Twelve years later we moved to Shropshire and sold our beloved Tooting house for £375k. Seriously. We couldn’t believe it. There was a huge crack where the kitchen was supposed to join onto the house. We honestly thought it was pretty much worthless.
We bought a house in Shropshire for £330k. Basically, through no effort on our part, we had effectively become mortgage-free homeowners. And this from someone who spent his twenties believing property was theft.
We’ve been in Shropshire for nine years, and the Tooting house is now worth £750k. We’re basically running out of numbers for a house that was originally designed for nurses from nearby St Georges hospital. Our Shropshire house, meanwhile, is still worth £330k, with a generous tailwind, or at least were any prospective buyers not to arrive when the farmer’s spreading the muck.
Which puts selling the London house right up there as one of the worst business decisions I’ve ever made. We sold in 2007. I knew there was a big banking crash coming and, honestly, I thought I was being clever, I thought we were getting out of peak London. What a twat.
Everyone who has ever sold a house in London and moved away feels like this. Regardless of what fortunes we may have made from what is plainly one of the stupidest, most divisive, damaging bubbles of greed and government mismanagement imaginable, we still all sit around thinking about the profits we failed to crystallise.
My mother probably put it best. She owes her good fortune in later life almost entirely to Thatcher’s right to buy, which she parlayed up into access to a middle class lifestyle. A long time before that, when I was four, my father had left her in a ground floor flat in Clapham old town; a flat she was offered but couldn't afford to buy for three groats and a farthing, and which is now worth at least one and a half million pounds. Then again, as she puts it, what you need to remember is, back then it was a slum.