I am a renter at heart. I like the flexibility of renting, of knowing that when things go wrong, or you run out of space, or you want a change of neighbourhood, city or country, it’s far easier to find a new home to rent than to have to go through the trials of selling and buying a home.
That said, does buying a house still figure into my plans for the future? Most certainly. Do I sometimes really hate having to answer to (often inconsiderate and bullish) landlords? Definitely. I spend a lot of time day dreaming about buying a house, being able to put my stamp on it and make it my own. I save diligently, in the hope that one day, when we know exactly where we want to live, we will have a good deposit to put towards our first home.
But it might not be that simple. This weekend I read that the property analyst Hometrack has warned that the ‘golden age of home ownership’ is coming to an end, and that millions of young people face a lifetime of renting instead.
This is hardly news to me or probably anyone my age. You don’t have to tell young people that getting the deposit together to buy your first home is one of the biggest financial challenges they will face.
The reality is that young people who live in rented accommodation, who are professionals and not claiming any benefits, and would ideally like to be able to get onto the property ladder, often simply can’t. A single person who is already having a large chunk of their wages eaten up by their rent, even on a good wage, will find it very difficult to save up the estimated £40,000 deposit needed in areas such as London to buy a home on the bottom end of the property ladder. Couples may have it a bit easier, but whichever way you look at it, it’s hard.
The Observer wrote: “Richard Donnell, director at Hometrack, said that, while the ‘long-term’ aspiration for people around 30 was to own a home, increasing numbers believed it would not happen in the next three to five years. “The argument is that we are moving towards a more European model, where first-time buyers are in their late 40s and come in with 50% deposits.”"
This may be all well and good, and perhaps entering the housing market at a much later stage is not so bad – much better than stretching yourself to unrealistic financial commitments to do it earlier. But what really gets me is that I feel like my section of society – young professionals, without kids, who earn decent money and are, really, a very slight drain on the resources our taxes pay for – aren’t being helped at all by the government to overcome this issue.
I don’t want a handout, what I would like to see is significantly increased stamp duty tax on second, third and fourth homes, so that the people who are buying reasonably priced properties out from under the feet of prospective first time buyers might think twice about it, and be disinclined to do so. I would also like to see better protection for renters, so that young people don’t feel the need to rush to buy because they are sick of the (often unpleasant) realities of renting in this country, compared to European models that are much more protective of tenants’ rights.
Do you ever doubt that you will be able to buy your own home?