As the old adage goes, it’s better to have the worst house in a good street, than the best house in a bad street.
Your garden might be full of what the council terms “bulky waste,” and your doors may be falling off their hinges, but you’ll have the best schools, the best parks, the best wine bars and the most perfectly spiffing neighbours.
I wonder if this is true.
Is it really better to punch above your weight in the more middle class environs, or should one up sticks to the city limits, to have a better chance at a decent sized house (or a house at all) but take your chances with the local primary and just hope that your child doesn’t make any unsavoury friends?
And can one even voice such concerns legitimately without being shouted down on Mumsnet and accused of sounding like Katie Hopkins?
When it comes to my son’s future friends, I fear that I am rapidly turning into the class equivalent of one of those dire individuals who begins a sentence with phrases like “I’m not a racist/homophobe but….” and ends with an exhortation that political correctness has gone mad before throwing a sexist/racist/homophobic joke in there, just to make their position clear.
But it’s a real worry. Piglet is now almost two, and with the advancing years comes the fear that he will at some point have to go to school, and what if that school is not a warm, welcoming and fuzzy Ofsted-outstanding hallowed seat of learning, presided over by Miss Honey of Matilda fame, but an inadequate hell-hole in the charge of the Demon Headmaster? And even is it is the former, we all know that an Ofsted report can only reveal so much, and very little of that information is a breakdown of the character of the students housed therein, and whether they are angelic kale-eating, even-tempered children of virtue, or stone-throwing hoodlums on the fast track to borstal.
And it’s not just schools. A quick bout of googling revealed that one of the ever-decreasing pools of housing I can *maybe* just about afford is located next to the site of a soon-to-be-built power station and listed in the Top Ten Worst Places to Live in the UK. It also suffered, two years ago, an outbreak of flies.
FLIES, flying around the cesspit of affordable housing whilst the wealthy and titled of the middle classes with stable jobs and marriages live a life of luxury in their palaces in the more affluent suburbs. The ones not located next to power stations, recycling depots or sites that were once used for the manufacture of mustard gas.
It is almost enough to make me give up on the idea entirely and accept that my destiny may well lie in living with my mother for eternity. In the past two nights I have had two dreams* about poor housing choices; one in which I bought a wreck of a house, excitedly intending to refurbish it, only for it to flood, and one in which I inexplicably purchased a flat in the exact same building where my last flat was. In London, a good 125 miles from where I now live and work.
In the past week I have gone from being completely in denial about anything to do with housing, property, or indeed money in any of its forms, to googling wild conspiracy theories about potential impending house price crashes, and going to the estate agents only to have them actually inspect one of my payslips (as opposed to burying them somewhere where they can never be found, as is my custom) only to discover that it appeared to be riddled with inaccuracies, including an incorrect national insurance number. So not only can I not afford any houses apart from possibly one in an area renowned for plagues of locusts (or flies, or whatever. Same thing right?) but I may have been inadvertently paying some random’s national insurance contributions for the past ten months. People, check your payslips, you may be being defrauded by the state! Or defrauding the state. I’m not sure how one should categorise this one.
So, in the spirit of certain blogs with a tendency to synthesise what the writer has learned about blogging in just a few short weeks, usually peppered with very obvious statements which reveal that they actually know startlingly little for someone who appears to be claiming some level of expertise; What Have I Learned In One Week of House Hunting?
1.) There are very few affordable homes for people on a single income who aren’t hedge fund managers or the cast of Made in Chelsea.
2.) It is fairly difficult to predict what the next up and coming areas are likely to be before they have actually acquired any of the traditional markers of gentrification, such as establishments selling cupcakes, or cafes advertising organic Columbian coffee that has been chewed and excreted by monkeys and stored in an airtight bunker beneath the ground for eighteen months to properly develop the flavour, served from atop a penny farthing by a man in a breton top and espadrilles with a lustrous nineteenth century beard.
3.) Outbreaks of flies can have a detrimental effect on house prices for years to come. Beware the plagues!
4.) It might be useful to know if the ground beneath your feet was ever covered by a factory dedicated to the manufacture of mustard gas.
5.) And finally, ladies and gents, always check your payslips. That is my final parting gift to you. Obvious advice from the mouth of a financial expert. Just call me Martin Lewis.