As the big finance institutions get twitchy enough to meet with the Chancellor to discuss the credit crunch, many will be focusing on how it impacts on the property market.
We’ve already seen some of the ridiculous 100% and even 125% mortgages withdrawn as lenders begin to realise the folly of such deals now that they are returning to bite them hard on the backside.
Little wonder that some are portraying the current property maket as the gloomiest for 30 years.
So what does this all mean for some of the other leading players in the UK housing market – the TV property shows?
For the last decade or more the likes of Location, Location, Location, Property Ladder, Escape to the Country and To Buy Or Not To Buy have profited from the property boom – not to mention the likes of A Place in the Sun, offering a new life abroad.
Such shows have prospered as the market has gone from strength to strength.
The shows they produce have accurately reflected the changing nature of the property market and society as a whole. But they have also helped to create a whole new set of aspirations for today’s housebuyers.
There was a time, not so long ago, when Location… helped first-time buyers and those on the lower rungs of the property ladder to find a new place to live. They still do, rarely, but these days the budgets of the home-buyers and their aspirations are so much grander than they were a few years ago.
The housebuyers on today’s programmes have bugets closer to telephone numbers – including international dial codes in some cases – and are happy to add a little bit here and there to get their dream property. There’s always encouragement to go over budget, but little talk of crippling mortgage repayments or whether the property of their dreams is actually worth the money they are prepared to pay.
So are we fuelling the property shows, or are they fuelling our unrealistic ambitions?
Virtually everyone featured on these shows today has a checklist of requirements that includes:
- a spacious family kitchen where everyone can gather together (no doubt to indulge in some Nigella Lawson-style lifestyle cookery and eating);
- a play room (when did kids stop playing in their bedrooms?);
- absolutely no road noise whatsoever, but quick links to the motorway so they can commute to work;
- en-suite bathrooms for at least 2 of the 4 or 5 bedrooms;
- a study-cum-fitness room-cum-home office-cum cinema;
- more storage space than could fit in the Tardis.
As the checklists have become more prententious, so have some of the househunters.
There was a time when the househunters on Location… were happy with a built-in wardrobe. These days they want a walk-in changing room between the master bedroom and the en-suite wetroom with his ‘n hers sinks that are designed to an inch of their usefulness.
Why? There are still plenty of first-time buyers out there and those attempting to climb the property ladder and there is a strong argument to say they need expert help more than ever.
But is it now too hard even for the likes of the Beeny, Kirsty and Phil and all the rest to help those with budgets that don’t stretch to six figures?
More likely is that it doesn’t make interesting or glamorous enough TV these days for viewers fed a diet of rampant consumerism and lifestyle tips that create unrealistic and unattainable aspirations.
There are some slightly more realistic shows out there. The Beeb’s Homes Under the Hammer tends to show more affordable properties, although it will be interesting to know how many are put up for auction because of repossession.
So, where does the credit crunch, the Northern Rock debacle, the £50bn contingency fund and the crisis talks between lenders and the Chancellor leave these shows?
Is it realistic or responsible to continue searching for the aspirational dream property if the bubble is about to burst in truly spectacular style?
Are ratings and revenue too important to start focusing back on first-time buyers and those on the lower rungs of the property ladder?
Most importantly, how will C4, BBC and others fill their schedules if we witness a massive property crash?
Reposessions, Reposessions, Reposessions, possibly coming to a channel near you very soon.