I have a problem with ‘property porn’




I dream in concrete. In my fantasy kitchen I have a poured concrete floor, a six-burner stove with a concrete splashback and bespoke terrazzo countertops by Granby Workshop. I languorously stir saucepans as my friends mill about, giggling. One traces her fingertips over the stark surfaces and remarks on how I’ve “softened” all the gray with the lovely rag rugs about the place. A heaving vase of mimosa sings brightly on the kitchen island. I’m getting carried away, because all this is fancy.

Considering the systemic ruin of housing in this country, I count myself extremely lucky to be able to rent privately in London. I live in a pleasant one-bedroom flat with my dog, because my landlady is decent: a kind, rational woman who understands that having an animal companion makes life tolerable. The rent and bills leave me with zero financial freedom each month, but I choose this – for now – so I can live alone. However, as I edge closer to 40, without the luxury of savings for a deposit, a stonking salary, rich parents or partner, against a backdrop of rising inflation and living costs, the reality of being a forever renter feels more crystalline.

Will I ever be able to step into a kitchen and think: you’re mine, what shall I do with you? Doubtful. And yet, I continue to pore over so-called “property porn” accounts on Instagram and properties on The Modern House or Wow Haus like I’m gathering inspiration; a psychic mood-board that’s going nowhere. Fellow renter friends and I share property links on Instagram with one-word messages like “sigh”, or the watery-eyed emoji. As we empty our bank accounts for someone else’s mortgage each month, using these images as metrics for what we’d like to have in life feels increasingly masochistic.

Of course, this isn’t just about interiors; it is about freedom. Yes, owning a property is an enormous financial commitment – ​​especially with a mortgage – but it comes with a degree of safety, capital and scope for flexing the primitive muscle of making a habitat of your own. It is a damning indication of our times that people are so bewitched by “property porn” – largely on social media – when housing is such a vulnerable concept for so many. There is nothing wrong with wanting lovely things, but as the algorithm saturates my Instagram feed with adorable DIY, expensively-painted walls and landscaped gardens, I wonder if this corner of the digital landscape needs some radical honesty.

I have recently noticed that some of The Modern House’s half-a-million Instagram followers have been commenting under listings about how tone-deaf some of the posts feel when so many are struggling. I generally try to avoid sounding bitter, but I do agree. It isn’t just property being advertised, but a lifestyle; the luxury of pondering how light might fill a room, being able to employ an architect, or simply being able to afford having a vision at all. I wonder, often, where the money comes from – especially when the home-owners are young, white, middle-class “creatives”.

To keep up to speed with all the latest opinions and comment sign up to our free weekly Voices newsletter by clicking here

When Kirstie Allsopp talked about aspiring homeowners making “sacrifices” to afford a deposit, like many, I thought about how shaming that word is. Only someone who has never known the existential weariness of being poor could posit that kind of moral hierarchy. It absolutely smacks of privilege. In reality, if you are financially struggling, so much emotional labor goes into every decision to spend a tiny bit extra on non-essential items once in a while: a nice coffee; a good loaf of bread; a candle. If anyone feels like not forsaking these tiny pockets of pleasure means they aren’t trying hard enough – which of course they do; I do – there is something deeply wrong happening.

With all this mind, how refreshing it would be to have disclaimers on all these “property porn” images about how someone has afforded what they have. If you earn a lot, fantastic: say so! If you got some inheritance, dare to make that clear! If you saved for a deposit, tell us how! If your parents gave you the money for a deposit – or paid your rent for a year so you could save your earnings – dare to be honest!

This taps into a much wider conversation about financial transparency and how sticky a subject money is for British people. No one wants to feel ashamed for having done well in life, particularly if they have worked hard or transcended difficulty. But might aspiring to own a property feel less shame-sodden if the blunt reality of what it takes in the UK today was laid bare?


www.independent.co.uk

Related Posts

George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *