There's a lot of talk about 'affordable housing'. About how people can't afford to buy houses in so many areas because house builders are asking almost Monopoly money prices for their, largely, 'Executive, 4 & 5 bedroom' developments.
Yes, well. I'm not entirely surprised. Besides which, what first-time buyer goes for an 'Executive, 4 & 5 bedroom' development?
Apparently finding a deposit can be hard, specially when you're on 'minimum' wages. Either you can pay the mortgage repayments, or you can eat, kinda thing. Which is never going to be a good situation.
It makes me wonder somewhat though. Back in the early eighties we started buying this house - a late Victorian end-of-terrace house, flat front to pavement, with small back yard. A fairly common type of property in Portsmouth, apart from the 'end-of-terrace' bit. Consequently we have a back gate, which is useful when we put out the recycling bin, among other things.
But back in the early (nineteen) eighties house prices were lower. That's lower relative to average income as well as lower cos it was 35 years ago! House prices shot up over the mid-eighties.
H was on a good salary, I was looking for a job having finished my MSc. Portsmouth is a very densely populated city - comes of being mostly built on an island. There's only so much land available before you hit the high-water mark! Move out of Portsmouth and you are in 'Yachting Country' if you stick to the coast, or 'Rural Idyll' if you go further inland. Both areas were Expensive then. Now they're Ridiculously Expensive.
Not being car drivers we picked a place handy for public transport. The local railway station is ten to fifteen minutes walk away, quicker if you run. There are buses available within a five minute walk, or others a little further away. They don't come as frequently as they might have 35 years ago, and the fare prices are considerably higher, but they're still there. Transport in Portsmouth is nowhere near as good as TfL sorts it for London, but it's not bad. We are linked to Chichester by Southern Rail for one thing. They have a record of only running 80% of scheduled trains on a good day!
Having been at university on grants (note Grants, not Student Loans), and not having spent every evening in the Union Bar, we had managed to save from our grants. By the time we were looking for a house we had the money for a deposit. We had to pay a bit more because 'end-of-terrace', but not overly so. And we furnished the place, mostly, with other people's 'cast offs'*. I think the only things we had new were the gas cooker, our bed and a washing machine - and that because Sis and Bro gave us the money as a wedding present. We had a black and white TV for so many years the TV licensing authorities came to check one day that that was what we actually did have!
The thing was, back in the day, the interest rate was not the 2% or so it is at present. On mortgage repayments it was in double figures - 12-15% or so. We didn't just have to be 'careful' for the first few years, we had to be careful most of the 25 years we spent repaying the mortgage. And there were times when, having two children as well as a high rate of repayment, things were a bit tight and we had to be very careful.
Do I begin to sound like your old Granny telling you about how she had to make do on 50p per week? (Only it would have been ten shillings then, that went further.) Okay, suffice it to say that we managed, survived, even got the place insulated - roof and cavity walls, and got it double glazed. Twice.
We've also had another new bed, another new gas cooker and another new washing machine (which we're trying to persuade to keep going as various plastic bits drop off!) We've had a few new carpets, though the one in our bedroom is the one my parents started off with sixty-five years ago (and may have been second-hand then. Good quality carpet, that one!)
The point is, you can do it if you're careful. And to prove it wasn't only possible nearly forty years ago, some people are still doing so now. Although looking at the 'Where Can I Afford to Live?' calculator at the end of that link seems to show that we couldn't afford to buy a house, even a late-Victorian-end-of-terrace in central Portsmouth, which we have owned outright for the past ten years. So it's just as well we aren't looking to move.
I do feel sorry for those looking to become 'first-time buyers' though. The mortgage interest rate may well be down in low single figures, but the initial asking prices . . . And I'm inclined to agree with the people in the article (see link.) If you're paying roughly the same amount in rent as you'd be paying in mortgage repayments then that's effectively 'dead money'. Although if you can find a good landlord who really looks after the property and responds favourably (or even at all) to your attempts to contact them, you're onto a good thing.
Meanwhile if more 'affordable housing' is to be built I reckon the Government is going to have to lean on housebuilders and make them build more. Otherwise the builders will be out for the maximum return on their investments of time, money, materials, manpowe etc. And who can blame them?
Do you own your home, Dear Reader? Or are you attempting to own it, eventually? Or are you renting? What do you think about such things?
Y'all have a good day now!
*Do not sneer at a good 'cast off', Dear Reader. Our dining table and chairs are Utility. Well designed, well built and, apparently, quite sought after. They're a slightly battered now, they were H's grandparents', so have seen at least two generations of growing children. The rabbit liked to chew on the 'stretchers' of the chairs, which we didn't let him do if we caught him at it!