THE TRUTH BEHIND ‘GENERATION RENT’

Recent figures suggest that up to 1/3 of millennials (people aged 23-38 as of 2019) may never be able to own their own home and have no other option aside from renting property their entire lives – while 1/2 will rent well into their forties.

We decided to take a closer look at the UK rental market and the factors influencing it.

While it’s true that there are those who prefer renting to the prospect of owning property – there are a lot of roadblocks in place for those that want to get a foot on the ladder.

We’ve taken a look at what the controversial labelling younger people as ‘generation rent’ really means, gathered data into an interactive map of property prospects for Gen Y and gathered first-hand accounts to give you the full picture of the UK’s generational property problem.

PRICED OUT – THE UK’S PROPERTY INEQUALITY

2018 saw a lot of coverage aimed at ‘generation rent’, implying that younger people were content to stay in rented accommodation with no ambition towards buying. The truth is that many don’t have the means to save for a deposit and can be left having to rent a property with issues ranging from the dwelling itself to the landlord that maintains it.

Essentially, it’s less of a generational attitude and more down to the fact that property ownership is out of most people born after Gen X’s grasp – especially for those not born into a family of wealth or property assets.

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One of the biggest indicators of whether or not someone is able to buy a house is their parents’ property wealth. Over 50% of UK ‘Baby Boomers’ owned property by age 30, however, this figure has plummeted as less than 30% of millennials, who on average have less parental property wealth to rely on, own property as they hit the big 3-0.

Of course, it’s not all down to who your parents are (although that does help). The downturn of home ownership with younger people is down to a number of economic and social factors including a more complex job market, skyrocketing house prices and global financial instability.

YOUNG BRITS’ PROPERTY PROSPECTS

Now that we’ve touched on the issues that make buying property so difficult for younger generations, let’s take a look at the figures in black and white.

Although rent is generally seen as more affordable (depending on location), the amount it takes from each month’s wage is often enough to prevent any chance of saving for a property of your own.

Increasing numbers of younger people in the UK are taking to shared accommodation as a more affordable solution – renting with friends or other people in similar situations to alleviate the stresses that rent can put on their finances. Despite flat-sharing becoming less prevalent as people get into their 30s, over 25% of private single renters are still sharing accommodation by 35 according to data from the Department of Work & Pensions.

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So, with younger generations increasingly stuck in a cycle of renting, often having to find house share situations to keep themselves afloat – what do the property prospects for younger people in the UK actually look like?

Based on data as of the end of 2018, our interactive map looks at how Gen Y and beyond are being priced out of purchasing a home. The time taken to save for a deposit is based on the monthly savings of 20% – the most widely recommended level of savings per month – of the average ‘millennial’ (23 to 38) earnings – £2,160 per month – against the standard 20% deposit amount for properties around the UK.

Of course, not everyone classed as a millennial will be bringing an average annual wage of £25,920 – meaning that, in many cases, saving for a deposit could take even longer and may not seem worth the time and effort required.

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UK RENT HORROR STORIES REVEALED

Now that we’ve investigated the generational disparity and looked through the stats, it’s time to hear from the people that are affected by this issue first-hand. We’ve spoken to younger renters to find out the type of conditions they’re having to make do with while being priced out of a place of their own.

While owning a property certainly doesn’t mean you won’t deal with your fair share of issues – these are often made much more complicated when renting. Despite the fact that it can cost up to a dizzying 75% of an average UK millennial’s wage to rent out a home, there are plenty of horror stories from those stuck in the cycle, unable to save for a deposit.

“I rented a mezzanine flat in Liverpool. One night, I collapsed with back pain and was stuck upstairs, unable to move my legs. I called 111 who sent an ambulance straight away. The only problem was, the door downstairs was locked. I called the landlord to ask him to open the door and explained what was happening. He said: “Oh, I don’t have any keys, I keep them in the sweet shop over the road”. Turns out he didn’t own the shop, didn’t know the owners well, and it was closed. So, essentially, he’d left my keys with strangers who could access the flat at any time. The real kick in the teeth came when he got a locksmith to open the door, then charged me £250 for the privilege!” – Ellie, 24, Liverpool

“I was living in a half-falling-apart house that had builders in every morning at 7am fixing five of the communal areas (i.e. kitchen, utility room, lounge, bathroom and spare room), meaning all our storage was piled up in the hallway. After 8 weeks of this, we were told we were ‘complaining’ too much and with 4 days’ notice, were told that our tenancies would not be renewed. The most frustrating thing is that we have essentially given our last two months of rent to the landlord who has used it to increase the value of his house to then not even be able to live in it once complete. To top it off, he blamed us for ‘tenant neglect’, saying our 6-month tenancy is the reason he had to pay for all of the renovations.” – Lou, 28, Newcastle

“I started renting when I was 20, so I think my landlord took advantage of my age and tried to fob me off if anything went wrong. My flatmate once went to the toilet and the ceiling fell through on him, and that didn’t get fixed for three months. The tenant before us had also snapped the bannisters and the landlord had glued them back together, so every time you went up the stairs, there was a chance you could fall through if you put any pressure on them. Also, the front door had been kicked in before and took a month to sort.” – Lauren, 26, Sunderland

“I rented a house with four friends. By the end of one year there, we’d had mice in the kitchen, damp, water pouring down the kitchen wall, horrible mould, a letting agent who lied about being out of the office so we couldn’t go around and complain. We had to get the council involved to enforce the landlord to deal with the damp problem. We all fell out so spectacularly due to the stress of it all that one of my roommates moved out mid-year, and I left no longer speaking to any of them.” – George, 28, Birmingham

“I had a nightmare eight months in my flat in West Hill. For starters, our oven was dropped and smashed by the gas man, the washing machine tore our clothes and the replacement flooded our kitchen on several occasions. There was a five-month wait for mouldy wallpaper to be replaced, two broken dishwashers, a mouse and fly infestation and someone stealing our gas. After a grand total of 243 complaint emails, we decided enough was enough and shifted to a, thankfully, much nicer place.” – Rachael, 26, London

A GENERATIONAL MORTGAGE PROBLEM: ASKING THE EXPERTS

We’ve delved into the data to show how younger people are at a severe disadvantage in today’s property market and heard first-hand from those experiencing issues while renting; stories that are, unfortunately, much more common than many realise.

Is there a way to fix the system? Let’s take a look at what industry experts think of the UK’s property prospects.

DO YOU THINK THAT YOUNG PEOPLE TODAY HAVE IT TOUGHER WHEN IT COMES TO BUYING PROPERTY?

“Buying property is without a doubt far more difficult for young people than it’s ever been, and house prices are far higher relative to the average wage than ever before. We’re in a unique position historically with both a shaky economy and a turbulent housing market making it almost impossible for young first-time buyers to take that initial step on the ladder.”
– Gary Hemming, Commercial Lending Director at ABC Finance Ltd.

“House price vs. wage is no doubt stacked against younger buyers, compared to previous generations. However, interest rates are a fraction of what they were for decades, so affordability is still there. Also, many younger buyers are choosing to remain single for longer so don’t benefit from dual income mortgages as often as previous generations.”
– Jonathan Rolande, Co-Founder of The National Association of Property Buyers

“For young people, it’s a sorry situation now – there’s less excitement involved in buying your first home. The houses that this generation can afford are either in need of renovation – who has the time to do that when you have to work full time in order to afford the increasing costs of living – while others are in undesirable areas or are too small to be a forever home.”
– Stuart Rhodes, Mortgage & Protection Advisor at Top Mortgage Solutions

“It has never been harder for a young person to get on a housing ladder. We have seen people living longer at home with most not buying their first home before the age of 30.”
– Dominik Lipnicki, Director of Your Mortgage Decisions

WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER TO BE THE MAIN BARRIERS TO YOUNG PEOPLE WHEN LOOKING FOR A MORTGAGE?

“There are so many barriers out there for young people. Tighter regulations control the maximum income multiples, meaning income can’t be stretched where loans may have otherwise been deemed affordable due to the long-term low rates that we’ve seen. There’s also a lot of social pressure amongst peers to ‘keep up appearances’ leading to far higher borrowing rates for things such as cars makes saving almost impossible.”
– Gary Hemming, Commercial Lending Director at ABC Finance Ltd.

“High multiples, high rents that drain cash whilst ‘saving up’ and availability of consumer goods and travel and so on, which hinder frugality.”
– Jonathan Rolande, Co-Founder of The National Association of Property Buyers

“Affordability is without a doubt the main issue. Even with increased historically low mortgage interest rates and the availability of 100% mortgages, albeit a limited range. With a continuing rise in the cost of properties this generation now have to save for a substantial deposit in order to even start the process of stepping onto the property ladder. As life expectancy increases, inheritance is coming to this generation a lot later in life, this means that the majority now have to raise the money themselves.”
– Stuart Rhodes, Mortgage & Protection Advisor at Top Mortgage Solutions

“House prices have risen far faster than wages, this is further complicated by rents increasing above inflation, making it very difficult to save for deposits. Around half of all first-time buyers use others to help them with the deposit, usually the bank of mum and dad. We also find that lenders are slow to move with the times, with restrictive lending criteria and tighter income multiples, meaning that it is often difficult to obtain a mortgage, even if the buyer has saved the deposit. Unfortunately, governments of all colours have failed to build enough houses and until the supply versus demand issue is satisfied, the future for young people looks tough with many of them on an average salary, will never be in a position to purchase their home.”
– Dominik Lipnicki, Director of Your Mortgage Decisions

WHAT CAN BE DONE TO HELP MORE YOUNG PEOPLE GET ON THE PROPERTY LADDER?

“I think the number one issue is supply and demand. Houses are being bought and held by property investors which is limiting supply and driving prices up. This wouldn’t usually cause such extreme upward pressure on prices, but sustained failure to hit new home targets at government level has compounded the issue greatly.”
– Gary Hemming, Commercial Lending Director at ABC Finance Ltd.

“Help-to-Buy is a sticking plaster approach that has fuelled inflation and simply boosted house builders’ profits. More homes must be built to increase supply – that will reduce prices. A holistic approach is also needed, there are millions of homes easily within buyer’s reach, but they are not in areas young people wish to live or work in. Create jobs and growth in these areas to make use of existing stock.”
– Jonathan Rolande, Co-Founder of The National Association of Property Buyers

“The government should encourage more schemes where a young person can purchase a % of their home and rent the other part, increasing their ownership as they earn more. There is no silver bullet here but as a country, we need to simplify our planning application process and build more homes, not just luxury properties in central London, often bought by foreign investors but real, affordable homes that would give our young people the start that they deserve.”
– Dominik Lipnicki, Director of Your Mortgage Decisions

For more information on the UK property market, including who actually owns the most property and what the future of our high streets could look like – visit the ABC Finance blog.