This video sums up everything that’s wrong with Britain’s housing market
At first glance, the Rightmove listing for The Laurels, a five-bedroom house in Hockliffe, just outside Leighton Buzzard, doesn’t look out of the ordinary. Pictures show a spacious living room with sofas and a beamed ceiling. A slightly eccentric mix of furnishings, but nothing to have Kevin McCloud turning up his nose. The asking price is £700,000. Not unreasonable for a good-sized family home on the outskirts of a commutable Bedfordshire market town, you might think.
Look further, however, and things get weird. Swipe to the fourth picture and you’ll find a video, the ‘laurels walkthrough tour,’ subtitled ‘The never ending property.’ A synthy beat starts up, over footage of the property. A blonde woman, who it turns out is the estate agent, Claire Cossey, appears and opens her pipes. Talk about going for a song.
“This old house, there’s so much here to seeeeee,” she croons. What she lacks in vocal nuance she makes up for in raw eccentricity. “Living room, all covered with these beeammmms. Air-source heat pump fitted, and solar panels too; with its own small business, there is so much you can do… the never ending property!”
Yes, it’s the first song I’ve heard with a lyric about heat pumps too.
Thus begins the oddest but most relatable three minute film you are likely to see this year. This is apparently not the first video Claire has made, but it is the first to go viral. We are taken on a tour of the house, while our chanson advertises its many selling points. Clearly she cannot believe that the world is not scrambling for the chance to take this property off her hands.
Watch the video below:
There’s a garden! A hot tub! A dog-grooming salon! Wait, what? No sooner have you stopped wondering why there is a TV suspended on two wooden gate posts in one of the rooms than you wonder what she means by “stranger things have happened here” when she gestures at the bed. Is that about sex? For that matter, why is this called the “never ending property”?
Like any good estate agent, our singing narrator doesn’t shy from confronting the handful of drawbacks with the property: chiefly that it appears to be situated on the hard shoulder of the A5. Through the windows, we can see a stream of traffic passing by behind her shoulder. “One more thing, the road outside is neaarrrr, but don’t despair, inside that isn’t clear,” she says, alluding to the quality of the sound insulation and gesturing to a sleeping form under a duvet.
This house has evidently sent the estate agent mad. But haven’t houses sent all of us mad? “An Englishman’s home is his castle” is often mistaken for a point of pride, when in fact it is a diagnosis. There is no good reason for your house to be a source of strength, except if you bought at such a fortuitous time that your house has become a huge pot of unearned wealth. Sadly this has been true for two generations of Brits, who have become used to the idea that if they hold on long enough, the value of their home will grow and grow, like a gnarled old shark.
It’s no longer true. As interest rates rise, and mortgages become more expensive, the market for properties is on the edge of a cliff. Many sellers are still teetering on the edge, holding out for as long as possible before they accept a lower offer. Buyers, similarly, are waiting for the sellers to blink, the classic game of chicken that presages a crash. For renters, the situation is even more precarious, but they can at least enjoy the schadenfreude of watching owners taking haircuts.
The Laurels may only be one house, but really it is all houses, and “the never ending property” is a haunting parable of Britain in 2023. As a nation, we still want to believe we are a gorgeous Nash mansion, fending off a queue of glamorous international buyers. In fact we are a jumbled DFS horror show outside Leighton Buzzard, baffled that we can't get a nibble. There’s a price for everything, but it’s not what we’re asking, no matter how many songs we sing.