It seemed impossible to get through 10 minutes conversation - let alone a whole dinner party - without some self-appointed sage telling you how he (normally) had managed to buy his flat at just the right moment, and how much it was now worth. A few years of rollercoaster interest rates and a thumping dose of negative equity soon took care of that.
But how have the real experts fared? We asked two people whoshould know what they are talking about - for details of their own experience on the housing market.
Ronnie Macauley, senior manager at Bank of Scotland Mortgages Direct, has enjoyed 21 years of near-perfect property deals, more through good luck than good judgement, he says.
It all started in 1975 when Mr Macauley bought the family's first home - a flat on the south side of Glasgow - for pounds 5,000. Within a year, they had sold up for just over pounds 10,000.
Next, a terraced house, also in Glasgow. Mr Macauley says: "We saw the property on the Tuesday, surveyed it on the Wednesday morning, had an offer in on Wednesday afternoon, and by the evening, it was signed, sealed and delivered. We sold about four years later and, again, almost doubled our money."
The family sold at this point because Mr Macauley had been reassigned by the bank to work in Chelmsford. Once again, their luck held. They bought their Chelmsford house for pounds 47,000 in 1985, and sold for well over pounds 100,000 four years later. Mr Macauley has since gone back to the area and seen some houses there that have lost a third of their value and been on the market since 1989. "I think we were probably the last people [who got] out," he says. "From there, I bought a new property in Scotland, and that immediately went up in value as well."
Mr Macauley now has a four-bedroom detached house in Linlithgow, West Lothian, within a half-hour drive of his relatives in Glasgow and his work in Edinburgh. Couple this with the very attractive mortgage deal he has had with the bank since 1972, and the rest of us could be forgiven a brief spasm of envy.
Simon Tyler, marketing director at mortgage brokers Chase de Vere, bought his four-bedroom house in Cobham, Surrey, for pounds 78,000 in 1984, and has been busy extending the place ever since.
His original pounds 60,000 loan, with the Woolwich Building Society, was a variable rate one, but he has had a succession of fixed-rate loans with a variety of lenders ever since. These have included an 11 per cent fix with First Mortgage Securities (1987 -1991), a 10.5 per cent fix with the Portman (1991-1994) and a 5.5 per cent fix with the Portman (1994- 1996). He is now on a 4.99 per cent fix, with the Portman.
Meanwhile, the house has gradually grown, adding a bathroom, a playroom for the family's three children, a study, a dining room and a much bigger kitchen. Mr Tyler estimates the house is now worth about pounds 220,000, and is confident his collection of endowment policies will comfortably pay off the pounds 140,000 mortgage.
He says the attraction of the fixed rate is its predictability. "When you've got children, you've got lots of expenses relating to them, including school fees. You want to be sure all your accounts are in order as best they can be. I dare say we could have moved in the past and bought a larger property, rather than expand the one we've got.I'd rather be living in a rather more modest house and be able to make sure the educational costs are covered. The school fees are bigger than my mortgage, and that's a significant chunk of anyone's budget."
Of all the extensions to the house, Mr Tyler seems to appreciate his en suite bathroom the most. "You get fed up getting into baths full of toys," he says.
All the fixed rates Mr Tyler has enjoyed on his mortgage were available to the general public. But he acknowledges that the volume of mortgage business Chase de Vere puts through with the various lenders may have helped him get particularly good service. "They've eased the way," he says.