Viv Groskop: The perks of a life of Crimewatch

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The Independent Online

It's like the Scooby-Doo Mystery of property stories. Who is the owner of the Notting Hill townhouse bought for £950,000 in 1993 and sold for £35m this week? Could it be Simon Cowell, the multi-millionaire media mogul? Could it be Sir Alan Sugar, The Apprentice boss? Or could it be mild-mannered Nick Ross, Crimewatch presenter, philanthropist and one-time guest star on Are You Being Served?

It's always the quiet ones. And for TV viewers of the 1980s, it's exactly as Nick Ross taught us. Crime doesn't pay. Investing in an up-and-coming area and making shrewd adjustments, however? That'll be £34m profit, thanks.

Although there is no good reason for begrudging Ross his windfall, news of his extraordinary good fortune on London's property ladder is somewhat discomfiting. On one hand, it's none of our business. On the other... How much? Ah, he would have gotten away with it if it weren't for that pesky British obsession with house prices!

Having moved into Notting Hill in the 1980s, Ross and wife Sarah, a television producer, were looking for a house midway between BBC studios in Shepherd's Bush and Broadcasting House in central London. The house was bought during the 1993 slump for the knock-down sum of just under a million. In those days that was a hefty whack. But not even Peter Mandelson could have imagined the house's value would eventually rise by 3,783 per cent. Even with the swimming pool.

The coup of one television presenter is representative of the madness of property prices in the past 20 years. The unassuming Ross has benefited from one of the strangest bubbles in history. It's hardly his fault. But without victimising him personally, is it right that anyone can make a more than 3,500 per cent profit on anything? It's not.

One final thought. Forget £35m. A £950,000 house in 1993? For presenting Crimewatch? That's a lot of Scooby snacks. Who knew?