Have you ever wondered how they choose the people that are going to appear on Channel 4’s house-buying programme Location Location Location?
I appreciate that they are going to choose those who will make a much more entertaining programme than somebody who’s happy with a three-bed semi on a council estate, but you do have to marvel sometimes at the lunacy and snobbery of some of those that appear on the show. From the wondrously entertaining who are hoping Phil and Kirsty will be able to get them a three bedroom apartment in central London on a budget of just £150’000 to the pernickety couple with a budget of £1’000’000 who still wouldn’t be satisfied if Posh & Becks gave them one of their houses and threw in an Aston Martin to clinch the deal, it can make for some whoppingly entertaining TV viewing on a subject that is unadulteratingly boring.
And then you get the couples who have a budget of several million pounds, have been searching for four years and have viewed eight thousand houses, yet haven’t managed to find one they like. Or the couples whose views on what their house should be like are so poles apart that one of them might just as well move to Australia; it’s a wonder their marriages have survived as long as some of them have.
On top of that, you’ve got the guys who like to boast to Phil that they’re not shy of doing a bit of work and then gulp in panic when he shows them a house with magnolia walls, and heaven forbid that Kirsty might suggest they could knock a wall down between the kitchen and the living room. Or you have the women who fall in love with the chocolate box thatched cottage with a little brook running through the garden, but their husbands are just not getting an emotional attachment to the house. They’re just not feeling it.
“I’ve tried everything,” the desperate women will wail. “I’ve tried pleading and crying and I’ve even told him he can have the widescreen television and a PlayStation 3.” I’m waiting for the day Kirsty turns round and asks if they’ve tried swallowing.
It’s amazing that Phil Spencer and Kirsty Allsop haven’t actually punched any of their clients in the face, very hard.
Honestly, my wife and I would make boring television for them. We’d give them our budget, tell them we’d like four bedrooms and space for two cars on the driveway and preferably it should be near a nice pub and the children’s school, and then we’d walk in to the first house they showed us and say “bugger me, offer them the asking price!”
But it wouldn’t work like that for me because I have been the unluckiest man on the planet when it comes to the property market. I bought my first flat for a measly £19’000 when I was 21 years old and sold it in 1997 for not very much more so that I could move to Cambridgeshire to start a new career in the Internet. Since then, I have been chasing the property market, never quite able to catch up with the rising demands of escalating house prices.
The last time I tried to buy a house was in 2005, when I found a three-bed semi-detached property on the outskirts of a nice little Cambridgeshire village. It stretched our budget but would have meant that we owned our own house – and then I discovered it had got a septic tank, which the vendor hadn’t cleaned out in over eight years because it was leaking.
Querying why the houses he owned on either side of it had been connected to mains sewerage but this one I was buying hadn’t seemed to ruffle his feathers further and, when I asked him to get the septic tank repaired before I finalised the purchase or, at least, discount the house enough for me to do it, he backed out of the sale.
And so, in a freak moment of frustration seeking solace in a pint in my local village pub, the then-landlord told me he was selling up. Kirsty and Phil couldn’t have had a better opportunity fall in their laps in the closing moments to make their show any more tense and exciting.
Within two weeks we’d signed and sealed the paperwork and today is three years to the day since we took over the pub.
It feels like a lifetime but, despite economic gloom, global warming, rising utility prices, the smoking ban and Alistair Darling, I wouldn’t change it for the world.