Friday, August 03, 2012
Rights And Wrongs - Friday
‘This is a pretty crap area really isn’t it?’ States trainee F as I weave the company car in and out of ageing Fords and Vauxhalls parked half on the kerb, half on what’s left of the grass. I hesitate to point out to him that this may be crumbling ex-local authority housing stock but the prices are still way out of his reach.
We’re on our way to measure up a voluntary repossession, the keys and instructions from the lender nestling in my briefcase. At least I know the outgoing owners will be long gone this time, it’s when they are still inside it gets messy. A scruffy brace of teenagers, hoods raised, look at us menacingly as I slow to walking pace to ease between a huge flatbed 4 x 4 and a rusty Citroen Saxo with more differing coloured panels than Joseph’s Technicolor Dreamcoat.
‘How come some houses have all new windows and roof tiles and some are all rundown?’ Asks F pertinently, as I spot the 1950s built semi in question. As if to underscore F’s question, the house we’re about to enter is scruffy, with the exception of a low-level picket fence to the front and a naff-looking windmill, while the adjoining home has updated UPVC and tiling.
‘The next door place is still owned by the council.’ I tell F as we clamber out of the car and I feel several pairs of eyes watching from behind net curtains. The dislike is almost palpable. At least if they key the car it’s not my long-term problem.
‘So they are actually in better nick than the one’s people bought?’ Questions F, brow furrowed.
‘Often.’ I tell him. ‘The people with mortgages can’t afford the upkeep.’
F shrugs and stands aside for me, his bovine brain clearly working on another question more rickety than the gate he’s just opened.
The house is typical of the era. Open-plan front garden, no garage, hence the on-street parking issues. To the side, is a narrow, wire-fence-bounded walk-through to a concrete shed, once for coal, more often full of bikes and rusty prams now. We stop outside the front door. A door I now open with the shiny new set of keys, as I wonder if the ex-tenant, now ex-owner, regrets exercising their options.
‘So this was, like, one of those right-to-buy jobs then?’ Asks F uncertainly, as we check out, first the cramped under stairs cloakroom, with the temperature of a morgue, then the through lounge/diner to the rear kitchen, fitted with a cheap-looking DIY kitchen units, not quite level. A tap drips mournfully as I glance at the 100-foot garden, wildly overgrown, with the odd discarded push-along toy rising from the grass like some avant-garde entry at the Chelsea flower show.
‘Yes.’ I tell F as I unpack my clipboard and begin scribbling my notes on autopilot. I know the floor plan by heart and could probably guess the measurements it wasn’t for fear of prosecution under that pesky Property Mis-Description Act.
‘It was a mixed blessing.’ I tell F as I continue to jot down the home’s particulars and wonder how I’ll get a decent picture without using PhotoShop.
‘So they all just turned a big profit then moved on?’ Asks F, as we make the upstairs landing and I see the cramped third bedroom and undersized bathroom, and then check out the two bigger bedrooms, both with cheap louver-fronted fitted wardrobes, circa 1970.
‘Those that didn’t run out of money and couldn’t make the payments.’ I tell F.
‘It was that women who invaded the Falklands that done it, was it?’ Says F, throwing me briefly, until I realise he’s talking about Margaret Thatcher. Sometimes I feel really old. Ignoring F’s tenuous grasp on history, I tell him that, as with most things in property, there are winners and losers - and no easy solutions.
‘So this place will be cheap then?’ Concludes F when we are back out by the gate and I’ve taken several snaps, none of which will hide the obvious without artifice and a risk of prosecution. I tell him my suggested number and he almost chokes.
If I’m right, he won’t be buying.
You can buy though, All-new property e-book for the price of a coffee