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Property and Prejudice

 

Exactly two hundred years after Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice Nick Churton of Mayfair international Realty looks at how our dreams and aspirations in owning real estate may have changed. 

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single family in possession of a good mortgage must be in want of a house.  Jane Austen’s popular novel may have been about the importance of environment and upbringing on the development of young people's character and morality. But it also had a great deal to do with the acquisition of real estate.

Austen knew a thing or two about property, or at least the importance of owning it. Although her preferred route to possession would have been through marriage or inheritance, she would have understood about financing a home purchase through a mortgage as her life coincided with the advent of mutual building societies.

Austen understood that social status played a major role in owning or aspiring to own property. Above all perhaps, she understood that an individual’s or family’s financial circumstances played a pivotal role in determining where and how one lived - and how one was seen to live. She certainly knew the value of a fine location and the benefits that well-proportioned rooms and good natural light bestowed upon occupants.

This understanding seems as apt today as it was when Jane Austen was alive in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  The desire to house one’s self and/or one’s family comfortably, and the pleasure that a well-designed house gives to its owner - both socially and materially – seem largely unaltered.

But two things have changed.  Residential property no longer just demonstrates wealth but creates it, and thus makes it even more desirable.  But the banking and credit crisis has threatened the way many now think about owning property.  Today this means that, unless the governments and the banks husband the situation carefully and responsibly, for the first time in two hundred years it may only be the already well off who can realistically afford to buy property.

Mutual lenders were created to allow their members to buy homes.  Banks were created to make money for their shareholders.  The Mutuals were prudent and fiscally responsible.  Banks clearly haven’t been and are a perfect example of pride coming before a fall.  To extract themselves from the trouble they are in the banks now seem prejudiced against the very people the Mutual lenders were formed to assist.   Jane Austen could have written a book about it.