A mortgage of convenience?

I RETURNED from my fact- finding mission to California to discover the Snug Bar at the Fount of All Knowledge awash with champagne.

My assumption that this was in celebration of my safe return was mistaken. In fact, the merriment was in recognition of the decision by two of the regulars to tie the knot. Pedro and Grumpy Spice are getting married. Pedro claims that this was the price to be paid for cancelling a family barbecue in order to watch the World Cup third-place play-off between Croatia and Holland. I am not convinced.

My guess is that it is more a marriage of convenience. Pedro has for a long time worried not just about premature hair loss but also about housing. He figures that it will be easier to find somewhere to live as a married couple than as a pair of sinners.

I am not persuaded by his logic. There may have been a time in the dim and distant past when there was some kind of nuptial premium but not any longer. There may be mortgage products and housing packages for newly weds but I am not aware of them. The only incentives I am aware of are aimed at first-time buyers not first-time betrothals.

Years ago there was a significant tax disincentive to getting married. Those were the days when mortgage relief was available to two single people but only one married couple.

Nigel Lawson put an end to all that and created a most unfortunate housing boom in the process. That boom became the bust from which the market is still recovering.

Indeed the morality tax imposed by Mr Lawson is one of the reasons why I have found it so difficult to find somewhere to live. The most recent boom has been based on a grim determination by estate agents to put the last housing slump well behind them.

So while the Marriage of Pedro will be greeted with fiscal neutrality as far as his mortgage is concerned, I am not convinced that he will find any other great housing benefits awaiting him after the honeymoon. He can expect no special treatment from the estate agent fraternity. If anything, they frown upon newlyweds. "Today's fiancee is tomorrow's divorcee" is their motto and divorcees are notoriously bad for house prices. A distressed relationship becomes a distressed sale at knock-down prices. That is bad for business.

Nor can he expect preferential treatment from vendors. The sight of a homeless newlywed couple does not tug at the heartstrings of those whose interest stretches not far beyond early completers, those without a chain and cash buyers.

There is no doubt that mortgage providers will be pleased to see both Pedro and Grumpy Spice but that is very much in their capacity as first- time buyers rather than as bride and groom.

Still it is not for me to inject a chilling reality into the warmth of their celebrations. Besides, I am told that the wedding breakfast is expected to be "a bit of a do". I have no intention of putting my invitation to that in jeopardy.

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