WHEN I was a child, my mum had a strange compulsion towards estate agents’ windows.
We’d be wandering along a street on a family holiday when she’d stop dead in her tracks, inexplicably drawn towards adverts for properties she was never going to buy.
“Ooh,” she’d exclaim, while my dad and I groaned, knowing this meant it would be another 20 minutes before we got our lunch. “Look at this. A farmhouse. With a pool. For the same price as a semi-detached three-bed on our estate.”
I didn’t get it. We were never likely to move to Brittany, Tipperary or rural Aberdeenshire. She doesn’t even like swimming. So why spend time fictitiously house-hunting when we could be sight-seeing?
Now, however, the thing I have always dreaded has happened. I have turned into my mother. I have become a property addict.
In an idle minute, I often find myself browsing the ESPC website, even though we have no plans to move again. Ever.
In fact, the last three times we have bought a new house has occurred because I’ve “accidentally” happened upon the perfect property online and dragged my long-suffering husband off to see it – even though we weren’t supposed to be house hunting.
My favourite way to spend an evening – and please don’t tell – is to kick back with a cup of tea and the latest episode of Kirstie and Phil. It’s rock and roll in our house. One of the best parts is watching the dynamic of the couples supposedly united in the search for a dream home.
The pair invariably give poor old K&P a list of criteria, which gradually increase as the programme goes on. The garden which would be a “bonus” to the woman at the beginning of the show, becomes a deal breaker, while the chap’s excitement over the possibility of a garage in which to tinker with vintage cars, as seen in house number one, means no other property can compare – despite house one having only half the required bedrooms and being located next to a welding factory.
And when the two clash… TV heaven.
But it is not surprising. Strutt and Parker this week published a list of the priorities of house buying as seen by women and men. Females, apparently, choose to move house to live in a catchment area with better schools for their children; to be able to access shops and other amenities and so they can live closer to friends and family.
Men are far more practical. They move when tax changes, pension regulations and the political environment tell them it is a good time to do so. When it comes to choosing the house, however, practicalities go out of the window for them. Fourteen per cent of men surveyed said they wanted a cinema or screening room and 12 per cent hankered after a wine cellar.
Rather depressingly, in contrast, almost a quarter of women rated an Aga oven as their top home accessory, while 18 per cent wanted a kitchen island. Kitchen equipment? A dream home? Think big, ladies! A boudoir with a jacuzzi, or a Farrow and Ball-painted treehouse at least.
When it comes to décor, women opt for “Simplistic Scandinavian” and “Classical French”. Meanwhile, the men throw all caution – and taste – to the wind and say their dream home would be decorated in “1950s/60s or 70s Retro”. Eeek.
Of course, in the current property market, particularly parts of central Edinburgh, buyers are lucky these days to get what they’re given. In a return to pre-recession days, homes are disappearing off the market within days of being put on. Househunting friends have complained that properties have sold before they have even managed to secure a viewing appointment, while the sealed bidding system has gone crazy, with some properties selling for as much as 20 or 30 per cent above the offers over price.
Others have moaned that anything in their price and criteria range disappears fast with nothing to replace it for months – indeed Halifax warned this week that the number of homes on the market is at its lowest level for many years.
The best complaint, however, came from a seller who phoned his agent, Mov8 Real Estate, to complain he had paid his £720 fee for nothing. Why nothing? Because the agency, he said, had to work for only a day for the fee before the house had sold. Sounds like good value for money to me.