The soaring residential rents, we have reported both this week and last, seem like one of the harder trends to have predicted in modern times.

And it must be encouraging to the many Build-to-Rent (BTR) developers coming to Reading to know that people are currently bidding simply to secure somewhere to rent.

The 4,000 or so BTR flats destined for Reading town centre would appear to have an eager, ready and waiting market.

But in the same way that few could have predicted this surge in demand, predicting where it goes from here seems even more difficult.

There are similarities between now and 20+ years ago when the future direction of the dotcom boom was just as hard to predict. Those of us writing about the crazy business world at that time, especially in the Thames Valley, couldn’t help but wonder where it was all going to go.

After a while the question became ‘do all these venture capitalists know what they are doing?’ Or is it simply the madness of crowds?

We all know what happened but even that experience seemed to be forgotten when the 2008 financial crash occurred. Reckless lending and investing seems an ever present problem.

BTR has tempted the John Lewis Partnership to start building flats. It seems possible the day will come when someone will look back on that move and question why the retailer didn’t stick to what it is good at.

Experienced BTR investors seem better informed than those who threw money at all kinds of start-up technology firms in the early days of the internet. But, however well people know their markets, there is always a danger that they don’t see the wood for the trees.

World events are more volatile than many of us can ever remember and will govern every market. An even more alarming aspect to that is the question over how much the national and international news media can be trusted. Not only does there seem to be omission of certain stories but coverage of war in Ukraine seems to carry a message rather than just giving the news in good faith.

It is difficult to predict the future when you can’t be sure you know the facts. As you might expect, we consider regional, independent media more trustworthy.

However, we wouldn’t wish to offer a prediction on the local rental market other than to say there are huge external factors lying ahead that you would think investors and developers will take into account.

One of Thames Tap’s former partners, TA Fisher, often refers to something called OPM (other people’s money), something some of the major national developers like to spend. We would suggest some of those using OPM haven’t always been the smartest investors.

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