It’s the start of another year.
For the property journalist that means the winter ski stories are out of the way, previews for the next 12 months are done and published, and we are only days away from pieces about ‘love-nest’ homes just perfect for those buying a pad ahead of Valentine’s Day.
Yes, like any job there is an element of routine. But one thing that has changed from past years is that property section editors - newspaper and online - no longer want stories of housing markets. There will always be a few, usually around the start of the year and then the 'selling season' beginning at Easter, but such stories are now the exception and not the rule.
This is a far cry from the pre-downturn days when rags-to-riches tales of buy-to-let landlords or people who stepped up the housing ladder every few years - making £50,000 each time they moved - were the stock-in-trade of property hacks like myself.
There is good reason for the change. ‘Property’ has, in some ways, outgrown property sections: it is now an asset class like stocks and shares, and a barometer of the well-being of the country like the value of Sterling. And, like the FTSE and the Pound, ‘property’ has fallen in recent years. Newspapers and online services are obliged to report such dry and frequently depressing stuff, but readers are not obliged to read it: instead, there is substantial evidence that readers want more entertainment.
Property's financial power no longer provides entertaining stories, let alone security for home owners, so editors have to look for more interesting angles. Hence their increased fascination with property porn - put simply, beautiful homes - and with themes based on fun: you know what I mean, those stories of the 10 best places to live or retire, or the five sunniest locations, or marvellous houses with gold-plated bathrooms. The eccentric and the eclectic are king this year.
Property does not have to keep us in a wealthy lifestyle any more (and those stories about interest rates, house price indices and mortgage products are now the preserve of the personal finance pages).
But property does have to prove its capacity to give us a fun and interesting lifestyle - and that is what will make a good story in 2012.
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