In the UK: Tuesdays, 8pm, C4
Hard to believe it, I know, but Property Ladder and everyone's favourite property developer, Sarah Beeny, have been with us for over eight years. With each series of the show, Beeny has regaled us with advice on how to make money from property, using the examples of regular people turned property developers to show us what to do – and more often what not to do.
Typically, the show would run as follows: Beeny turns up on the doorsteps of two developers. The developers tell Beeny what they intend to do. It's just plain awful, stupid or wrong, so Beeny gives them some better ideas. They still do what they intended to do. They cock up significantly, spending masses more money than they needed to. Then they relent, do as Beeny suggested, and hey presto, all's good with the world again. Then, at the end, despite the cock-ups and over-ambition, Beeny reveals that "thanks to a rising market", they still managed to make money.
Well, guess what. The rising market has gone. It has ceased to be.
So, you might ask, what's the point of Property Ladder? Can it survive in this climate?
The short answer is no. However, the long answer is yes, but only if it gets a name change.
Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you Property Snakes & Ladders.
On the face of it, the formula is pretty much the same. In programme one, 'Natasha', a 21-year-old posh girl estate agent who's wanted to be a property developer ever since she saw Beeny on tele when she was 14, and 'Rick', an electrician, both buy houses to do up at the height of the boom. They plan to do a bit of work here and there at ridiculously optimistic prices then sell the houses on at even more optimistic prices.
Horrifyingly, of course, they both manage to convince their parents to put up the money for their developments by mortgaging/selling their homes. Why do people do this? Want to borrow some organs while you're about? They've probably got a couple of spare kidneys between them.
Natasha is the biggest surprise. She's an estate agent, she's been watching Beeny for seven years, yet she fails to do the most obvious thing possible when in the company of her idol, advice I've stated many times before: listen to the Beeny. Beeny gives her good ideas, Natasha ignores them, so impressed is she by her own voice and ambition to be a millionaire within about 10 seconds of being old enough to vote. Nasha-baby: you're an estate agent and you didn't see the crash coming - some self-doubt might be advised.
Rick is even worse. While he has his parents helping him, the merest second that Beeny suggests something, he gives a glowering look that suggests he has a Beeny voodoo doll and he's planning to use it some time in the next few minutes. But fortunately, his parents are made of sterner stuff. So while Rick was planning on polishing up the attic and hoping to make £150,000 profit for a couple of days' work, his parents wisely follow Beeny's advice and try to turn the house into something worth the money he's asking.
And so it proceeds. Developers do developing things, slowly come unstuck whenever they veer away from Beeny's advice and find things going well for them again when they return to the Word of the Beeny. Blessed is the Word of the Beeny.
All the while this is happening, some gloomy talking head 'experts' explain exactly why the crash has happened and what it means for developers. You should listen to these guys, too, BTW, since they're the apostles of Beeny, authorised to convey part of Her message.
The end is nigh
The end, when it does arrive, is pretty much classic Property Ladder. Beeny gives quotes on a par with what she was predicting the whole time, the developers reckon they can do better, they try to do better and fail utterly. A year later, as unconvinced by reality as Canute, they end up moving into their properties after renting them out for ages. Natasha's dreams of being a millionaire have only been set back a couple of years, she reckons.
By the end of the programme, it's hard not to feel that the only lesson to be learnt is not to bother trying to develop property right now. While the Beeny says that it is still possible to make money from property, but only if you're careful and follow her advice, there's no real evidence of that occurring in practice so far. Her closing remarks seem to suggest that the market's only going to be further depressed once interest rates go up again, and next week's programme features Beeny musing on how turning houses into flats is a market that's pretty much dead.
In fact, the programme looks it should more truthfully have been titled Property Snakes or even more accurately Property Apocalypse. Even though part of the fun of the show was always seeing people cock up absolutely because they didn't follow The Beeny's advice, watching people trying to make a quick buck and falling into absolute penury - although again, more accurately, watching their parents fall into absolute penury - every single week doesn't sound quite so attractive.
Nevertheless, the Beeny's worth watching all by herself, so if the price of that is watching untold misery, so be it. I'll be tuning in.
PS Interestingly, the name change might be a last minute thing. 4oD still has the show down as Property Ladder and even the "if you would like to be on the show" bit at the end still says Property Ladder. Clearly someone thought that would be pushing it right now, though.
No YouTube clips at the moment, but I'll experiment when I have some time to see if I can embed 4oD content in blog pages. That'll be fun, won't it?