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Wednesday, 11 August 2010

A House is not a Home

The oldest house in Britain has been discovered  near Scarborough. A "For Sale" sign was also uncovered in the ruins - the housing market is pretty glacial in the North East.

As well as being fitted with the latest 8,000BC gadgets; fridge - freezer - the nearby glacier; cold and extremely cold running water and sunken living room, it has the first recorded use of decking in the Britain. Archaeologists are still searching for the remains of an early BC&Q.

There are signs that the owners had made a number of improvements in an attempt to shift the property; but without much success. The Surveyor's report found near by for a prospective purchaser concluded that rising damp was a serious problem on account of a large lake lapping over the front door and the guttering was non existent. The surveyor recommended replacing the animal skin roof with something more permanent. 

It's reassuring to learn that our ancestors were just as obsessed with the housing market as are we. Although I had thought that what with the sub prime mortgage catastrophe, the collapse of much of mortgage market and the near demise of many of our High Street building societies and banks we'd lost our insane love affair with rising house prices.

Not so, the recent news that house prices have fallen for the first time in twelve months has got the chattering classes - chattering. All the usual suspects are rolled out. The estate agent extrolling the virtues of "realistic pricing" to shift property that won't. The economist explaining that there are more sellers than buyers and the uncertain economic outlook is preventing people from moving. There's the banker swearing that despite all the evidence they're lending as much as they can. And finally there's the hopelessly hopeful first time buyer complaining that at current prices they'll never be able to buy.

I was one of the insane. On  the walk to the station on the way to work I would pass 6 estate agents and I'd look to see what the latest prices were and mentally calculate how much the value of our house had risen in the last week. I even asked an agent to value the house - just for the thrill of hearing how much he thought the house was worth.

And then I realised that the only way to unlock this massive tax free capital gain was to sell the house.  So unless I was expecting my wife and the cats to join me on the streets at night it was rather pointless to obsess about the apparently unstoppable rise in the value of our, two up and two down, Victorian terrace in Inner London. It would be much better to appreciate how bloody lucky we were having a comfortable and extremely pretty home with a front and back garden, nice neighbours and now no mortgage.

Mind you a place in the country, on the shores of a lake, with a sunken living room and decking has its appeal.


...louciao... said...

Conversely, a home is not always a house.

G said...

Yeah! I always think this as well - if house-prices rise across the board (and rent tends to rise commensurately) the only way to profit is to hop off to another area where prices haven't tracked with the ones in your present area.

I agree also that it's absurd for governments, banks, the media and such to pursue ever-increasing house-prices, as if that can go on forever without stiffing anyone or bursting like another great big bubble. I can get my head around the narrow self-interest of people wanting to make money, but everyone else should have more sense.