I’d like to preface this with a warm and heartfelt congratulations to every Monopoly genius out there, reading this from the freshly varnished decking of their charming semi-detached. Well done you. You did it.
Now I don’t mean to sound quite so embittered off the bat, but after some recent “friendly” advice about how renting puts “money down the toilet”, and a lengthy explanation about how sharing a home after a certain point in life is unfathomable, I suddenly felt an emotion I thought I’d reserved specifically for my career: shame.
I mention my career only because I work in television, or more specifically, on it, and the ways in which one can embarrass themselves on children’s telly, or whilst coaxing answers from actors and sportspeople, are many and varied.
But back to the housing situation. It’s no secret the market has gone batty. June saw house prices in the UK rising at their fastest annual rate in 18 years. They say a typical house will now cost you £294,845 in the UK, or £547,031 down here in London. And whilst I’m still not entirely sure who “they” are, they can leave me well out of it.
Now I’m not here to explain why this insanity is prevailing, or to suggest any ground-breaking remedy beyond “stop letting rich people buy stuff they don’t use”. But I do question the shared mindset we appear to have around housing as a society. The fact we call it “the property ladder” as if it is something to climb makes me feel queasy. It implies that we shouldn’t settle with just one house, but we should strive to get another, and another after that. If you don’t want it, that’s fine! Just rent it out and charge whatever the market lets you.
I won’t tell you how much I cough up for my one room in a shared house of four, but I’d like to think if I did a single tear would run down your face. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling the process immoral – we all have our ways to make a crust. For two years mine was to dress as a Scottish dinner lady and get covered in custard every Saturday morning. I’m not here to judge.
Ultimately, people love stuff – big, expensive, luxurious stuff – and if that stuff can make them money, even better. But let’s not treat the absence of that stuff as a person’s abject failure to acquire it.
Every year, flat sharing platforms like Spare Room release statistics that tell us mindsets are shifting, society is evolving and renting into your forties is the new mortgage. But it just takes mentioning this to anyone with, or trying to get, a mortgage to know that this mindset shift really isn’t true.
Whether your reason for not buying is financial instability or simply a fear of permanently binding yourself to something you don’t really want, in a place you don’t really like, with a person you might fall out of love with, the response is always the same: thinly veiled pity.
I never really wanted to buy a house. I never had the time or resources and work was too unpredictable to settle in one place – but it at least felt like an option for the future. Eight long London years later, and like many, I find myself working for less, whilst paying more and more to exist. I enjoy my life, but the idea of saving, like really saving, feels like a fanciful dream I had in 2018.
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So what are my options? I could move somewhere cheaper and potentially isolate myself from friends, family, loved ones, my career and my sanity. Or maybe I should just be more successful or get someone to do it for me and marry rich. I can’t see many downsides to this plan if I am honest, aside from moral ambiguity. I know! I will call on my wealthy parents – who are working class. Aha, I’ve got it: I will just wait it out until society collapses and someone trades me a two up, two down, for a full tank of diesel and some Pokémon cards.
In truth, I don’t know if this new-found shame will last long enough to try anything drastic, but here’s hoping I wake up tomorrow and just want less stuff. For now, I’m off to buy some scratch cards.