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50 Years of House Prices

A recent study by the Halifax has concluded that houses are less affordable than they were 50 years ago.  The Halifax study looked at housing market conditions from 1959 to 2009 and found that, although the quality of housing has improved, house prices had risen by an average of 2.7% per year, whilst the annual wage had only risen by 2% per year, during that period.

Four big house booms have occurred in the last 50 years.  These were; 1971 & 73, 1977 & 80, 1985 & 89, and 1998 & 2007, with the latest boom adding the most value of the four.  Getting on the property ladder has been difficult for many, but the vast majority that have taken the plunge have found bricks and mortar to be a good investment.  In real terms, the average home has risen in value by 273% since 1959.  In todays money, the Halifax found that a typical home would have cost around £43,000 50 years ago.  According to the most recent house price index from the bank, the average home is now worth £166,857.

The Conservative Government of the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher brought about one of the most significant shifts in the market by bringing in the right to buy as a national policy.  Owner-occupation accelerated rapidly during this period and by 2008, 68% were owned by their residents, as opposed to 43% in 1961.  The right to buy scheme gives council house tenants the right to buy the house that they are currently living in.  Between 1980 and 1998, an estimated 2 million homes were sold in this way.  By giving generous discounts in proportion to the amount of rent that council tenants had paid on the property, it's not hard to see why the policy was so popular.

Despite the price increases outstripping wage rises, the indications are that homeowners get more for their money these days.  In 1960, 14% of households had an outside toilet; in 1996, that figure had gone down to just 0.2%.  Modern times have seen a basic hot water supply in all dwellings, where as in 1967 only 22% of homes had that facility.

Bill McClintock is the chairman of the property Ombudsman and has been in the housing business for 50 years. He bought his first home in 1965; a four-bedroom house in Winchester for £3,400.  "Even back in the 60s people aspired to own their own home," he said.