Jaume Martorell Cruz

Jaume Martorell Cruz
2nd Year, PhD Business and Management
Bon Dia! I’m Jaume a 2nd year PhD student at the School of Business and Management. Originally from Barcelona, I hold a BSc on Political Science and acquired some work experience before I came to London and resume my studies three years ago. I spent my first year in the UK at Queen Mary, enrolled at the MSc International Business at the School of Business and Management and living on campus. Despite that I never seriously thought of doing a PhD when I was an undergrad in Barcelona, my year at Queen Mary awoke some sort of academic curiosity so last year decided to come back at the School of Business and Management and pursue a PhD. As a not so young foreign post-graduate student I hope I will be able to provide a different view in this student’s blog. If you wish you can find some of my more serious writings at the Centre of Globalisation Research blog, alongside with the more illuminating work of the School of Business and Management’s lecturers, professors, and other PhD Students. Centre of Globalisation Research blog http://qmulcgr.blogspot.co.uk/

Behind the bubble: It’s the politics, stupid!

It was a lucky coincidence that my last blog post was updated on Budget Day. While I offered a personal perspective on the trials of renting through a real estate bubble, the Chancellor added some more fire to the bubble: One of the big announcements was that the treasury will chip in £50 for every £200 saved for a first time ISA destined to buy a house.

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Of course it is a popular measure before an election, one that will be sold as an incentive on saving. A more accurate description would be a rent transfer from taxpayers to landowners and real estate agents through middle class’ off springs fortunate enough to buy. A less cautious description would be to define it as an outright electoral bribe. It is not the first time that the Chancellor has pulled this move, remember “Help to buy” a policy with a similar aim: subsidize landowners through “aspiring” middle classes. Not so long ago, when housing prices seemed to cool down, his autumn statement promised a stamp duty reform. It is not the first time a chancellor has done this: the roots of the UK housing crisis can be traced to Thatcher’s “Right to buy”. Neither are English chancellors alone in promoting housing bubbles, Spanish ministers spent most of the last decade in trying to flame is own housing bubble.

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Renting through bubbles

14857685644_16ac87ddf7_o   As an undergraduate I took the stupid decision to move nearer my university and  that was the first time I rented through a housing bubble. I say stupid because I still kept a daily part time job at my hometown and spent most of my weekends there, so I got a big cell in a flat that basically was used for nursing hangovers. My Mother still says that, basically, I was throwing away money, being this the rare occasion in which I’d agree with her.

After finishing my degree I decided to move out with two friends. My second rental through the bubble. To the average Londoner our old house would seem like an impressive mansion. Two floors plus loft and basement, a garden big enough for a plastic pool in the summer and massive BBQs in Mediterranean winter, spacious dining room and a big kitchen. It was near the peak of Spain’s housing bubble and we paid around 1,200 euros per month, a scandalous quantity we believed. In hindsight, it was the best deal I’ve ever had. I did not know much worse it could be.

Make no mistake, the housing situation at that point in Spain was not sustainable and it was a really worrying bubble. We rented 20 kms away from Barcelona, where rents were much higher.  Real estate prices turned home ownership into the pipedream of a generation plagued by temp contacts and unstable jobs. Despite all this, the consequences of Spain’s bubble pales in comparison to London’s bubble, even if you are lucky.

After leaving Queen Mary’s accommodation, my girlfriend and I shared a flat with a guy from Madrid. His former French flatmates were moving and we quickly offered to substitute them.  This involved living two weeks on an inflatable mattress in the dining room while the French couple moved out, but, hey, at least we had a dining room! When our flatmate decided to go back to Spain, we decided that it was time to go. Even more challenging, we would eschew flat sharing and find a place for ourselves alone. With more time to plan, we carefully balanced the different trade- offs that we faced.

In economics, the Trilemma on international finance puts that countries cannot have: A fixed exchange rate, an open capital market and an independent monetary policy. From three desirable things, you only can have two. I’d say that when you rent in London there is also a certain trilemma: location, extortion, and ruin.

You can have a nice flat in a desirable area: of course you’ll landlord will extort loads of money from you. Otherwise you can use to have a cheap nice flat in a not so desirable area, is possible that you spend most of your life commuting then. Perhaps you find a “cheap” flat in a desirable area; the most possible is that it has some sort of undesirable feature.  I guess that this trilemma is common to all rental decisions, but in a normal situation you can always find a nice equilibria between these three dimensions. In London, I do not think it possible. Hell, I am starting to think not so much far away there will be only one good thing left to pick!

In our case, first we opted to have a nice accommodation in a not so central area. We lived between Wood Green and Palmers Green, just below the North Circular road. The zone has some charm: you live near Alexandra Palace, can hike across the new river, and run through Broomfield and Arnos Parks –with spectacular views of the City-.  However there is a long commute to go to most of places, certainly long to get to Queen Mary.  We compensated our commute by enjoying an extended studio, with our own room, bathroom, and separate “open” kitchen / living room. The rent was not bad and our landlord took care of us but we grew wary of the commuting, and we feel that we were missing out, after all one of the perks of living in London is too actually live in London. Our current situation reminisced too much of our own hometown, a nice suburbia near Barcelona.

Last May we started looking at Gumtree et al -just in case we said to ourselves – but when we found an affordable flat around Highbury we throw our caution away. We visited and realized that would mean to transition to another trilemma’s vortex:  “cheap” in a cool zone, but with its quirky features: No natural light on the dining room, no furnishings, and paying for electricity through inserting coins in a box. When the winter came, we also discover that humidity may be an issue.   We went for it and made most of it, learned to live with humidity, took the chance to make the flat our own place by repairing furniture thrown away and a carefully planned purchase budget: the first month the bed, the second the sofa, etc. Now, we are fairly happy in it.  Although we never have £1 or £2 coins, as they go directly to our appreciated “electricity vending machine”.

It is also now were the vertigo starts to pile up, with our renewal date looming in the horizon. We have meet our landlord a couple of times, exchanged some mails, he seems like a nice guy. However we do not know if he is more interested in having a reliable couple that pays rent on time and takes care of the flat or in improving his margins through an unaffordable –for us- rent hike.  Thus, in three months we could find ourselves and our shiny new or reused furniture in the lookout for a flat… again.

Rental accommodation is always going to be the default choice for most postgraduate students, however doing it through London’s housing bubble just gives more headaches. I can vouch that moving one week before your progression report is not stress free. Now, fingers crossed, I will not have to experience it again through my dissertation deadline.

Networking

14673469100_6b649fb4a4_zNetworking slowly has become my most hated English word. Perhaps is because as English is my third language I have a more limited range of words-to-hate, but I am sure that it has more to do with the dreadful nature of the deed. As I suspect that my hate of networking is broadly shared across PhD students in the UK and beyond, without regard of origin or language.

I guess that there was some sort of mythical academia when networking was reducing to small workshops and drinks among colleagues. Nowadays, networking is a required tool on any career, especially in an academia that requires to sell you and your research.  In some aspects is certainly positive, forcing thinkers out their ivory tower and making them engage with society, in other aspects is deeply disturbing. When your future employment prospects depend not only on your skills (or lack of thereof) but on your agenda, it will not be so surprising that those with fatter agendas have much better employment prospects.  Take it how you want but it is a fact that you want a smooth transition between your PhD and your future career (be in academia or outside it) you need to network for it! (more…)

First contact

Bon Dia!

I’m Jaume a 2nd year PhD student at the School of Business and Management. Originally from Barcelona, I hold a BSc on Political Science and acquired some work experience before I came to London and resume my studies three years ago. I spent my first year in the UK at Queen Mary, enrolled at the MSc International Business at the School of Business and Management and living on campus. Despite that I never seriously thought of doing a PhD when I was an undergrad, further education awoke some sort of academic curiosity so last year decided to come back at the School of Business and Management and pursue a PhD.

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