Death of the Ideal Home

Was this the week when the dream of home ownership in Britain was finally killed off by the greed of buy to let?

All this week the Daily Mail is telling its readers ‘How to Join the Buy to Let Boom’ and offering them a chance to ‘secure your family’s future’ by winning a ‘£260k buy to let house’. Here’s the top half of Monday’s front page (courtesy of @DawnHFoster):


This is not unusual in itself. The rival Telegraph has more of less become the Daily Buy to Let in the last few years as the angle for stories about rents rising rapidly becomes ‘landlords rejoice as’. This is not surprising when one report this week estimated that buy to let landlords earned a cool £112 billion last year. As this Mail illustration shows, buy to let stories are neatly calibrated to appeal to the over-50s, precisely the demographic most likely to buy newspapers:


But it wasn’t always like this. Where 21st century newspapers sell their readers the prospect of owning more than one home as an investment, in the 20th century the appeal was all about that ‘dream home’ and the expansion of home ownership.

No newspaper summed that up more than the Daily Mail, whose expansion was based on rising affluence among the middle classes. In 1908 it founded what went on to become the event that summed up everything aspirational about home ownership: the Ideal Home Exhibition. At the time 90 per cent of us rented our home but the show took off as home ownership expanded and with it a boom in consumer gadgets.

For a flavour of the power of Ideal Home, see this film of a Royal Visit by the Queen on the show’s diamond jubilee in 1968. It went on to give birth to TV property porn.

Not any more. The Daily Mail sold out in 2009, just after the financial crisis hit the housing market. At the time it seemed as though buy to let was dead but instead restrictions on lending, insecure employment and ultra-low interest rates created the conditions for buy to let to enter a fresh boom.

Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen and the other property celebrities were all at the show as usual in the Spring and will be again at Christmas.

But this year they’ve just moved back to Olympia. The Ideal Home Exhibition’s previous home at Earl’s Court is being demolished along with two council estates to make way for the controversial Capital and Counties mega-development Earls Court Village. Buy to let and overseas investors can form an orderly queue now.



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