It’s like the Scooby-Doo Mystery of property stories. Who is the mysterious owner of the 1908 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 with a host of properties around the globe? Could it be Sir Alan Sugar, The Apprentice boss with an eye for a hot investment deal? Or could it be mild-mannered Nick Ross, Crimewatch presenter, philanthropist (I should think so) and one-time guest star on Are You Being Served?
It’s always the quiet ones. And for television viewers of the 1980s, it’s exactly as Nick Ross has taught us. Crime doesn’t pay. Investing in an up-and-coming area at the right time and making shrewd adjustments with extensive renovations, however? That’ll be £34m profit, thanks.
Although there is no good reason for begrudging Nick Ross his windfall – he’s just been lucky – news of his extraordinary good fortune on London’s on-the-never-never property ladder is somewhat discomfiting. So 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 substantial house midway between the BBC studios in Shepherd’s Bush and Broadcasting House in central London. The house was bought during the 1993 slump for the supposedly knock-down sum of just under a million.
In those days, that was a hefty whack. But no one – no, not even Peter Mandelson – could have imagined that the house would eventually rise in value by 3,800 per cent. Even with the handy addition of an underground swimming pool. The new owner is like something out of a novel, the son of a Syrian-Saudi billionaire whose sister got married at Versailles with 700 guests and Robbie Williams as her wedding singer.
The coup of one television presenter is representative of the madness of property prices in the past 20 years. It’s unimaginable that 50 years ago anyone would have made such a killing. And they never will again. The unassuming, affable Ross has benefited from one of the strangest bubbles in history. It’s hardly his fault. And to his credit, the profits will be split between his children and charity.
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. We need a corrective to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself. Doubling your money on your house is plenty. Times by 40? That signals insanity. And someone somewhere carrying a lot of debt. Oh.
One final thought. Forget £35m. A £950,000 house in 1993? For presenting Crimewatch? That’s a lot of Scooby snacks. Who knew?