Homes Under the Hammer should come with a health warning. It’s highly addictive. Once you start watching, you must see what happens next. Whoosh! An hour of your life has disappeared like that. The premise of Homes Under the Hammer is that we follow a property that is about to be auctioned. Once auctioned we see the transformation that happens to the property to make the hovel into a habitable dwelling.
It all starts with the presenters. First is their pack leader, Martin Roberts. He is charm personified. He glides around properties that look like that they should be condemned with all the smarm of years of flogging houses gives you. He is joined by Lucy Alexander and, bizarrely, former footballer Dion Dublin extoling the virtues of property auctions.
Homes Under the Hammer is like all property programmes selling a dream. This is what you could do if you have a spare £200,000 knocking about or if you fancying paying off debts for the rest of your life. It also feeds into the British obsession with owning property by whatever means. It doesn’t matter what the property is like, acquisition is everything.
Most of the properties aren’t in bad nick on Homes Under the Hammer. They do sometimes show some right humdingers. People buy them without even looking at them which is highly suspicious if you ask me. Most of the buyers who buy the properties are well seasoned property developers. They look a bit bewildered at being hauled in front of the camera to justify their actions.
So far so mundane. However it’s the choice of music that makes Homes Under the Hammer stand apart. Some producer somewhere needs to take credit for this. Highlights for me was when we discovered the buyer was a retired admiral, the conversation was faded out with the sounds of “Sailing” by Rod Stewart. Also in another episode when Martin was saying that the property had a dodgy boiler. Cue Nelly singing “It’s getting hot in here! So, take off all your clothes…” I still snigger when I think of it.
Of course, most of the properties are transformed in a matter of months. The estate agents that had previously condemned the property are brought back to marvel at it. The price has increased. The owners have a tenant that is paying more than the estate agents had said. Everyone is happy. That’s exactly how it is when you buy a property isn’t it? No trouble at all.
The reality of all this is somehow different. The pressure that estate agents, mortgage fixers, solicitors, vendors et al inflict on this antiquated process is horrendous. Everyone wants a piece of the pie at double quick speed. The myth that these programmes portray is damaging. You feel inferior for not owning a property which is wrong. Owning a property shackles you. You are accepting a debt that is with you for thirty years. This isn’t something that should seen as light hearted and so easy that all you need to do is turn up at an auction, wave your paddle and have Homes Under the Hammer film you getting into bigger and bigger debt.
For all the funny songs, behind the grin of the presenters, there is a dark side to Homes Under the Hammer. It’s a bit like Hotel California. You can check in at any time you like, but you’ll never leave.
Two weeks after my eye op, I was back in the eye clinic. Escape to the Country was on the wide screen. I was trying to ignore it by playing Tetris on my phone.
“Anna Read?” said a woman who clearly wasn’t Mr T.
I followed her into the consulting room.
“I’m afraid that Mrs T is off sick so I will be examining you today.”
She didn’t give her name. I place my chin in the eye examining contraption. She shone a light into my left eye and asked me to look to the right.
“Well the good news is that the ulcer has reduced in size considerably. You need to keep on applying the ointment and return to clinic in two weeks’ time.”
“What about my stitches?”
“Mmmm…well if you were my patient, I would take them out. However, as you are with Mrs T, I think she should have a say on if they should come out or not.”
“So, you are going to leave them in?”
“For now, yes. But they will come out in two weeks’ time.”
I nodded. We bid our farewells and off I trotted.
Two weeks later I was back. This time a weird quiz show was on the wide screen. I had just got to grip with the rules when my name was called out.
Mrs T was back, leaning against the door of her consulting room.
We exchanged pleasantries and I sat in front of the eye examining contraption.
Mrs T examined my left eye.
“Good good. It’s healed up nicely. Take the eye drops three times a day and I’ll see you in a month.”
“But… what about my stitches?”
“We can’t take them out because you have an incomplete blink. If we do, you’ll get an ulcer again.”
“So, you are saying that I have to have my left eye half stitched up for the rest of my life?”
She frowned. She examined the stitches. This wasn’t going as she had planned.
“It’s interesting to see that the surgeon decided to do it that way. I would have done it differently myself…”
She proceeded to get quite technical explaining the different surgical techniques that could be used for sewing up eyes. It did nothing to get rid of the stitches in my eye.
“Ok… we’ll take a photo of your eye. Come back in a month and we’ll talk about it then. You can go home once your picture has been taken.”
She led me to another waiting room and promptly disappeared. A very nice young man led me to another room and took a photo of my eye. He said I would receive written confirmation of my appointment in a months’ time. I left, slightly peeved, deciding that Mrs T had now been given a yellow card. Another performance like that and it could turn red.