This isn’t a problem I really have to consider at length. I haven’t won anything. But I did get asked this question in an online survey I was taking, recently. First it asked what I’d spend £1m on. That was easy. I’d clear my mortgage, quit my job, retrain and/or start my own business doing something.
But the next question was the big one. £100m! What would you spend it on? To start with, the same. Clear mortgages, etc. But it’s £100m! I’d never need to work again. I could clear the mortgage of everyone I know, and barely make a dent in it. There’s the old thing about giving some to family/friends, etc. but still – you would have a lot left.
So the next thing that came to mind was so odd, I thought I’d share it here.
If you’ve ever been ill, unemployed, or worked unusual shifts, you’ll undoubtedly have seen the TV programme Homes Under The Hammer. The premise is that people go to auctions, buy houses, do them up and sell them on. The entire show is geared towards profit though. Buy a house, do it up, and then sell it on or rent it out for profit. I watch this for the same reasons as everyone else – it’s on TV, it’s an excuse to nose around old dilapidated houses, and also to see if they’ve managed to find a background song to tenuously fit with EVERY SINGLE LINE of dialogue the show contains.
One of the reasons I dislike this show though, is that people very rarely fail to make money. Channel 4’s property expert Sarah Beeny used to present a TV show called Property Ladder in which budding developers were supposed to buy a house, do it up and sell it on for profit. And then repeat the procedure. All for profit. She would give her advice throughout about how to get a good quality finish without spending a fortune, and the wannabe developers would ignore her entirely, do crazy things like spending £15,000 on a bathroom suite they really liked (forgetting they’re meant to be selling the house and so won’t get to use it anyway), and at the end find out that if they sold it, they’d make a loss. And so then they would live in it instead and realise developing wasn’t for them. Great TV!
Location Location Location is a show where people are just finding somewhere to live. The people on it are ordinary people with too many children for a 2-bedroom house, or who want to (finally!) buy instead of renting forever, or where they need to be closer to an elderly relative, or nearer to a new job, or want to spend less time commuting and actually see their own friends and family. It’s people who just need a different house. And Phil Spencer and Kirsty Allsopp are there to help, while bickering and flirting in equal measure, like the old romantic couple they’ve apparently* never been. (*Really? Never?!)
But most people on Homes Under The Hammer don’t need these properties. They don’t really care. They’re on it to make money. And they almost always do make money. Sometimes the renovations aren’t even very good. People sometimes split a building into flats, or fit them out like budget offices, devoid of any homely charm, and sell them on for profit because the prices have increased in the area since they bought it, or rent them out because first time buyers can’t afford to buy anything due to the extortionate costs of property in the UK in 2014, in-part driven by a serious shortage of houses.
So then I start to hope it goes wrong. I think about those cash-poor first time buyers, and how all these cheap houses are being snapped up by developers. I think about how lots of poorer people are missing out on the option of buying a cheap house and renovating it little by little, as their relatives almost certainly did in the past. I sit there hoping that the developers pay too much for it, pour thousands of pounds into ugly renovations, or can’t sell it. Or that the valuation from estate agents says they’ve lost money. But it almost never happens.
Very occasionally, there’s one that isn’t about profit. Some of my favourite episodes have been ones where the people buying have said from the start that they don’t care about making money – they just want somewhere to live. And the presenters have to diplomatically (but awkwardly) keep bringing the questions back to profit. They have to get estate agents in to ask “yes, but how much COULD they make if they sold it?” and “if they rented it out, how much income COULD they get per calendar month? And isn’t that an impressive rental yield!”
So what would I spend my £100m on? One of the first thoughts I had was that I could go on Homes Under The Hammer and really screw the whole concept up. I could stand there, bidding on every property, without even seeing it. Just imagine that. There’s an auctioneer, poised to close the auction on another crumbling piles of bricks. “Are we all done at £40,000?” and one voice from the back goes “I’ll give you £100,000!”
On every single property. Repeatedly outbidding every other cash-buyer.
And then I’d do them all up really nice. And after they had told me the rental yield and potential profit, I’d sell them all. Not at auction. By some kind of application system, where I assess potential buyers, and sell to people with the most need, for less than similar properties. I could and probably would make a loss on every house. But wouldn’t it be fun?