Fam­i­lies never get to choose just what makes choice lo­ca­tion

Yorkshire Post - Property - - FRONT PAGE - Robin and Pa­tri­cia Sil­ver

WE like to think that we live in a democ­racy. We re­vere univer­sal suf­frage. Through elec­tions, we like to think that we have a say in the run­ning of our coun­try but when it comes to choos­ing a new home, many of us have very lit­tle say or no say at all. Some­times, one mem­ber of a house­hold bluntly an­nounces that he/she has just seen the “per­fect” home and has bought it with­out any­one else hav­ing a look in.

Chil­dren are, of course, ex­cluded from the decision of where a new home should be. You might agree that it is the par­ents’ re­spon­si­bil­ity to make this choice but they reg­u­larly base it on their own needs and re­quire­ments. They do take into ac­count school catch­ment ar­eas, con­ve­nient bus routes, prox­im­ity to friends and fam­ily and the need for a good size gar­den but this of­ten sat­is­fies their own as­pi­ra­tions rather than their chil­dren’s. At times, they “as­sume” rather than know what’s wanted. Kids are of­ten more in­ter­ested in the avail­abil­ity of the high­est speed broad­band, mo­bile phone sig­nal strength or how fast the near­est pizza de­liv­ery ser­vice is. Whilst these may some­times be the con­cern of par­ents, at best, lip ser­vice is paid to chil­dren’s own views.

Teenagers, even those of vot­ing age, are not reluc­tant to make their feel­ings known. They would pre­fer to move to Cal­i­for­nia or Mal­lorca. They want a garage for the car that they can­not yet drive or want an an­nex that is both sound­proof and a parental ac­cess ex­clu­sion zone (on re­flec­tion, it may be their par­ents who want the sound­proof­ing!). Fi­nally, they say: “We don’t want to move at all! And that’s final!” As these teenage re­quests are so ex­treme, they are ig­nored, the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion be­ing that “They’ll be mov­ing out soon...hope­fully!” so an­other swathe of the pop­u­la­tion is ex­cluded from par­tic­i­pa­tion in de­ci­sions.

An­other part of the fam­ily that rarely get a look is our pets. There are about 20 mil­lion dogs and cats in Bri­tain and they are never con­sulted about where they are go­ing to live, even though they are such deeply val­ued mem­bers of the fam­ily.

Own­ers like to think that they know what’s best for them: away from busy roads, near a good vet, plenty of open spa­ces, a bal­cony if the new home is a flat and trees in the gar­den. But these are what own­ers want rather than the pets them­selves. A cat prefers a few mice or dogs to chase, ador­ing neigh­bours who pro­vide milk and food, a cud­dle and a tummy scratch and a hid­ing place where it can dis­ap­pear for a few days, its ab­sence caus­ing un­told worry to its own­ers.

A dog, on the other hand, may just want neigh­bours end­lessly will­ing to throw balls or sticks. This is a sell­ing point yet to fea­ture in es­tate agents’ par­tic­u­lars. Other com­mon pets, like rab­bits, should think them­selves lucky to have their hutches up­rooted and plonked down in a new en­vi­ron­ment with lit­tle thought to sun di­rec­tion, pre­vail­ing winds etc. Their opin­ions are sel­dom known and never sought. Horses – and there 1.4 mil­lion of them in the UK – do seem to have a lit­tle more say.

Own­ers recog­nise and ac­cept their need for sta­bling and pad­dock and, if these are not part of the new home prop­erty, will look for con­ve­nient, qual­ity fa­cil­i­ties for them. Mind you, with an an­nual spend on equine ac­ces­sories at over £4bn (nearly £3,000 per horse per year), it may be that such a huge in­vest­ment is sim­ply worth look­ing af­ter.

On bal­ance, it’s not re­ally sur­pris­ing that so many opin­ions are ig­nored. Af­ter all, the dom­i­nant party in any house­hold is quite likely to make a decision to move uni­lat­er­ally (and of­ten self­ishly). This prob­a­bly ex­plains why straight af­ter mov­ing into a new home, you can of­ten hear the shriek of “I never wanted to move here in the first place” re­ver­ber­at­ing down the street.

As in all democ­ra­cies, we don’t al­ways get what we’d bar­gained for.

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