I live in Hackney. I rent a room as part of a house share and have been there for the best part of two years. Turns out the place is being sold, another part of the ‘Hackney housing bubble’. Here’s an imagined scene between a couple of buyers and an estate agent. I wrote it very quickly and in frustration so excuse its roughness…
IMAGINED CONVERSATION DURING THE SALE OF A HOUSE IN HACKNEY.
THE SPARSE BASEMENT ROOM OF A PROPERTY IN EAST LONDON. IT HAS SEEN BETTER DAYS- THE PAINT IS CHIPPED AND THE WALLPAPER DROOPS NEAR THE CEILING. THE LIGHTS DON’T WORK PROPERLY. PERHAPS THERE IS DAMP.
ANNE, AN ESTATE AGENT, GUIDES MARK AND SARAH, A YOUNG COUPLE, INTO THE ROOM.
ANNE: Wouldn’t call it a bubble, no, far too many
MARK: A bubble yeah
ANNE: Too many connotations
MARK: That’s what we heard
ANNE: We don’t like to think like that
SARAH: So do we wait for it to pop or
ANNE: Really great features (FLICKS A LIGHT SWITCH. IT DOES NOTHING.)
SARAH: The bubble? I mean, will prices go down?
ANNE: Hard to say, it just keeps going up and up and
MARK: Yeah, we heard but
ANNE: Are you in a chain?
MARK: No, her mum
SARAH: My mum, yes, she died you see
ANNE: So sorry
SARAH: Yes she died and she didn’t want to give any to my dad because well
ANNE: So sorry
MARK: Her dad was a bit of a shit, you know? Total bastard
MARK: What? He was.
SARAH: Was there any need?
ANNE: Still, every cloud…
But you’re not dependent on a sale so
SARAH: The inheritance, it was quite
MARK: Get our foot on the ladder
SARAH: Exactly. I think she’d be happy that we’re spending it on
ANNE: Exactly. Exactly. This area’s had a lot of work
MARK: She’d never live here though
ANNE: Lots of regeneration, really transformed
MARK: She wouldn’t
SARAH: At least it’s not south
ANNE: Yes, although it’s up and coming
SARAH: Not south, she hated south
ANNE: Londoner, was she?
ANNE: Your mum. She was from London?
SARAH: Not from there, just lived there
ANNE: You said she hated
SARAH: She did. Her last few years were
MARK: Hated everything
SARAH: She was miserable. I think a lot of it was regret.
SARAH: She grew up in Islington, sold the house in the 70s
ANNE: Oh dear
SARAH: I mean, they weren’t to know
MARK: This area, you said there’d been, what’s it
ANNE: Regeneration. Oh yes. Barely any of the problems
SARAH: That’s good. People say bad things about gentrification
ANNE: Yes, yes. But very few of the problem tenants are left round here. Still a great sense of community though. We’ve got more independent coffee shops in a three mile stretch than some parts of Brooklyn
You’re bringing a better standard of living
MARK: We’re part of a wave
SARAH: I like being part of a wave
MARK: We’re good for the community, plus the links to the city are great so we’re not stuck here
ANNE: That’s true. Very true. The market wouldn’t be so buoyant if people didn’t want to live here
SARAH: And the area, you’d call it safe?
ANNE: Oh very
SARAH: Just it has a reputation
MARK: But the budget
SARAH: Mum left some money but
ANNE: Oh understandable. Definitely
ANNE: Yes. Nothing to fear. They all used to hang out round the fried food shops
ANNE: They. Yes.
MARK: Who are they?
ANNE: Let’s say, even in the past when there was a… reputation, you’d only get into trouble with the gangs if you were in a gang. You don’t look much like a gang to me
FAINT LAUGHS ALL ROUND.
SARAH: A gang of two
In all seriousness, there are seven pop-ups that have opened up in the past two months along the high street there. Doesn’t that scream safe?
SARAH: I suppose
ANNE: I’ve got a daughter, she’s fourteen. She says this area’s really ‘cool’ and goodness, I’m so out of touch I’m likely to believe her
FAINT LAUGHS AGAIN
SARAH: I do like coffee
MARK: Love it, don’t we?
ANNE: You’ve got your pick
SARAH: And the rest of the street? Lots of big houses
ANNE: Fabulous, aren’t they? Architecturally, this area’s something else
MARK: Suppose so
ANNE: Many, yes
SARAH: Wish we could afford it, one of the bigger ones
ANNE: I hear that every day
They’re nearly all flats now. We let out a good deal of them
MARK: Great, that’s great
And the people?
ANNE: Oh lovely. All the ones we let. Lovely.
MARK: That’s great.
ANNE: No DSS, all English speaking
SARAH: Are you allowed to do that?
ANNE: There’s no shortage of buyers who aren’t on benefits, so we’re not exactly turning people down and leaving the places empty.
MARK: So everyone’s english?
ANNE: English speaking, yes. How would they know what they are signing if
SARAH: So it’s not like an all white neighbourhood
ANNE: Oh, not really
Though there’s been a shift
SARAH: I’d like to be part of a mixed community
MARK: It’s important to us
SARAH: Very. I don’t mind gentrifying an area but I don’t want to
MARK: Ethnically cleanse it
THEY FAINT LAUGH
ANNE: Yes, very vibrant here. A real community hub. The home-buying has just rejuvenated the good parts and … smoothed out the bad.
It’s a fab property, real possibilities. Have a look, though there are other potential buyers
MARK: Yeah, absolutely. Just had a few
ANNE: This place is popular, you wouldn’t even
MARK: A few questions
MARK: What? Just wondering about the walls, there. Some of the lights
ANNE: Not working, yes. Not working
MARK: Yeah, they’re not working
ANNE: Needs a bit of TLC, that’s true
SARAH: It’s just with the asking price
ANNE: Absolutely, with the market
MARK: How much TLC?
ANNE: The market’s buoyant
SARAH: Because you’ve asked a lot and
ANNE: Plenty of developers wanting in
SARAH: I understand, but if it’s going to be another fifty grand
ANNE: (LAUGHS) More than that
MARK: More than fifty grand?
ANNE: I’m not going to lie. It needs some love, real love and that costs. But there’s plenty of developers
SARAH: Plenty of developers
ANNE: Yes, they’ll turn it into flats. One, two, three
MARK: If you’ve got the money
ANNE: It’s up-and-coming. It’s definitely up and
SARAH: It’s just that puts it out of budget
MARK: This was the best vale for its size on your
ANNE: On the website, I know
MARK: On your website
SARAH: I mean, it all sounds amazing
MARK: Your mum would even like it, I mean if we did it up
ANNE: You can make an offer but
SARAH: Just inside our budget, maybe we could
ANNE: It’s very competitive
SARAH: We could squeeze something more out of the savings, do the repairs
MARK: It would be a great thing to be a part of.
SARAH: This new
MARK: New rejuvenation
SARAH: And we’d be different, not just
SARAH: Not just coming in. Respectful of the community
SARAH: So I suppose we’ll let you know what we think?
ANNE: You’ll need to by Monday
THE DOORBELL RINGS
Ah, that will be the next couple
MARK: Got lots of viewings
ANNE: Yes, that’s them
MARK: Lots today?
ANNE: About thirty. It’s very desirable
SARAH: Oh. Even at the asking price? I know it’s London but
ANNE: Even that. Like I say, I’ll need your offer by Monday. These things move fast. The market’s buoyant.
ANNE: And trust me. It will go for over that price.
Offers on Monday.
Sealed bids on Tuesday.
Sold on Wednesday.
MARK: Right. It’s just a lot of money to commit in such a short
SARAH: We’ll think about it
ANNE: It’ll go. Like that (SNAPS FINGERS)
Right, any more questions, you can give the office a call.
SARAH: Right. That was quick.
ANNE: Yes. Thirty people to get through so
BOTH: We’ll let you know.
ANNE: Good. Do you mind letting the next person in on your way out?