London’s property boom: Right up there with the dot com bubble and Dutch tulips

Julian Harris
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More great news for homeowners in the capital!

Following on from Tuesday’s revelation that London house prices shot up by an eye-watering 13.2 per cent in the year to January, research out this morning claims that our city’s property market is the third biggest economic boom of all time.

An Office for National Statistics house price index for London is now 22.8 per cent above its pre-financial crisis peak, with an average price of £458,000 – a level that many analysts expect to surpass the half-a-million mark later this year.

But hold on there, all you smug mortgage-holders. Looking at the list of top economic booms of all time, the London property market has some uncomfortable bedfellows.

One place ahead of it is the Dot Com bubble of the late 1990s and early 2000s. We all remember how that ended.

In eighth place is the South Sea bubble, the infamous eighteenth century crash that stemmed from investors pouring more and more money into the South Sea Company.

And one place below that is the Dutch tulip bubble of the previous century, an even more infamous event which resulted in a single bulb being worth over 10 times people’s annual incomes.

The top 10 was compiled ahead of Klondike, a drama about the Gold Rush airing at 9pm on the Discovery Channel tonight. The list is as follows:

RankBoomDurationSizeBoom-Busting Facts

Canadian Tar Sands Oil

(1970s – Present)

Alberta, Canada

40 years£9.52 trillionIn 2011 the average male worker earned £81,000

Dot Com Bubble

(1998 – 2004) Worldwide

6 years£3 trillion80% of US investment went into IT in 1999

London Property Boom

(2009 – Present)

London, United Kingdom

5 years

£1.24 trillion

Housing prices in the capital are 12 times annual income

The Gilded Age

(1860 – 1890)

United States

30 years£1.2 trillionIn 40 years, the U.S. economy grew by 400%

The Gold Rush


United State

100 years£3.5 billionA mine would cost up to £24,200,000 in today’s money

Railway Mania

(1835 - 1850)

United Kingdom

15 years

£3.4 billion

Between 1844 – 1846 a total of 6,220 miles of railway were built


(2012 – Present)


2 years£600 millionCurrency increased by 6,200% in in one year

The South Sea Bubble

(1711 – 1720)

United Kingdom

9 years

Share prices increased by 1,000%

Sir Isaac Newton lost £20,000 in shares - equivalent to about £268 million in present day value

The Dutch Tulip Bubble

(1636 – 1637)


1 year

Market inflated by 95%

The cost of a single tulip was 20-30 time higher than the average annual income and could be traded for an entire estate

German Hyper-Inflation

(1921 – 1923)


2 yearsPrices increased by 1,500%Money became so worthless it was used as fuel – in 1923 a loaf of bread cost 200,000,000,000 Deutsch Marks

So is the London housing market heading the same way? The question depends on whether the sharp increases in prices seen in recent times are a symptom of bubble-like behaviour or if it’s simply a matter of supply and demand. On the one hand we have government-sponsored easy money programmes such as Help to Buy, and on the other we have economists such as Kate Barker warning that there is a shortfall of at least 1m houses in the UK.

The Great London Housing Crash of 2015? Time will tell.