Climbing the housing ladder leaves your head in the clouds


FEWER YOUNG PEOPLE are managing to get a foot on the first rung of the housing ladder, according to government figures.

No word about how many young people were managing to get A leg up on the car ladder, the holiday ladder, or the deep-freeze ladder. Why? Because when it comes to buying things there IS only one ladder. Let me explain. . .

Almost everything you buy, apart from a property, is bought to be used for its intended purpose. You buy a car to drive, a washing machine to clean your clothes and a fridge to keep food fresh. If you buy new clothes, your main concern is how you look.  When you pay for a holiday you expect an enjoyably relaxing time, probably sunshine, a new destination, even a new romance and photos to show to the neighbours (who, by the way, are not remotely interested).

Of course, none of these goods or services is totally functional; you may take a deep, aesthetic delight in your new car or glow with pride to see your new top-of-the-range washing machine. But these items are rarely bought with a plan to make money from them.

When it comes to buying houses, this all goes out of the window. For some reason we expect houses to make money. A lot of people own groups of houses and rent them out to make money. This is bad for the soul and I would discourage it. You will have more fun in life if you never own more than one property.

As for holiday homes: buy one and you’re condemned to keep visiting the same holiday destination forever. Get rid of it, and you holiday where you please.

I have a friend who has spent her life buying properties, doing them up while living in them, selling them for a fat profit and repeating the process in the next property. Wherever she lived looked like a building site: half-plastered walls, ladders, building materials, an eternal work in progress. It is a way of life that brings a rootless quality in the pursuit of wealth.

Life, I keep telling myself, is too short. I have only ever bought one house and I still live in it, 43 years on. People often ask me what it’s worth and I say it’s worth living in. Basically I have no idea of, nor interest in, its selling price.

Of course, I am lucky. If I had been gainfully employed, as against being a dilettante self-employed writer, an actual career might well have taken me to different places and possibly the need to sell and buy houses. In which case. the almost Pavlovian reaction would be that each transaction should have made a healthy profit.

It is this expectation that has plunged the industry into crisis, led to a huge shortage of affordable homes and to thousands sleeping on the streets. This housing greed has made millions  for estate agents, solicitors and property firms and done very little for anyone else, despite our clinging to the illusion that it has.

We have been hoodwinked; we have swallowed all the propaganda and treated properties not so much as places to live and experience but as financial investments. But a house is not a hedge fund. A house has a soul.

And there is absolutely no basic reason why any house price should keep going up when the prices of other things go down as they age. Despite this, we seem stuck with that infernal phrase ‘the housing ladder’. And people seem determined to keep climbing it.

There is nothing at the top, believe me.  And you may well fall off!


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