low income families”.

    Being a local tourist has been invigorating, opening my eyes to parts of the city I have overlooked. It has also made me acutely aware of my own luck — and fearful for my children’s future.