Buying a house and what 1980 thought it might look like

Cathy Linacre

Head of Reference Service (RICS)

I came across a wonderful article from 1980 in the old RICS journal 'Chartered Surveyor'. In it, Partner at John P Dickins and Sons Peter Leigh imagines what "buying a house in the year 2005" might be like. What did he get right? What are we doing now and what was wide of the mark? Is there anything he imagined that you’d still like to happen — hovercar anyone?

Buying a house in the year 2005

Buying a house in the year 2005

I glanced at my watch and mentally noted the time, 14.32 May 2005, as my wife and I paused outside our local estate agent’s window to look at the video films of some of the properties that had caught our eye before entering. We were already armed with sheets of various agents’ glossy coloured sales particulars which my wife had arranged on the video phone to be communicated to the tele-printer at my own office after I had made an initial selection from Prestel one evening at home. What a change I reflected from the traipsing round in 1969 when we bought our first home.

The door opened easily as we passed through the beam into the reception area where several computer terminals placed on low tables surrounded by easy chairs allowed customers to punch in the requirements to the computer linked to the European network. A girl stepped forward to ask if she could help.

“We have already recorded our requirements and would like to see the manager”, I explained.

“I am afraid that manager is out supervising another branch and his assistant is out inspecting a property”, she said apologetically. It would be a long time before a robot could be invented to take sales particulars more economically than a human,  I reflected, even if they had taken over most manufacturing jobs.

“I really want to discuss the price of this bungalow, it seems rather high, bearing in mind the work needed for modernisation”, I said. The girl looked back blankly, obviously unfamiliar with the property whose sales particulars I was waving under her nose. Just at that moment she was saved by the entrance of a smart looking gentleman clutching a pocket size tape recorder and a laser measure.

“Good afternoon, we were just asking this lady for information about this bungalow in Cherry Tree Road”, I stated.

“Do please come and sit down.” He ushered us to his desk. “Now how can I help you?” he asked.

“Well it’s the price – there is so much needing doing to it”, I said, “it hasn’t got a fall-out shelter, my wife couldn’t possibly manage without a modern computerised kitchen and the thermal insulation and whole heating system is old fashioned and definitely sub-standard”, I continued. “I should estimate that it will cost 20,000 Eurodollars to put it right, that is assuming my surveyor finds nothing seriously wrong, after all it is pre-World War Two.”

“Well, Mr Leigh, a lot of people are showing interest and I don’t think the vendor is particularly anxious yet, but I will be happy to pit an offer forward”, replied the assistant.

As we walked back to our hovercar I reflected that some things hadn’t changed for centuries, the skills of the sales negotiator were just the same, and I mentally congratulated myself on the lower price that I had persuaded the agent to consider.

What about another 25 years?

How different do you think house buying might be in another 25 years? Will estate agencies still exist? How will we get to them? What will our houses look like? How will we buy them?

In 1980, I suspect I’d have said “answers on a postcard please”, but for these modern times, please add your comments below.

Comments (1)

  1. Hmmm - spot on I think - had similar experience this week. Same responses, same figures - god bless the Pound - some things (might) never change. As I returned to my trusty VW Golf (though untrustworthy manufacturer) I wished it too hovered over the shocking roads abounding our borough.

    Andrew Thomas Andrew Thomas, 11 October 2016 11 at 09:43AM

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