Is a Mans Home Still His Castle?

The British seem to have a continuing obsession with owning their own home in a way that, say, the French or Germans do not. This attitude is often linked to the housing boom that started in the 1980s when local authority housing was being sold off to tenants at knock-down prices and the mortgage market was deregulated. There was a slump (or re-correction) in the housing market in the late 80s but soon we were back on a relentless rise of property prices and more and more people started to view property as more of an investment than a place to create roots and build a home and life.

But, in fact, the history of our obsession with home ownership goes back much further back into history than the end of the 20th century and is linked to the 17th century common law stating that “a man’s house is his castle” which gave property owners security that others did not possess. But also, perhaps more importantly, to the fact that until the late 19th century a man (because it was only men then) could not vote unless he owned a property.

However, we all know that, obsession or not, it is becoming more and more difficult for the youngest generation of adults to buy their own home – in part because supply and demand has pushed up house prices beyond their reach in many parts of the country, but also because the banks and other lending institutions now require 20% – 25% of the purchase price as a deposit in order to secure a mortgage. And it is raising that down payment that is keeping so many would-be purchasers in rented accommodation far beyond the point when previous generations would have bought a home. These renters are often paying more in rent than they would on a home loan which makes the chance of saving enough for a deposit even more remote.

One way many young adults are circumventing this problem is to call on the bank of Mum & Dad to help out with the deposit; either as direct loans or by acting as guarantors on guarantor loans to raise some or all of the deposit. This may not be an ideal financial start to home-ownership but many are willing to use this approach to achieve the independence and security offered by owning their own home. Parents are equally keen to help their offspring obtain this security.

With centuries of history behind us indicating home ownership is the ideal dream, it would be hard to persuade the British people that owning a home of their own is a bad idea and that renting for the foreseeable future is a good idea. Nevertheless home ownership in the UK is at its lowest level since 1986.

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