Desperate Households: will you be turning to Rightmove to avoid your family this Christmas?
- Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Andrew Bullock analyses the property headlines of the week.
Rightmove has revealed that it expects Christmas afternoon to be one of its busiest times for online viewing, as millions of us will shun our families for the solitary pleasure of online property browsing. This is weird and surely can’t be accurate. When first reading this I assumed the statement was alluding to the notion that seeing other people’s homes on Christmas Day will inspire us to get house-hunting for a better existence. Or that receiving that new set of multicoloured spatulas from Great Aunt Irene will spur us on to move somewhere with a nicer kitchen. But no - apparently we will take to the internet for desperate escapism in the form of online real estate. I don’t buy it. If I was that eager to have nothing more to do with my family when the turkey has been eaten and the presents have been unwrapped, I’d much sooner hit the net to spy on other people’s Christmases on Facebook, or see what the returns policy is at Spatulas-R-Us! Failing that, whack Channel 5 on and force the family to watch Matchmaker Santa starring Mean Girls’ Lacey Chabert (pictured above).
Apparently Britain currently sits in fourth place on the lowest home ownership spectrum in the EU. It could be worse - it could still be third lowest like it was 20 years ago before Germany, Austria and Denmark secured their places in the bottom three. Eurostat have provided these calculations. Thanks for that. I think it’s pretty fair to assume we all know that home ownership is a bit of an obstacle course to achieve at the moment, and while it’s nice to know we’re not the lowest of the low, must these stats be forced on us to make us feel even worse about ourselves? The most annoying thing about it is that it’s not really our fault. We can’t afford to get onto the property ladder because being able to live/work/eat/drink/breathe often feels like a battle. Almost as if it’s a privilege. It’s not, actually. Calling a home our own (legally, contractually, financially) is the privilege. And even more so if we are then able to actually do things to it, such as paint it and fill it with pretty things. Slovakia, Lithuania and Croatia are doing something right, given that 96.1 percent of the population are homeowners. Apparently Britain suffers partly because of the cost of homes and the rise of Buy-To-Let landlords on the scene. It has also been reported that more than 12 percent of our population living in households face housing costs that amount to in excess of 40 percent of disposable income. This stat is shocking - it seems too low!
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Renters aren’t failures
Matthew Lynn of the Telegraph wrote at the beginning of the week that he’s tired of the British property market “trotting out clichés” such as “we would all be far better off if we rented, like our more sophisticated neighbours on the Continent” and “too much of our national wealth is tied up in bricks and mortar when it could be more usefully invested in small businesses and manufacturing”. He goes on to argue that “we need to be thinking a lot harder about how we...strip away the layers of regulations that have stopped the market from functioning properly.” Lynn reckons that this is because owning a property allows people a stake in a free-market system. Okay, I see his point. He’s right. But the media is relentlessly ramming the idea of home-ownership down our throats almost to make renters feel inadequate or bad about themselves. While Lynn’s points are valid, and this very supplement is in part a champion of house purchasing, I wish the media wouldn’t paint letting in such a gloomy light. The news makes us think that letting a home is a sub-standard alternative and that you are somewhat of a failure if you rent a property. You’re not. Some might say you’re rather clever. Some people choose to let, rather than to buy. Can you believe it? I can. If the boiler explodes, it’s not really your problem. And if you want to up sticks and leave for a life in the tropics, there’s no paper-chain to disallow you a clean break.
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“Viewing houses is my hobby”
Sarah Chalmers writes this week for the Mail Online (the Fe-Mail section actually, as if this only applies to women!) that she dabbles in property porn. This is a real thing now by the way. It’s in the dictionary and everything. Her article begins like this: “Watching the soft-close larder door shut, I ran a hand over the granite worktop, threw a wistful backward glance at the integrated recycling system and strode across the parquet floor to the door...Was I about to make an offer on the £1 million penthouse I had just viewed? Er...no.” It carries on like that too in case you’re wondering. Evidently this woman deliberately books house viewings in order to tease herself with the dangling carrot of unobtainable property. A soft-close larder door isn’t that difficult to obtain actually. I should imagine they’re as easily accessible as a soft-close toilet seat these days, and you can pick one of them up from Homebase for about £30. The piece goes on to reveal that Chalmers has a stash of dog-eared back-issues of Real Homes and Good Housekeeping squirrelled away around her house. She spends her down-time watching repeats of Escape to the Country. I get this - I do it as well. But booking appointments to browse a home on the market just for fun seems a little creepy to me. Do virtual tours not cut the mustard, Sarah?