If you're looking to buy a property, watch out. Homeowners are getting greedy again, and unwitting buyers will pay the price.
I've been perusing property websites over the last year, and I've spotted a curious trend, one that flies in the face of reason and good taste.
Properties that have failed to attract a buyer after months on the market have suddenly got more expensive. Bizarrely, the vendors have responded to complete lack of interest by actually hiking their prices.
In a sane and rational world, they would be doing the opposite.
How greedy can you get?
Up, down, up
The first was a one-bedroom conversion originally listed for sale in April 2012 at £235,000. It's in an attractive Victorian building in popular south-east London street, but carved out of the rear of the property, the side that doesn't get the sun.
While neighbouring flats sold within days, this one didn't shift. This month, the vendor and their estate agent decided the best way to stimulate interest was to hike the price to £250,000.
Crazy, but this isn't an isolated incident.
It still didn't sell, but instead of knocking off, say, another £10,000, last week they banged it up it to £259,995.
Nobody said the UK property market was rational, but this is extreme. Usually, if a product can't find a buyer, the seller will slash the price until it does. Now that logic is reversed.
If nobody is willing to buy something at the advertised price - ask for more!
Gimme gimme gimme
I can guess what's going on in the vendors' minds. When they first marketed their properties, London house prices were lower. Now prices are higher, they conclude their property must also be worth more.
No matter that any property is only worth what people are willing to pay, and nobody was willing to pay their asking price. Greed trumps reason every time.
History is on your side
Or this could be a bold and cunning marketing ploy. By asking a higher price, the vendors can seduce potential buyers by later agreeing a generous discount.
If you're property hunting, watch out for tricks like this. Property portal Zoopla helpfully sets out when each property was first marketed, and its subsequent pricing history.
Traditionally, this was a good way of spotting a discounted bargain. Now it helps you uncover curious cases of vendor greed.
Or maybe vendors are doing a little reverse psychology, calculating that a higher price will make their property seem more desirable, rather than less.
This logic is traditionally reserved for luxury goods, which makes sense, because these days, owning property is a luxury.
This reminds me of the Russian joke about two obscenely wealthy oligarchs. One is boasting that he bought his new tie for $500 in the store across the road. The other replies: "You got conned. You could have paid twice as much over there."
This joke is coming to a residential street near you.
Help! I'm a buyer
I blame increasingly desperate attempts to reinflate the housing market, such as the Bank of England's £80 billion Funding for Lending Scheme, and the Chancellor George Osborne's £130 billion Help to Buy mortgage guarantee.
Estate agents are no doubt telling clients that a tsunami of Government-backed lending is set to wash through the property market, and they should grab their buckets
If I'm right, we can expect a lot more house price mark-ups.
It'll only get worse
Asking prices are rising across the board to hit an average of £244,706, up an astonishing £15,717 since the start of the year, according to new figures from Rightmove.
This isn't just a London thing. While asking prices have briefly stalled in the capital, they are accelerating around the rest of the country.
Suckering people into overpaying for properties is a desperately short-sighted way to revive the UK economy, but this is a desperate Chancellor.
And it is working. Lending to first-time buyers increased 3% in February, the best start to a year since 2008, new Council of Mortgage Lenders figures show.
Greed is God
You might think they can't sell houses where you live at any price, but that doesn't seem to bother people anymore. If a home hasn't sold, there's only one thing to do. Ask more for it.
Greed springs eternal in the UK property market. And that's exactly how the Government likes it.
Please don't feed it.