Recently, when attempting to purchase a large period detached house to live in, I found myself in the not unusual situation of having to fight off other interested parties, all making “best and final offers”.
The winning bid would not only offer the most money, but also have all their bank finance ready to go. Yet it seemed it was still not enough – the estate agent had an extra request if they were going to proceed with me.
“The vendor, who lives in South Africa, wishes to call and speak to you personally”, he confided.
“Oookay”, I hesitated. “What do I need to talk to him about?”
“You need to tell him that you have everything in place for the sale and that you LOVE the property”, the agent advised.
This desire for me to make a curious confession of love to secure a right to purchase struck me as amusing.
You very often hear a property purchase described as the most important financial transaction you will ever make, one that requires scrupulous research and a cool-headed, brutally rational assessment of the market and the building, factoring in purchase costs, repair costs, and upsides and downsides.
It all seems a long way removed from the emotional language of love, and many property investors go through life without ever once contemplating anything like an “emotional reaction” to a property.
Yet equally, for all those who believe that property is nothing but a matter of functionality, pragmatism and brutally logical analysis, there are those people who would never dream of buying somewhere unless they feel passionately about it.
All of this is a difficult matter to gauge and varies wildly from person to person. I must admit the majority of properties I have invested in are those places to which I feel little emotional tie. And yet, every now and again, there is one that is “love at first sight” and from which I would be pained to ever part from.
Once, in attempting to purchase a property about which I conceived an intense passion, I had the reverse experience to that which happened to me recently.
On that occasion, it was me who declared to the vendor that I “loved” his property and that he should choose me over any other potential purchaser because I would meticulously, lovingly look after it far into the future.
I imagined him returning in a few years’ time, pulling up his car outside, and beaming with pleasure that his proud possession was still being looked after so well. But comically, this vendor could not have been less interested. If someone offered him just an extra €10 I’m sure he would have sold to them instead.
He reminded me of a builder I once knew, who having put all his efforts into creating a beautiful house, sold it with the remark: “Once I have my money, they can put a match to it for all I care”.
Are we confused when we start to ascribe to our relationship with buildings similar emotions to those we feel in our relationships with other people? Perhaps. But there is also something soulless about passing through the world without feeling truly passionate about any of the buildings in which we spend our time, invest our money and attempt to stamp our personality.
And yet, for all the protestations of love, such sentiments rarely trump the power of cool, hard cash.
In my recent proposed transaction, due to some internal bank bureaucracy, the finance proved slow coming through, and the South African vendor immediately switched horses to someone else. He wanted to hear sounds of love, but first and foremost, he wanted to see signs of cash.
Damian Flanagan is a property developer, writer and critic.