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Want to buy your first house? Then cancel Netflix

Diane Hall


Row of miniature 3D white houses on blue background for real estate property, housing development or community

Of course it’s not that easy; however, Kirstie Allsopp of Location, Location, Location fame received a backlash recently, when she inferred that saying no to a few of today’s luxuries would be all young people need to do to get on the housing ladder.

Despite property-buying being her area of expertise, Allsopp showed just how out of touch she is with what the average wage pays and how difficult it is to gather the necessary deposit for a house purchase/getting a mortgage (even if you did cut out Netflix, takeaway coffees and eating avocado on toast). It’s also galling to hear it from someone who comes from a very wealthy background (her father is a baron, though that’s not necessarily an indicator of great wealth) who took advantage of ‘family money’ when she bought her first property.

Allsopp is of a different generation…my generation. Even when I was buying my first house in 1995, London properties were already out of my reach. That said, I could afford to buy a property in the North. My first house, which I bought with my now-husband, cost £29,000 back then. A three-bed end-of-terrace, we stayed in it for seven years before selling it for a £3000 profit. Had we waited another 18 months, when the housing explosion got into its stride, we would have sold the same property for £89,000. I’m glad we didn’t, as the house we went on to (which we still live in) would have been out of our price range if we’d waited to move.

Houses trebled in price within a year or two in the early noughties. I remember my full-time wage at the time was around £8,000. Had it not been for my husband’s wages bolstering mine, I wouldn’t have been able to move out of my parents’ house. Given that house prices have escalated exponentially since then, there’s no wonder that the average person/couple can’t afford to get on the property ladder in 2022.

To enjoy some independence, many young people have turned to renting a property instead; however, this can have its drawbacks, as there’s often very little left to put towards a deposit once the rent has been paid. I can imagine it’s incredibly frustrating for the next generation, and a problem that will continue to get worse if wages perpetually stagnate.

Minature houses resting on pound coin stacks concept for property ladder, mortgage and real estate investment

Minature houses resting on pound coin stacks concept for property ladder, mortgage and real estate investment

That same wage I drew in 1995 would be worth around £22,000 today. Nothing to write home about, and certainly not enough to buy even the most affordable property on my own today. I would likely be allowed to borrow up to £75,000 on that wage. To purchase the average starter home, even in the North, I would still need a deposit of £104,000 to meet the average £178,000 cost. Unless a rich relative died, or my numbers came up on the lottery, that’s rather unlikely. Even adding in a partner or housemate’s wage, we still wouldn’t have enough, unless they earned well above the average.

That’s not to say it can’t be done…with other income streams, lots of overtime, and plenty of sacrifices, eventually, the required deposit could be saved—as long as house prices don’t rocket again in the meantime, of course. I like to think that’s where Allsopp was coming from (because I can’t believe she’d be that entitled and obtuse), that if a young couple were to concentrate solely on saving their money and bettering their wages and not spending on anything unnecessary, they would eventually reach their deposit target.

However, though this all sounds bleak for the next generation, for some youngsters, owning a property is not the be all and end all it was for me and my peers in the last millennium. A fluid lifestyle is attractive to youngsters today. A lifestyle that allows spontaneity when it comes to travel, a lifestyle that’s not focused on material things and which places value on experiences, learning and enjoying a career, as opposed to working all hours just to earn money. To these young people, owning a property is too tying. A property represents a lot of hard sacrifice at a time when they should be enjoying life. Few of them inherit property to place any importance on owning outright, in order to pass this on to their offspring. That their home is one way of financing their care later in life is also not enough reason to work 50+ hours in a dead-end job when they could build a career in something they enjoy. And I get that.

Maybe that’s a good thing, as it’s frustrating to hanker after something you can never have. The number of people who rent properties must be many times more than those who did so in 1995. Back then, renting just represented uncertainty…but if you fail to pay your mortgage, you wouldn’t get any more of a reprieve than if you were in a rental; you would still lose your home.

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