Britain's solution to the housing crisis may be worse than doing nothing: acres of shoddy, ineptly-constructed, dangerous housing forming lifeless car-bound exurbs.
"Cracked tiles, guttering on the wonk, pooling water, dodgy fascia boards," Murphy says, reeling off the common issues. "The things they get away with are absolutely shocking."
When Murphy turns up with his spirit levels and telescopic pole, the nation's housebuilders start to worry. Over the last few years, he has gained a reputation in the industry for exposing the atrocious construction quality of so many new-build homes, posting viral musical videos on TikTok and Instagram that reveal builders' shoddy shortcuts with glee.
One minute he finds wonky brick walls, cracked window frames and woodwork that looks as if it was nibbled by a beaver. The next he discovers garden turf laid straight over rubble, doors that don't close and screws sticking out of cupboards ("the porcupine finish"), along with sewage bubbling up into a bathtub – under which an electrical socket lies exposed, next to a leaking pipe. That's before he gets to the fake weep vents, crooked floors and globs of mastic splurged along windowsills with the crazed abandon of a toddler icing a cake.
The governing party is funded by builders and landlords, training in the trades close to nonexistent, and young people are treated with contempt when they show an interest.
"It's basically a training in sloppy shortcuts," he says. "He tells me what he's doing, and it's just techniques to get things done as quickly as possible and move on. Apprentices these days are often being used as dogsbodies, not being taught the trade. He's been on site for the last week, just being asked to sweep up rubbish – that's not going to make him a good carpenter."
One thing that's particularly hard to grasp for Americans is that many Britons dream of living in one of these modern pale-brick outhouses, driving to everything, and never setting foot outside the lot. With the middle class becoming precarious and marginal, expect that attachment to a peculiar flavor of Thatcherian modernity to become more intense, more weird, more Ballardian. The faint gray of moisture spreading above the skirting board reassures them that they are in the right place, that they are home.