I remember the feeling as a reporter when I wrote about workers who were taking action over what they perceived to be bad wages, and would realise they were paid more than me.
I’m reminded of this today when I hear of measures aimed at helping young families onto the housing ladder and the need to address the country’s housing crisis. I am not debt ridden, or badly paid. But when Grant Shapps talks of young families who are caught in a pincer movement between the paucity of available credit, high housing prices and the substantial deposits needed to get decent mortgages, it feels like he could be talking about me.
We’ve been living in Temple Cloud, between Bristol and Bath, for more than a year now, and have decided we’d like to be here long-term. It’s just a shame that the average house price in Bath and North East Somerset local authority area is around £290,000 (or more than five times our household income). The 20% deposit needed to access a decent mortgage for the remaining amount would set us back nearly £60,000, which is a hell of a shift from how banks behaved when we bought our first house in 2005. At that time, we were offered (and refused, thankfully) a 110% ‘loan to value’ deal by Northern Rock, one element of a dangerous trend which sent the financial system into meltdown and saw ‘credit crunch’ enter the official lexicon a couple of years later.
The Government recognises the impact first time buyers have on the wider economy, which is why it launched the FirstBuy initiative to get the market moving again last month. Without such a measure, those with no spare money to save for a deposit or invest in property will not get near a home of their own soon. And if they don’t move, neither does the rest of the chain.
This dilemma has got us thinking about the merits of building our own home, which is something that the Government is keen on encouraging. Living in a van on a building site while the house is being built for 12 months would be my idea of hell. But, thinking long-term, owning the house you want now at a realistic price, without having to move every five years (and paying thousands to lawyers, estate agents and removal companies every time) is becoming a credible option for us.
I’ve bought some books to research it, and we are signed up to some web alerts to monitor plots that become available and I am becoming increasingly interested in watching the focus on ‘self builders’ become a building block in the foundations of the Government’s housing policy.
It won’t be one for Grand Designs, but if things go well I could become my own case study. I’ll let you know how we get on.