I caught the tail end of an interview on Woman’s Hour the other day with author Louise Candlish. The subject of the interview was Louise’s new novel Our House which was written with the premise of being ’the Gone Girl for the property obsessed’. While I can’t go in to depth about the actual book as I haven’t read it does sound rather gripping. The female protagonist returns to her beloved home, the four walls that define her to realise it’s been sold without her knowledge. I listened to Louise intently as she voiced her concern that in certain circles houses have become central powerful characters within the family and decisions are made based on the value of the property and whether or not the housing market is doing well.
I bought my first house aged 23. The colleague who sat opposite me had just had a Northern Rock mortgage approved and waxed lyrical that no deposit was required and how she was borrowing extra to cover some of her loans too. Within a month or so James and I had found a house and had been approved to borrow around 102% of the value. The day we picked up our keys we got a cheque for over £1K to spend on decoration. It was utterly ridiculous.
This was the mid noughties and the obsession seemed to be rife amongst my peers. Left, right and centre my work colleagues were grabbing Northern Rock mortgages and borrowing enough to get a new set of wheels too. The singletons were applying for part ownership deals and one by one we all ‘owned’ our own houses. We spent our lunchtimes talking about how foolish it was to rent and how friends who got on the housing ladder a few years earlier were making heaps of profit. This makes us sound like a bunch of greedy money-grabbers but in reality I think we were just really proud of ourselves. Naively we saw ourselves as financially independent and that we’d made a solid investment in our future. I was over the moon to be able to paint my own walls rather than make do with magnolia.
We all know what happened next. Then came the crash, the credit crunch and then the recession. The house which had risen in value from £125K to £165K in a couple of years was now worth just £4K more than we’d paid for it. Friends around us found themselves in negative equity but luckily we’d paid off a decent chunk of the mortgage and therefore had a hefty deposit to invest in our next property.
I realise we’re in an extremely fortunate position. Our friends in their twenties are finding it almost impossible to scrape together huge deposits and will no doubt live with their parents for many years to come as they struggle to weigh up whether to rent when they could save.
It’s fair to say all the team here have a passion for interiors and that we put importance on the concept of ‘home’. For me, my home is more than bricks and mortar and runs deeper than my interior choices. These four walls are my sanctuary and the place I love to share with friends and family. Though I’ve only been here two and a half years the place already holds a lot of memories. After two incredibly stressful house moves we are here for the long haul and we’re interested in adding monetary value only if it adds value to our lives. However I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about the impact of nearby developments and the knock on effect to our property’s value.
What are your thoughts? Do you think we’re preoccupied with our homes and their values or do you think it’s justified? Have you found yourself making life decisions based purely on the state of the housing market?