Mouseprices, and neighbours’ noses, can go up and down, says Sam Taylor
I hope you don’t mind me asking,’ invariably comes the sheepish refrain over the wine glass, ‘but how much did it cost?’ Try as we might to rise above it, the question of house prices is something of a national obsession. In a country where most of our worth is measured in the size of our brick piles, it is hard to resist joining in with at least a cursory fish for clues.

Location, of course, plays a part. But not class, as keeping with the Joneses’ equity isn’t just a parvenu hobby. We’re all at it.

The fact that you can now f nd out the price paid for any address in the UK by simply entering it into a search engine doesn’t help. The HM Land Registry still holds the copyright on title deeds further back than 1995 (and will charge for a search), but Mouseprice and Zoopla are allowed to list the last 20 years for free. That’s usually enough to work out what the neighbours paid.

They will also provide you with an automated valuation of your own property, which can be thrilling, but also rather misleading. There’s only so much a computer can calculate. And, like shares, house prices can go down as well as up.


Rather alarmingly, I just discovered that should I attempt to sell Rock House with its resident mice population (current count: a lot) a buyer could demand an average reduction in price of nine per cent – roughly £22,000 off the average house price. Despite its name, you won’t find that detail on Mouseprice. Rats will cost you even more and the common furniture beetle can render it unsaleable.

Worse, those afflicted are unlikely to get any help from their home insurance policies as most don’t cover ‘pests’ – they will, however, pay for destruction by wild animals. So if your patio doors have been nibbled around the edges, encourage a wild boar to smash them in completely and you probably have a claim. In the meantime, should you really want to know what your host paid, our own Thomas Blaikie advises flattery: ‘I’m sure it was frightfully expensive?’

However, to date, nobody has been kind enough to say that to me.

Next week: Which white?