Huw Lewis Column

The Journal (Newcastle, England), June 6, 2005 | Go to article overview

Huw Lewis Column


Byline: By Huw Lewis

Money does funny things to the human brain. Not even money ( just the concept of money, the mere thought of getting it or losing it.

If I am given too much change by a shop assistant, I consider it simple good luck. But if the same shop assistant short-changes me, I instinctively suspect it was no innocent mistake, that I am being ripped off.

My spine bristles, I become nervy and antagonistic as I demand redress, relaxing only when the error is rectified with a cheery apology.

Then take speed cameras: Does the unjustified outrage we feel at being nabbed stem from the realisation we are going to have to write a cheque for pounds 60 as a result?

We condemn these cameras as backdoor taxation, a conspiracy by government to part us from our well-deserved earnings.

This neatly sidesteps any guilt we might have about driving at a speed that would prove fatal to any child that stumbled suddenly into our path.

But the filthy lucre shows its full power to corrupt when it comes to buying and selling homes a because the amounts involved are so huge, and yet so unreal.

I once knew an estate agent who struggled to see through a deal on a pounds 500,000 house because the would-be buyer insisted the seller left the dishwasher behind as a "fixture and fitting".

This was 10 years ago, when pounds 500,000 was quite something and a pounds 250 dishwasher hardly a hill of beans.

After several days of heated phone calls, my friend finally broke the impasse by going out and buying a second, identical, dishwasher himself and taking it to the house.

Common sense? Up to a point. He earned his commission and a hefty bonus for the month off the back of the sale. It was still all about the money, though at least he could put it into context. People say selling your home is a uniquely stressful experience because of the emotional ties you have to it. I suspect it is the money-grubbing involved that really drives up the blood pressure.

Estate agents today will tell you the houses hardest to shift are those priced between pounds 300,000 and pounds 500,000, because many owners are unwilling to compromise on the initial valuation they get, to accept an offer a few thousands pounds light. …

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