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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 April 2005, 15:03 GMT 16:03 UK
Tempers soar over house price show
The show featured Gary Birchall and Nadine Hepworth from West Yorks
"Spiv", "patronising", "evangelical" - just some of the comments directed at property expert Barbara Goldsmith by viewers of the Real Story programme about first-time buyers. (BBC One, Monday 4 April, 1930 BST.)

Ms Goldsmith, who is also an independent mortgage adviser and financial consultant, was filmed offering friendly advice to four young people struggling to get on the first rung of the property ladder.

But it was her very conviction that now was a good time to buy that most of the scores of emailers into the show took issue with.

In response, the producers said that Ms Goldsmith, the only expert used in the programme, had pointed out the potential pitfalls, as well as the advantages, of home ownership. They added that the show formed part of Real Story's ongoing investigations into the winners and losers in the UK's property boom.


Many viewers challenged Ms Goldsmith's prediction that a 92,000 two-bed terraced in Haworth, West Yorkshire would "more than double in value over a short period of time." They felt it was the wrong message to be giving to a couple in their early 20s, desperate to move out of their parental home.

"The fact is that nobody knows what will happen to the housing market," said Richard from London.

"Last night's show was clearly a blatant advert for the UK estate agency industry."

Gary Calder, from Eastleigh, Hampshire agreed it was inappropriate for the programme to give the impression that it was an ideal time to get on the housing ladder.

"Never mind the fact that the house price to earning ratio is at one of its highest levels ever; that following a general election interest rates are likely to rise again; that buy to let investors are getting desperate to sell properties now that prices are stagnant, returns on investment are poor and the housing market is in heavy oversupply."

'Contingency plans'

"Is the BBC in cahoots with the government in an attempt to encourage reluctant first-time buyers back into the market?" asked one disgruntled woman in Kent.

Producer Alex Hill said the programme, which focused on young people who felt genuinely locked out of the market, did go some way to expressing reservations over buying a home.

"Our expert Barbara Goldsmith was key in putting forward genuine solutions but also expressed justified concerns.

"For example, Richard Arundel had opted for the parental guarantor mortgage. this relatively new concept meant he could increase his borrowing from 70,000 to 180,000.

"Barbara rightly pointed out that he should be cautious and have a contingency plan in place if he got into difficulties."

'Head to head'

Ms Goldsmith took another opportunity to moderate her views on house buying on the Real Story website, where her opinions were pitted against those of property economist, Saxon Brettell.

Although she sat in the opposite camp to Mr Brettell, who believes now is not a good time to buy, she did warn against mistakes such as "taking on too big a mortgage and then struggling make the payments."

I would emphasise that they should not over-borrow, making sure they can make their repayments even if interest rates go up by 1%
Barbara Goldsmith
Real Story series producer Mike Lewis said he was grateful to the increasing number of viewers who were taking the time to email their comments to the programme.

Mr Lewis also pointed out that past Real Story programmes had reflected some of the problems caused by the overheated property market, and said the series would continue to report on its big trends.

Ms Goldsmith, who was not surprised to have received some hostile mail following the programme, told Real Story she still believed it was wiser for today's house hunters to buy rather than rent.

"As long as people buy wisely in regenerating areas where money, new transport, new businesses and new shopping centres are coming in - then they cannot really go wrong.

"I would emphasise that they should not over-borrow, making sure they can make their repayments even if interest rates go up by 1%. Then they will not only have the asset of their own home but will also make money on the rise in value of their property."

She added that, as a property investor and developer, she shared some of people's apprehensions about estate agents.

"I've had to deal with many of them myself and as well as making money on property, I've also had my fingers burnt.

"Some people's attitude to risk is greater than other's, but I'd always recommend having contingency funds in place to deal with the ups and downs of the market."

Real Story: BBC ONE, Monday 4 April, 2005 at 1930 BST.

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