Despite the financial ill-wind which is sweeping the country, aspirational property programmes still seem to be all the rage with executives in TV Land.
Shows such as Location, Location, Location, Grand Designs, Homes Under the Hammer, Phil Spencer: Secret Agent and even the Come Dine With Me-inspired May The Best House Win clutter the schedules – and that’s not to mention the ones that property guru Sarah Beeny has fronted.
To Property Ladder, Streets Ahead, Britain’s Best Homes and Help! My House Is Falling Down can be added a newcomer, Double Your House for Half the Money, which depending on how much you enjoy property shows either offers a new twist on a much-loved genre or takes elements of Location, Location, Location and gives it a Grand Designs-style lick of paint.
The title gives most of the show away, the idea being that families who don’t want to take the plunge into today’s struggling housing market can instead pick up some ideas about how to make the most of the space they have got; the challenge is to double the size of the home while spending half the amount it would cost to simply move somewhere else.
There’s certainly a ready-made audience for a show like this – last year almost 200,000 people applied for planning permission to extend or improve their home, and with the property market stagnating for many people, building on what they have already got may be the only choice.
In last night’s episode Ms Beeny takes a trip to Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire, where she finds three generations of the Franklins living in a cramped bungalow, while over in Sydenham, London, the Riglers want to double their bedroom and bathroom space by extending into the loft.
As usual, things don’t go smoothly – the Franklins, who have moved their ageing parents out of the bungalow so that it can be demolished and rebuilt, quickly discover that their plans don’t include a supporting wall, busting their budget before the sod has even been cut on their new home.
Meanwhile, the Riglers could have saved themselves a great deal of time and money if they had just got a nasal clip to tackle dad Jonathan’s chronic snoring – rather than creating a “five-star hotel” in the loft for him to check into when he was keeping wife Claire awake at night.
But the trials and tribulations along the way are what make shows like this and Grand Designs so engrossing, and it helps that Beeny certainly knows what she is talking about, telling not only the often-delusional homeowners that they are living in Cloud Cuckoo Land, but also teaching builders and architects a thing or too.
She even gets stuck in to do some of the work herself, though the show also lets her down somewhat by doling out some fairly basic advice to the audience, like checking whether storage companies operate from secure facilities – which viewers would probably realise is generally a good idea – and a “top tip” for using alcoves for extra storage space.
The jury is out on whether Double Your House for Half the Money will inspire homeowners to head down to their local DIY store, because though the finished projects often look excellent, the road to the end is usually littered with potholes.
The Franklins lived in rented accommodation for six months but it seemed to be worth the wait when they finally unveiled their new home and some back-of-the-fag-packet calculations at the end of the show demonstrated they had saved £250,000 by redeveloping rather than relocating.
They did, however, have £300,000 to throw at their dream home, which of course helps.