The Loneliness of the Long Distance Estate Agent

A statue of Rupert Brooke in Rugby
Image via Wikipedia

As the relatively golden age fades further into the distance, the thought of all those conversations about rising house prices feels like the moment in one of those dreams when you are seized by clarity and you say to yourself, wait a minute, there is no way I am getting married to an elephant… this opulent hotel lobby isn’t my school classroom…there’s no way I’d have left for work buck naked…- it’s all a dream!

I mean. You look back and you hear people talking about rising house prices a) as if it would go on forever; b) as if this were a good thing and the only difficulty was getting on to the property ladder; c) that there would be no negative consequences of this for anybody ever.

There were dissenting voices, I know, but what I am talking about here is the impression, looking back, of so many millions of conversations held where people talked about this guff as though all was well with the world. Of course, they were egged on by media outlets for which property-related advertising was an important source of revenue,  and politicians whose parties depended on property developers (a more appropriate term is needed for these people)  for contributions. I recall one ad in a newspaper which, serving up a clipping of a house selling for some IR£40,000 in the 1970s and now selling for £1m, strongly invited the reader to consider the possibility that a house worth €250,000 could, some years hence, be worth €28m (the figures are my rough recollection). Such a possibility still cannot be dismissed, but only in the context of Zimbabwe-style hyperinflation. Which is something we all hope for, if the IMF supplies us with a loan we can’t repay.

Anyway, it looks like things are looking up, up North:

Estate agent attacks house price fall forecasts – Belfast Today

Financial experts have predicted further turmoil in the housing market as job losses and repossessions mount during the recession.

But Mr Mitchell, attacking those predictions, said that the situation in England, Scotland and Wales – where values rose over a longer period of time and would therefore take longer to readjust – had been very different to that in the Province.

“In Northern Ireland our prices exploded over a short period of time and have reduced just as quickly,” he said.

“In our view there is therefore no basis to suggest our values will become further depressed.”

In Northern Ireland, the fact that the economy is going down the shitter is no basis for predicting a falling demand for houses. Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is that reading this is like when Rupert Brooke wondered if there was honey still for tea at the Old Vicarage at Grantchester. OK, I use ‘like’ loosely here, but there is still a sense of this old world, untouched by the ravages of the present, in the sight of estate agents talking up prices, and articles getting written about house values, as if all of that continued to matter. Me likey.


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February 2009
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