Donald MacInnes: Time to hand in the beloved Merc and buy a Skoda
In The Red
Donald MacInnes writes Tales from the Water Cooler, which can be found every Saturday on page 2 of i. And, although a financial near-imbecile, he writes a weekly column in The Independent’s Money section, also on Saturdays. He writes regularly on a broad range of subjects in i’s Freeview section and occasionally fills in on Simon Kelner’s daily column when emotionally up to it. @DonaldAMacInnes
Friday 23 August 2013
You fortunate hordes outwith the odours of London town may not appreciate this, but getting a foot on the housing ladder here isn't straightforward. I therefore find myself on the cusp of mid-life having never owned property. In the 15 years I have been living in London, I have been relieved of more than £120,000 by a parade of obsequious landlords and landladies. This may be why the rest of the country refers to London as the Smoke, as this is what your money goes up in.
In the capital, more so than in any other part of the country, unless you have unlimited funds the limitations on your choice when it comes to house purchasing are not how many bricks and how much mortar you want, or how many rooms, or whether or not it has a garden, but more where you want it to be. I could probably have bought a house several years ago, but I liked the area in which I was renting and didn't want to live in one of London's myriad peripheral suburban sprawls, miles from anywhere. I have chosen location and sacrificed ownership. In essence, I suppose, I would rather hire a Mercedes than own a Skoda.
But things are on the turn. My wife and I are in the process of buying a house and I couldn't be happier. But the pressures of affordability in London are ongoing and I frequently find myself gazing northwards and idly fantasising about what kind of value for money we could get in Glasgow. I know it's a pointless exercise, but the difference in what we can afford in London as opposed to what we could get in Glasgow is enormous. For the price of a two-bedroomed flat in London, we could afford a three-bedroomed detached villa in my home town – the kind of house I used to drive past and wonder who could afford to live there. The answer, I suppose, is me.
But this regional disparity is nothing new. I heard the nicest story from my oldest friend in Glasgow. He told me that his mother- and father-in-law bought a couple of return bus tickets from Glasgow to Aberdeen for the bargain price of 50p each. And that even included a cup of tea or coffee. And a scone! If house prices don't make me pine for the financial common sense of the Old Country, this definitely does…
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