London property bubble entombs a thousand digger-machines


What I learned today: Diggers seem to be far cheaper than I thought. Perhaps I should get one of those.


The photo of a full sized excavator isn’t consistent with the kind of digger they are talking about. Not only are full sized excavators too large, they cost over $100,000. However, even a compact excavator like one of the cute little Bobcat ones is still in the $30,000 range - used. So I’m not sure what they are talking about when they refer to abandoning diggers only worth “£5,000 or £6,000.”

I find the story suspect - not that it couldn’t be happening, or that it isn’t happening, but the details seem off.


Yeah. When they say the diggers they bury are worth 5000-6000, they must mean the immigrant laborers.


It’s Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel in real life but with a sadder ending.


Looking at mini-excavator sales sites, I see a bunch of listings for the UK in the 5000-6000 dollar price range. Apparently they have a lot of 20-something-year-old excavators still in use. So it’s not unbelievable in that regard, if companies were using older excavators that were likely close to the end of their useful lifespan anyways.


Oh, you beat me to it! I was all ready to share a link to this fondly remembered children’s book.


European earth moving equipment on this sort of job would appear to Americans as the same size as the Tonka toys they had as children.


I find this really hard to believe. Perhaps it has happened in a few instances, but I really doubt it is happening on a scale the author is suggesting

The DailyMail has already responded saying, “builders claim ‘it’s utterly ludicrous’.” That’s because those are much more expensive pieces of equipment (up to £100,000 per), and the square footage is,“worth up to £8,000 per sq ft.” so people wouldn’t be wasting that cash if paying for the reno.

Huffpost U.K. also said this is “total nonsense.”


Needless to say, they wouldn’t use a new excavator for the subbasement if they plan on leaving it. If it’s nearly worn out, a fairly good sized one is still only worth several thousand dollars/pounds/euros.

But I can’t tell how suspect the story is. If verified, it’s typically lazy behavior for these developers to leave the things in the hole, when the scrap/parting-out value of the thing is worth a half day hiring a few people with a plasma cutter and a little bit of time on the crane to pump out the hydraulics, whack it into bits of only a few tons apiece, and lift it out. There’s probably some kind of tax write-off where depreciation vs. abandonment leads to money directly into someone’s pocket.

Apart from the possible hoax: I’m no economics expert but the London real estate/housing bubble seems like madness. Is there really a bubble and what happens if it bursts and when?

Also, since when is it OK in terms of environmental protections on the lawbooks to leave many gallons of diesel fuel, oil and hydraulic fluid sitting in the earth, seeping into the groundwater? Sounds like a BS story to me. ONE lazy builder left an old excavator and someone dug it up. Then the apocrypha snowballed into 500, no 1000 excavators! No, 10,000! The rich suck! They’re wasteful! Please. This is a definite: PICS OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN.


Well, the claim, anyways, is that it’s the crane use that makes it prohibitive - not just the cost of operating the crane, but closing off the entire street for the day.

Well, it’s the Daily Mail. If they’re saying it’s ludicrous, then I guess it must be true.


Multiple news organizations debunked it. I included Huffpost because I knew someone would complain about the DailyMail.


-This house? Yes, it´s sort of haunted.
-What do you mean by sort of?
-Well, it is definitely haunted. Just not by a human ghost.
-A ghost hound? A cat from hell?
-Well… more like heavy machinery. Times are changing!
-Mmmm… I dont know… What kind of haunting it does? Ectoplasm? Ghostly visages? Bloody splatters?
-Oh! No no no, it´s just a constant sound of a diesel engine running in the basement.
-Ok, SOLD!


Sanity returns if the bubble bursts. Most of the people who will lose if that happens deserve no sympathy – at least not those affected directly. They are the ones selling out to absentee millionaires, and the absentees themselves will suffer the most. This is a different kind of bubble from the one that caused so many low-income home-buyers to fall into bankruptcy and foreclosure in the US and around the world.

Meanwhile, affordable housing for the non-rich in the area dwindles, because there’s only so much space for buildings and the speculators are buying up and bulldozing existing, useable structures and replacing them with this luxury housing nonsense for people who won’t even live in them, making it more expensive and more difficult to find housing you can afford if you aren’t insanely wealthy.

But I suppose that’d be considering being indirectly affected?


The weaknesses of the original story seem to work on their own to undermine its credibility, but I’m amused by some of the “debunking” going on in the Huffpost, to wit:

top companies would not dare risk breaching important Health and Safety procedures.

Uh, yeah, that’s right, no one would ever dare to violate any laws in the context of making more money in an over-heated real-estate market… that never happens.


Yeah, that counts. But at least it’s recognized by all major parties that housing for ordinary people is a serious problem in the UK. Of course the major parties are unlikely to do much to fix the problem, since they’ve let it slide for decades now, and since both Labour and Conservative party policies seem more focused on supporting the square mile than on their actual constituencies.