House-hunting: the new Reality TV?

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The Independent Online

Why is it taking so long for your fashionable home to find a buyer? There is a novel new explanation from the estate agency Bradford & Bingley. It is because the phenomenal success of "Reality TV" has turned us into a nation of voyeurs with a chronic desire to snoop around in other people's lives.

Why is it taking so long for your fashionable home to find a buyer? There is a novel new explanation from the estate agency Bradford & Bingley. It is because the phenomenal success of "Reality TV" has turned us into a nation of voyeurs with a chronic desire to snoop around in other people's lives.

Nothing else will explain the apparently contradictory figures released today by the bowler-hatted high street property salesmen in their "Home Report". Houses now take an average of eleven weeks to sell – up two weeks on last year – but the average number of viewings booked by prospective buyers has gone up by 9 per cent since February.

Estate agents, looking for clues as to why the market has slowed down, are citing the recent hot weather and "the end-of-season football matches" as the culprits. They say that house-hunting is not a high priority when people can lie comatose in sunny parklands or cheer on Tranmere Rovers on a crowded terrace.

But after much head-scratching over the increased hordes of punters traipsing around "For Sale" properties without actually buying the house, the agents have concluded that we can't get enough of other people's dirty laundry. We have to face an uncomfortable truth: many British people's idea of fun is to spend a Saturday afternoon inspecting the contents of their neighbours' bathroom cupboards, bedside-table drawers and kitchen larders.

How this nosey-parker impulse derives from Big Brother – where checking out the state of the house comes a poor second to watching the human behaviour in the hot tub – may be a little hard to fathom. One thing that didn't affect the property market was the general election. A month of campaigning, name-calling and political passion had "little or no" discernible impact on people's decisions to sell or buy. Election? What election?

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