Phil’s Playing House

Phil Spencer

TV property expert Phil Spencer calms nerves over how potential housing market movements in the coming months.

You won’t hear many people discussing in affectionate terms the UK housing market. Its boom and bust has frazzled our nerves over the past couple of decades, but consider this… had we not been thrown around on a rollercoaster-like ride through mortgages, negative equity, partition walls and postcode politics, the chances are we’d have no idea who Phil Spencer was.

As it is, the affable 44-year-old developer and presenter is a regular on a screens, a guardian of garden wall greatness and saviour of everything semi-detached.

And this week, he’s on a switch mission, working with nationwide consumer brand Compare The Market in encouraging people to take the leap and switch insurance providers before the cold months draw in. After all, if there’s anything to compensate for the wicked winter chill that lays ahead, it’s the warming knowledge that we’re spending less on the insurance that keeps our households running should anything go wrong.

“I’m always behind campaigns and ideas that enable people to save money, no matter what area that’s in – from first-time buyers looking to get on the ladder to those looking to downsize after the kids have left home.

“At the end of the day, anything that helps to strengthen neighbourhood relationships and community spirit must be good.”

The campaign also comes with a charitable edge, but more of that later. First, at another apparent crossroads for the housing market, where speculation over a property crash is on the increase once again, where does Phil stand on things?

“The bubble? I think it’s an urban myth,” he says. “Just the use of the world bubble implies that it can pop, and I don’t agree with that.

Phil Spencer“Okay, so the price rises that were taking place earlier in the summer cannot continue. The market was as busy as I’ve ever seen it but that doesn’t mean it’s all going to come crumbling down. The statistics towards the end of the summer did show that the market was slowing, but they always do. The spring is traditionally the busiest time of the year and it happened again this year.

“That the statistics revealed that it slowed down in the summer was absolutely no surprise to me. It was bound to happen and it did happen, and it doesn’t mean the whole thing is going to come crashing down. People can relax, I think.”

Over the years – 10 of them, and 20 series of Location, Location, Location, Phil and property partner Kirstie Allsopp have undertaken all manner of property challenges, yet arguably their most difficult came just a few months ago.

“The London show we did for the new series was incredible. We were in Walthamstow in the east end of London. I had an appointment to show somebody a house on a Tuesday morning – it had gone on the market the previous Saturday. They had 57 viewings and on the Monday 12 offers had been submitted. There was no way they were going to show it to me and my clients on the Tuesday morning – it was gone.

“So that was a fairly tough reflection of what market conditions can be like at the moment, but there are still great deals out there if you do your own investigations away from the estate agents, or at very least get into the estate agents early. Never wait for stuff to come on the internet – it’s arguably too late for the really good properties.”

While Phil’s work takes him through a flood of different house designs and styles every week, away from the television cameras his taste is rather more serene.

“Well my dream residence would be very symmetrical Queen Anne style house. It wouldn’t be massive and there wouldn’t be lots of rooms but they would be big with high ceilings with lots of light and windows. It would be architecturally a period house but I would renovate it in a fairly modern, contemporary way whilst maintaining the period features. That’s quite a delicate balance to find between the old and the new.”

And does Phil have time to pursue this dream abode?

“God no, I’m far too busy solving others’ problems!”

Take part in the Great British Switch on 12th-14th September at comparethemarket.com/greatbritishswitch and vote for a local charity to be awarded £50,000.

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