Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

 You are in: Talking Point
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Monday, 13 August, 2001, 09:24 GMT 10:24 UK
Are you being priced out of the property market?
Property prices in England and Wales are rising at a rate of 10.8% a year, according to the most accurate survey of house prices.

The Land Registry found that the price of homes sold between April and June hit an average £117,398, compared with a £105,924 figure a year before.

Last month a major mortgage lender warned that prices were rising at an unsustainable rate.

And there are growing concerns that the increase is pricing people with moderate incomes out of the market, particularly in the South East.

Are you a first time buyer? Do you find it difficult to get onto the property ladder?

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Yes, I believe property prices are getting ridiculous - and I have absolute sympathy for anyone trying to break into the market for the first time. Even couples with combined salaries must be finding it difficult. I am one of the lucky ones - my wife and I bought a tiny, one-bedroomed flat in Guildford at the beginning of 2000 for £75,000. Last week it was sold for £103,000. It sold in just six hours to someone who wanted to buy to let. After just 18 months, we would find it impossible to buy the same flat now.
Chris Head, UK

Why the British obsession with property buying?

Kitty, UK
Why the British obsession with property buying? Take a look at Holland and Germany where the norm is to rent. Are our European neighbours unhappier than we are? Surely not. Happiness is not all down to bricks and mortar.
Kitty, UK

I live in New Jersey, where we have some of the highest home prices in the States. I have owned my house for 15 years, and it has more than doubled in value, and my taxes on it have nearly quadrupled. I don't know how people can afford to buy homes now. The mortgage payments must be staggering. My two oldest children, who should have their own places by now, still live with us, because even with a good salary, any kind of decent housing is out of reach for them.
Linda, USA

I have just bought my first home. A small but cosy 2 bedroomed terraced house, with a fair sized garden. This cost me £50k, as I live in the West Midlands where house prices are not too bad. A few months ago, though I was offered a job in London, the only raise I would have received would have been London 'weighting'. This works out to roughly £3k/year extra. Now how is £3k going to help me when a property the same as mine in London would have cost me at least £120k plus? Much as I would love to have taken the job and to live in London, it would be impossible to find that sort of money.
Ren, UK

Houses are for living in, not investment vehicles

Jon, England
As first time buyers on average wages, there were very few houses my wife and I could afford in the desirable area we were renting in. The solution? We widened our search to other areas. We managed to find a 3 bedroomed house on a large council estate in a quiet town. It's not as trendy an area, it won't go up much in price, but who cares? Houses are for living in, not investment vehicles. If people insist on living in the most desirable areas, they shouldn't complain about the price.
Jon, England

If we are really being priced out of the property market, then where are we all living? The population is barely rising and there are new homes springing up all over the countryside. If there is a mismatch, it is that there are now more potential households. People who used to share now want to live alone and many more families split up. Rising prices are merely a reflection of demand being greater than supply. Freedom of choice and what is a remarkably good market in economic terms, have resulted in the current situation. Only long-term social or structural change is likely to have any effect in overturning the house-ownership culture that we live in.
Alan P, UK

I bought my first property (a large one-bedroom flat) on the London repossession market four years ago at 36k. It has just been valued at 95k. Even with this equity, my fiancée and I would suffer an unacceptable drop in disposable income in moving to a home suitable to bringing up a family. We could afford the new home but then wouldn't be able to afford children. And if I move away from London my income and career prospects would decrease dramatically. It's a horrible dilemma to be in. Roll on house price collapse (please?)!
Richard N, UK

Get on your bike and come North

Steve, South Yorkshire
I realise that some in the South look at northerners and our county as a little down market, cloth cap and whippets? I can handle this as I have read the horror stories posted on this site. I live in a 3 bedroom detached house which I am about to have extended to 4 bedrooms, a huge living area, breakfast room, gym area, Jacuzzi, study, main bedroom 300 sq foot and the increase in mortgage will mean that I will have paid over the last two years (including purchase price) £105,000 for the house. With above average earnings, life is very good indeed in the North and we are generally a happy bunch! So get on your bike and come North!
Steve, South Yorkshire

My wife and I bought our first home 18 months ago. A small one-bedroom upstairs maisonette. With the arrival of a new addition to the family due in the next couple of weeks, we have looked into planning to purchase a new home. The property valuer visited our maisonette and informed us that it is now worth just under £100,000. Nearly a 30% increase in the value over that period of time. Although this is good for us, the step up in this area for a three bedroom house is a decent school catchment area is approximately 40-60 thousand pounds. Certainly not something that we can do on one salary at the moment.

If the only way to afford to get a mortgage for the next property in the ladder is for my wife to return to work and earn a reasonable salary, I fear for my children, that they will not have the proper care form there mother that is needed. Surely the Government is producing more problems with working mothers than resolving any. Maybe the Government need to accept some responsibility for the destruction of a number of marriages and the distress caused to children because of it.
Robert, UK

I shouldn't worry about it. Let's look at the facts, recession is coming whether we like it or not - the banks, lenders and Government know this. Despite this they keep interest levels very low-encouraging us to keep spending, no wonder the prices are shooting up! But as soon as recession hits then watch those prices drop like a lead balloon and the people that were rushing to buy will find themselves well and truly stitched up. Just remember - the moneymen give us low interest with one hand but when it goes pear shaped they'll be grabbing back with two!!

Consider several facts regarding house price rises. Seller's agents win because they get a percentage, mortgage lenders win because they lend more, property developers win because their homes sell for more. Basically everyone wins except those doing the buying and selling who either break even or lose an awful lot over many years. When costs escalate someone somewhere is paying for it and generally it is the poor person looking for somewhere to live. Higher priced houses only benefit those who are wealthy enough to own several properties at once.
Kevin, UK

Sorry guys, I think by and large you are all missing the point! Most comments are about London house prices. I used to rent a flat in South London until 1999 and when my fiancée and I decided at the time, London (in whole) was unreasonably overpriced so we moved to Hampshire and bought five-bedroom detached with acres of land for £226k. We are selling today for £320k, still very reasonably price compared to London! Leave London to the insanely filthy rich and buy in the Home Counties. In S. London it took me 1hour to get to work in the city. Today from Hampshire, it takes 1hr 15mins! No excuses in paying more!
William, UK

I moved to Reading in 1987. I was a schoolteacher earning £8,000 p.a. Even then - when a one bedroom flat was about £30,000 - I was priced out of the market. Little has changed, but then I never expected to be able to buy until I met someone else to buy with. Surely what has changed is the level of expectation. It seems that so many people expect to leave college, get a job and be able to afford to buy property on a single starting salary - I don't think it ever worked like that. Not now, certainly not in my parents' day and probably not in my grandparents' day either.

As for the recent statistics: just comparing house prices against salaries for the last 3-4 years is a nonsense. Four years ago, prices were still in the doldrums. They were unnaturally low compared with incomes. I believe things are starting to overheat now, but most of the recent price rise has surely just been a correction.
John Lancashire, England

I earn good money. I also have a deposit of £15,000 yet I will still need to fork out 30-35% of my salary in order to afford a property in the South East that is decent and not a hovel. What terrifies me and is preventing me from jumping on the ladder is if that is cost when interest rates are "rock bottom" - what will be the cost when they inevitably go up?
Michele, UK

When I married 30 years ago our first house cost 4 x my husband's salary. There is no way my elder son could buy any house in south London for 4 x his current salary despite being well paid. How sad that his wife won't be able to bring up their children at home as I did, but will have to go out to work and farm them out with minders.

I blame developers - the prices of new houses are ridiculously high, and they are always "executive" or "luxury". How about two-bedroom houses for young people (or their grandparents who no longer need 4 bedrooms, or for single people of any age) instead of the constant insistence on a section of the market which can live where they like anyway. Local authorities should take a look at the housing market and insist that there are enough starter homes in their area, and turn down planning applications for 5-bed double-garage boxes from greedy developers.
Di, UK

What goes around comes around. We've had all the so-called economists and market professionals wheeled out to say it'll be a soft landing and that things are different in the housing market this time, but this is no different from what happens in the stock market - they also said it was different this time there as well. What they seem to forget is the basic law of supply and demand, if nobody wants it you're not going to shift it. Whether the statistics (which can be adapted to suit your argument) say one thing or another is irrelevant as no demand will lead to a drop in price - it's as simple as that.
Tom, London, England

We recently sold our two-bed flat in west London. It had more than doubled in value in the last 3 years and could never be described as spacious; the thing that was scary was that most potential buyers were young, well-off professional couples, but the only way they could afford to buy was if they rented out the tiny second bedroom to a lodger. I can't see how prices can continue to outstrip earnings growth - first time buyers in London need a household income of £80K+ (or a HUGE deposit) to afford anything decent.
David Evans, UK

People viewing properties as an "investment" don't see that they contribute to the collapse of public services in London and the SE. Give it five or more years with present price developments and you won't have your streets cleaned, no police on the beat, no buses or tubes. Probably the most expensive slums in the world.
Herby, UK

Isn't this really going to cause a lot of problems in the long run? If first time buyers can't get into the market, then people looking for there second bigger house won't have any buyers. In turn, third house buyers won't have people to buy there houses, and so on and so forth. I wonder who's going to help out all the youngster with huge mortgages, when they can't pay them?
Paul, England

How short our memories are. I've been living in the US now for 9 years and am about to return for personal reasons. In 1993 I sold my UK property for $39K after buying it for $56K in 1986 and seeing it's value peak at $70K (Maggie era). What goes up will come down - we'll be renting when we get back not because we can't afford to buy but because the short term risk is too great.

I've been saving for two years to buy a two bedroom flat in London. About six months ago, I decide to just leave the country. For what you get paid in OZ you get a fair deal, and a life.
Dave, UK

As a potential first time buyer I find myself completely priced out of the market in West Sussex even for basic accommodation. If house prices stay or carry on the way they are at the moment I can see a whole generation being effectively "economically cleansed" and forced to move far away from areas like Chichester to live. Such a shame the Government has done nothing to prevent the greed that grips the housing market at the moment (imposing a heavy tax on second homes would have been a start), but instead seems comfortable that some ministers own several properties while hardworking citizens continue to struggle. Obscene.
Dan, West Sussex, England

I am in the fortunate position of owning a house and probably having an above average salary. However due to an increasing family I desperately need to move into a larger house. I could possibly afford to do this if I mortgaged myself to the hilt, (as many people do). This however is a massive gamble, on the fact that interest rates stay low, and I have absolutely no control over what they may do in future. If I gamble and then lose then there will be 2 adults and 3 young children on the streets.

I know this is a selfish thing to say, but the only way I will be able to afford the house I need is if there is some form of economic shake down and a number of people who have bought their houses with massive mortgages in the past couple of years lose their homes. I fail to see how the Government's claim to economic competence is correct when so many people and families are prevented from living in suitable accommodation due to the high house prices.
Phil, SE England

I was priced out of the south east market in 1989, and moved north along with a number of my friends. I have a small mortgage on a nice house (300 000 if it was in London) in a good area, an easy trip to work (ten minutes unless I get held up by cows crossing the road), and no regrets. Although I earn 3/4 of what I could earn in the city I have a far greater quality of life. Until business becomes less shortsighted about a South East location things will only get worse for the whole country. The ONLY people who benefit from this inflation are the lenders
Mike, UK

Residential property in Idaho appreciates at about 4.8% p.a. Supply and demand, a willing buyer and seller sets the price and until the London area meets demand prices will rise until equilibrium is achieved. Just pray the economy stays good, don't be caught with more debt than market value!
Bill Sellers, USA

The current situation is getting ridiculous

Adam Jacobs, UK
The current situation is getting ridiculous. Even reasonably well-paid people can't afford to buy anywhere to live in London. The solution has to be to tackle the North-South divide. Rather than Tony Blair pretending it doesn't exist, he should get on with investing in the less well-off regions.
Adam Jacobs, UK

How about having more new high-density housing in town centres? Not everyone wants an "average" 3-bedroom detached on a sprawling estate.
Keith, England

I bought my first house 2 years ago. I earn quite a bit more now than I did then, but even so, I couldn't afford to buy that same house if I was house hunting for the first time now. This is one of the reasons children end up living with their parents for so long, they simply can't afford to leave!
Mark R, UK

I'm 26 and still living it home. What with student loan repayments and current house prices I think I'll be paying my parents rent out of my state pension...if there still is such a thing then. Worrying times!
Phil Jones, London

It isn't always about money, (even though I believe you will never make a long-term loss on property), also consider responsibility and private ownership. It is a great feeling to be living in your own house, rather then someone else's. It is your own little kingdom. No more waiting 4 weeks for the landlord to get the boiler fixed, no worries about being thrown out, and it's cheaper than renting anyway. Once you have paid off you mortgage, you can live in the property free, for ever. If you rent, you will always be paying rent, even on a pension. Think about it, buy property. There may be a slowdown, but not a drop in prices, because people are only spending 20% of their salary on mortgage, down from 45% in the 80's. There is still room for more out there...
Paul, UK

Only recently I bought a beautiful 2-bedroomed cottage in West Yorkshire for £31,450. It seems I would be lucky to get a bed-sit in the South East for that!
Emma, England

I feel I am throwing hard-earned money down the drain

Anna, UK
I earn a fairly decent salary in the South. However I cannot afford to buy a one-bedroom flat - although I pay an extortionate amount each month on rent. It is the most frustrating situation to be in because I do feel I am throwing hard-earned money down the drain - and seeing nothing in return.
Anna, UK

These house prices are having further undesirable effects. People, priced out of private housing in London, are buying up ex-council blocks. As a result, those who genuinely need council accommodation are being forced into sink estates.
Stuart, UK

As a recent graduate, on an above average graduate salary, I have struggled to find an affordable place to rent. As it is I have been lucky, but I cannot envisage a time in the near future when I will be able to buy my own home. As long as people are willing to keep paying ridiculous prices for houses, then the basic rules of economics mean nothing will change. I just hope there will come a time when I can find work in the North where prices are more realistic.
Jim, England

Prices in Edinburgh have been rising fast too

Richard, Scotland
It's not just England and Wales where this is happening, prices in Edinburgh have been rising fast too. Even waiting for a few years to save up the capital for a 25% deposit may well end up costing you more in the long term than getting a 95% mortgage now!
Richard, Scotland

I rent in Central London. I have a job that pays 30% more than the average for England and Wales and stand no chance of affording a reasonable flat. Why, after working 55hrs a week, would you force yourself to live somewhere you don't want and work to pay for a flat you don't like? So many people seem hung up on the Thatcherite notion that owning property is a good thing. The only reason I'd buy somewhere in SE-anything is if I wanted to be a slum-landlord. I'll stick with renting in W1 until my foot-and-mouth payments come in.
Joe, UK

At least rising/ falling property prices give Londoners something to talk about

Steve, UK
At least rising/ falling property prices give Londoners something to talk about. Not that any of them will ever benefit from their fantastically expensive houses, as they won't move out of London.
Steve, UK

I recently decided to purchase houses for renovation and refurbishment. I purchased a 4-bedroom house for a student let in the Plymouth area. This property was not particularly run-down - the only real work required was painting, carpeting and some minor changes in line with university requirements. I bought it for £33,000. After only 18 months valued at £55,000, it sold for £65,000. This figure was arrived at after a dogfight of offers from keen buyers. Even once the figure had been agreed, I still received offers up to £5000 above this price. I have seen and experienced this kind of increase across the board from 1-bedroom flats to detached properties with mooring.
Louise D, UK

I bought my first house 2 years ago. I earn quite a bit more now than I did then, but even so, I couldn't afford to buy that same house if I was house hunting for the first time now. This is one of the reasons children end up living with their parents for so long, they simply can't afford to leave!
Mark R, UK

Don't just follow the herd and live in London

Michael, England
Just consider carefully your quality of life. Don't just follow the herd and live in London. Many areas of the UK may not pay the same salaries, but they certainly make up for it in other areas. A friend of mine recently paid £250,000 for a 2-bed, terraced house in London. Add on to that the misery of London commuting and you have a powerful argument for living elsewhere.
Michael, England

I was born in London. On the average salaries I could expect to get as an engineer, I will never be able to afford somewhere decent in London or anywhere near London, hence I now live in Scotland.
Roy , Glasgow, Scotland

I am in the teaching sector (university), on a reasonable wage after 6 years of post-doctorate jobs and a few wage increments and I am not priced out of the housing sector... so long as I never hope to live south of Birmingham again.
Mark, UK

There is plenty of space in the country to build new housing at a reasonable cost

Rob C, UK
What we should be looking at is methods to bring desirability to the areas affected by low house prices. This means altering our London-centric view of the country and ploughing resources into practically anywhere else in the UK. There is plenty of space in the country to build new housing at a reasonable cost on reclaimed land, not greenbelt. Until this is done there will always be an overdemand for houses the South East, no matter what interest rates do.
Rob C, UK

I have been looking for a property for some time now. My partner and I have been priced out of the market already. There are some properties within our price range, but they are not suitable for our situation. 11% growth in prices is madness. It will soon be at the stage where young families will not be able to buy a house even with the low mortgage rates at the moment. If things continue down this road there will eventually be a crash in prices, because there will not be the demand for them. I dream of starting on the property ladder. And that is all it is... a dream. Within the current climate I stand no chance at all.
Rachel, Oxford, UK

Simple economics dictates that prices are determined by the relationship between supply and demand. We have a massive housing shortfall due in the main to the dissolution of the nuclear family. I am in the unhappy position of being a housing developer and in my experience everyone wants a new house but nobody wants them built near them. Planners and councillors pander to action groups at the expense of our cities, towns and villages. The result - supply does not meet demand = rocketing house prices.
Roger Bainbridge, Scotland

While people continue to buy, prices will continue to rise

Spencer, U.K.
It's obviously not pricing enough people out is it? While people continue to buy, prices will continue to rise. Lenders are encouraging this by increasing lend multiples. Estate agents have a vested interest in prices increasing. Sellers are greedy (fair play to them) and want as much as they can possibly get. Add to this mix buy-to-let investors and the genuine (sensible) first time buyer does not stand a chance.
Spencer, U.K.

I graduated three years ago, and moved North because I couldn't afford house prices in the South - many of my friends have done the same. Families in Surrey/ Bucks/ Hampshire/ Sussex are being split up as a result. The weighting on salaries in London bears no comparison to the higher house costs. Friends who have stayed in the South East are really struggling with huge mortgages - but they are making a lot of money on property value. Living in the north, however, the property value gap widens year on year; I don't know whether I'll ever be able to afford to move back near my family again.
Cathy, Liverpool, UK

Yes, in a word. When my parents took out a mortgage on the house here in Surrey 18 years ago, my father's salary was around 25% of the house price. Today, even though I am earning almost 3 times what he was back then, it makes no difference as the house prices in the area have gone up 6 fold in the same period. Such problems have caused some banks, so I hear, to offer customers 7, 8 or even 9 times their salary on a mortgage for a house, just so they can actually get a place! I have no idea what I am going to do. I am saving up for a deposit to move out, but even the worst places for 20 miles are £100K and more. No wonder nurses, police etc can't afford to live around here.
Mat Allen, UK

I really feel sorry for people not on the property ladder

Dave, UK
Property prices and public transport have long been the two sickest jokes in England. I have recently considered leaving my two bedroom flat in London for a large retreat in the country, only to find the country is now stupidly expensive too. I really feel sorry for people not on the property ladder. It is almost like an exclusive club for the spoon-fed and wealthy now. Many of my friends are having to use their parents' homes as security to purchase a property big enough to support a family.
Dave, UK

Why should house prices fall though, the demand is so great? We are first time buyers and for every two bedroomed house put on the market the estate agents had over 100 people waiting to buy it.
Donna, England

While people like Rebecca Southwell continue to view a house as an investment rather than a home, the prices will continue to rise. Yes I have 'made' 100% on my house in 5 years but I can only profit from this by being homeless and a larger house I would like is now out of my reach. This rise cannot be sustained and nor should it be when an average person on an average wage cannot even afford to purchase a small flat in some areas.
K. Wood, UK (South East)

If you are thinking about getting a mortgage - WAIT!

Rob, UK
We sold our house last year and made a fortune in just 18 months. We have paid off all our debts and are currently renting. When prices fall, which is inevitable (though it may take a couple of years), we will buy again. I don't mind renting for a few years. People say it's throwing your money away but in the 18 months since we had our last mortgage, we only paid off a few hundred quid of the capital! I don't know how young couples can manage at the moment, and people that buy now are setting themselves up for a fall if the economy takes a nosedive. If you are thinking about getting a mortgage - WAIT!
Rob, UK

I hear many colleagues bemoaning the fact that they can't afford to buy a flat. Many of their expectations though are unrealistic in terms of what they'd like the price of a flat in central London to be. Instead of waiting and hoping that the market for their dream flat in Chelsea will drop, they'd be better off looking at further out areas and buying there. I bought in a then 'unfashionable' area of south east London 2 years ago having been priced out of my preferred area. I've discovered new places and new friends and it takes no longer to get to work.
Dom M, UK

Everyone knows you don't sell out of London unless you intend to leave London. The city still has the best jobs, the best dinning and the best club scene. Demand in London has always been stronger than in other parts of the country due to its dynamic mix.
Matthew Joynes, UK

I have a deposit of £20,000 saved and rates are at their lowest in living memory so now would appear to be the right time to buy. However, considering I'd have to borrow around £100,000 to get a decent one bed flat in London it doesn't seem such a good idea.
Bill, UK

If it keeps going on like this then there really will be a problem

Tony, UK
My brother and his fiancée only recently bought a house and had great difficulty in finding one they could afford (they live in Hampshire). If it keeps going on like this then there really will be a problem. Also, we may start seeing more and more of those pathetic little shoeboxes that are being built on all new estates because they'll be the only properties first time buyers can afford - easy meat for the house builders!
Tony, UK

We made the mistake of renting for several years, then found that even a 3-bedroom semi close to where I work cost at least £140,000. A first-time buyer needs to earn at least £45,000 pa to satisfy most lenders for such a property, which is why we ended up moving out of the South East and into the Midlands. Fortunately I can telecommute to a large extent but for millions of other people it is a huge problem.
Paul R, UK

I am still stretched to the limit

Rebecca Southwell, UK
I am in the process of buying into a low cost housing scheme at the moment, a scheme whereby the council retains 33% of the market value of the property to make houses in my area more affordable. Yet I am still stretched to the limit. I haven't had a salary increase this year but I read that house prices are rising at a yearly rate of 10.8%. I would've had a 3-5% pay rise if company targets were met. So why am I so desperate to buy? Because you just don't get the same sort of return on any other investment tool.
Rebecca Southwell, UK

I am not a first time buyer, but if I were, I could not afford to get onto the housing ladder and my kids certainly can't afford to! My property is currently on the market, and has more than doubled in 10 years. Another major disadvantage to property ownership is the outrageous stamp duty rates applied by greedy governments!
Rob, England

How does the average price of a house in the UK compare with the average wage? I strongly suspect that these two figures are not even close, although they ideally should be. (I calculate that the average wage should be £40,000 if we are to afford the 'average' house).
Alan, Bristol, UK

See also:

08 Aug 01 | Business
Property prices continue to rise
03 Aug 01 | Business
Property price rises start to slow
31 Jul 01 | Business
House price rises 'unsustainable'
10 May 01 | Business
UK trims rates 0.25%
10 Jul 01 | Business
London homes cost twice UK average
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Talking Point stories