The last ten years have been a rollercoaster for property worldwide, and nowhere more so than in Britain. Six years ago, we couldn't sell our central London flat for love nor money. When we eventually did, and started to look for another property, all of a sudden the market went crazy and we found ourselves looking into the abyss of rising property prices and lack of stock. We seemed to be the classic victims of bad timing. Two and a half painful years later, having sat it out and sweated buckets in the process, we finally landed our dream home, simply by dint of being liquid - well, more liquid than the newly illiquid-Lehman employees. Everything's relative I guess, and property is remarkably democratic when it comes to hard cash.
Two further years on, and we are very happy in our home, thank you. But from the safety of my sitting room and with the confidence that comes from having a roof over your head, I spy a very different property landscape. On the surface it looks a bit grim. Mortgage lending down, housing sales down, a general lack of confidence in housing as the cash cow it has always proved, medium to long term. So far, it looks just like a repeat of the boom/bust scenario.
But scratch a bit further and you have to ask, is this actually such a bad state of affairs? Short term, this is just taking the froth out of the market, and as much as anything else, teaching us all a very valuable lesson. Since when did property ownership take the place of working for a living? Why did we allow ourselves to believe that property values could only ever go up, and quickly at that? And have we, in the process, allowed ourselves to lose sight of the real meaning of home?
For me the answer came in the form of paint. When we moved two years ago, it marked the end of my particular road, of having moved seven times in 10 years, and always with a view to a profit. As i turned the key in the door of our property, I realised that this was home, as opposed to a house, and that it would reflect everything about me. Out went the magnolia, in came colour - lots of it - joyful amounts in fact - and my rainbow home was born.
In a similar way, and with my decorating hat on, I see colour creeping in everywhere in interiors. People seem to have decided to make the best of their enforced stay in one place - actually, they appear to be embracing it - and choosing to make their homes a true reflection of their tastes and individuality, as opposed to suppressing it. The market has, albeit unwittingly, encouraged a return to nesting. We may be slightly poorer in terms of the value of our homes, or the speed with which they increase in value, but it could be that we are, at last, truly 'at home' with ourselves and our surroundings.
For more ideas and information on Alison Cork, visit www.alisoncork.com. For money-saving ideas and inspiration for the home, visit Alison's website www.homesandbargains.co.uk.
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