Monday, 1 June 2009

Handbag or house?

A very glamorous friend of mine once asked me why I moved house so much, and suggested that I should save my money to buy shoes and handbags. Shoes and handbags aren't an investment, I said, and she gave me that look I've seen a few times before.

But at that time, with prices rising inexorably, it did appear to make financial sense, and I persuaded myself that I was investing in our future. From the two-bed flat in a never-quite-gentrified location in South London, to the derelict Georgian town house in Cheltenham, that we lost a fortune renovating, I believed that they were all sensible moves. And, some of them were, but that's not what drove me. If I'm honest it was the thrill of the hunt.

The credit crunch, or the Prohibition, as I think of it, has proved to me that the investment argument was self-delusional. Being mortgaged the max, moving now would be foolhardy, as the only way anyone can benefit is by moving upwards. Undeterred I've been considering downsizing, although my mortgage is half of what it was a year ago.

I have to admit that my lifestyle doesn't help. Firstly, I work from home, so I'm free to check the latest properties twenty times a day. And, secondly, I write regular features for FindaProperty. Frankly it's like giving an alcoholic a job in a brewery.

Except that it's not like an addiction to drink or drugs, where the aim is to maintain a state of constant intoxication. An alcoholic can pretty much predict what will happen at the bottom of the bottle of vodka, but a property addict never quite knows what's round the corner, down the street or in the estate agent's window. It probably has more in common with a gambling addiction; the guilt, fear and exhilaration as you bet your wages, your coat, or, in my case, your home, blood pressure, and costs of up to £30K on a new future; a bricks-and-mortar, gas-fired-centrally-heated nirvana, where there's never any washing up waiting to be done or underpants on the floor, and where you'll live happily ever after. Til next time.

Because, of course, the desire to move is insatiable, and, usually, around a year later, I'm sneaking a look at the property portals again like a gambler checking the odds of the 2.30 at Haydock.

I do need to take control of the addiction, if not for myself, then because of the effect it's having on my children. My eldest likes to tell people, by way of proving my poor parenting, that she had had six homes already, and, not only does my ten-year-old have his own files of property on the computer, but his favourite reads are Living Etc and the Ikea catalogue.

But do I dream of a future where there is a branch of the AA (not the vehicle rescue one) for people like me, perhaps sponsored by Pickfords? And where I can walk past a For Sale sign without even checking out the state of the roof (I try to avoid buying dodgy roofs). God forbid. I love my little habit, and so does the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and there are most definitely worse things I could do.

And, as for my friend with the shoes and handbags, well, let's just say she needs to move more.

1 comment:

  1. Very well written. I liked your comparison with addiction. I agree with you. A property addict will not know what lies within the estate agent's window. Nice writing and sharing. Thanks for sharing and keep posting.