Uk housing market

1.2A brief history of the UK housing market

The aim of this research project is to compare and evaluate the variables that affected the FTBs accessibility to the housing market over the last 40 years.

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The first objective is to establish the factors’ that have affected the rise in house prices other the last 40 years.

The second objective is to review and evaluate how the property market has changed over the last 40 years with respect to affordable housing, and what impact this has had on FTB statistics.

The third objective is to review and analyse the change in Private Lender schemes over the last 40 years, and the affect this has had on FTB statistics.

The fourth objective is to review the relationship between variables such as life expectancy, retirement age, size of families, wages etc and their overall effect on FTBs accessibility to the housing market.

The fifth objective is to conduct questionnaire surveys using a sample of FTBs to establish the public’s perspective on affordable housing.

The sixth objective is to conduct questionnaire surveys using a sample of FTBs to establish the most common method used.


First time buyer: Is a phrase commonly used to identify someone who would be buying a house for the first time.

Average house price: The average price that a house would sell if placed on the market, this price would fall between the bottom 50per cent of house prices and the top 50per cent.

Average household income: The combined average gross household income, from sources such as wages, salaries and various sources of investments.

Key worker: A public sector worker, linked to professions such as, NHS staff, police officers, teachers, social workers, fire fighters, local authority planners and prison officers.

House Price to income ratio: The ratio of median house prices to median incomes.

1.5 Abbreviations

FTB: First time buyer

HPIR: House price to income ratio

CIS: Cash Incentive Scheme

RTA: Right to Acquire

RTB: Right to Buy


In order to compare and evaluate the variables that affected the FTBs accessibility to the housing market over the last 40 years, it is necessary to review existing published work. Due to a lot of the published works, which were gained from the library not being up to date, the literature review is mainly based on reports and articles which were gained from online sources. In order for the information that is gathered to be analysed in the most effective manner it will be divided into the various sections:

Factors’ that have affected the rise in house prices other the last 40 years.
Changes in the property market over the last 40 years with respect to affordable housing.
Changes in the private lender schemes over the last 40 years.
Variables affecting FTBs accessibility to the housing market.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s the British housing market experienced unprecedented changes and raised heightened concerns over the affordability of many to gain access to the property market, due largely to rising house price to income ratios, which has been labelled as a ‘crisis of affordability’ in housing provision (Maclennan, Williams, 1990, p. 8).

It is only rather recently that ‘affordability’ has become a common term in housing policy in Britain (Whitehead, 1991),and for this reason the meaning of ‘affordability’ has caused much confusion, and since the Government has given no specific definition for the term, the following definition has been sourced ‘’Affordability’ is concerned with securing some given standard of housing (or different standards) at a price or rent which does not impose, in the eyes of some third party (usually government) an unreasonable burden on household incomes.’ (Maclennan, Williams, 1990, p. 9)

2.1 Factors’ that have affected the rise in house prices other the last 40 years.

It has become apparent in recent years that the rise in house prices has become a major issue within the UK, which has resulted in First Time Buyers (FTB) finding it difficult to gain access to the property ladder. The problem faced by rising house prices has been imminent for a long time, but up until the last decade this problem was mainly confined to London, the South East and a few regional hot spots (Department for Communities and Local Government [DCLG], 2006, page 6). But by looking at more recent figures it has become apparent that high house prices have become a more wide spread problem, with particular emphasis on rural districts, and smaller settlements (DCLG, 2006, page 6).

Though there has already been a vast amount of research and study on the subject of affordable housing within the UK, namely the Barker review (2003), whose principal reasoning behind the problem was largely focused on a poor planning system and constraints on housing supply. Little information was sourced on the drivers and factors which play a major role in determining UK house prices, which will be the principle aim of this section of the literature review.

By analysing literature and data collected from published works this section of the literature review will examine the various factors that have played a contributing role in the rise in house prices within the UK. These include:

Interest rates
Supply and demand
Rise in population and increasing number of households
Buy to let market
2.1.1 Interest Rates

Many scholars believe that there is a direct link between house prices and interest rates; however the focus of this report aims to suggest, that in fact it is the affordability of housing and public confidence which is instead affected by alterations in interest rates, which in turn leads to changes in house prices.

For example, a rise in interest rates would lead to increased monthly repayments on mortgages, as mortgage repayments rise, the prospects of buying a house becomes less attractive, thus leading to a decline in demand for houses and fall in house prices. On the other hand when interest rates are lowered, this would lead to a fall in mortgage repayments, public confidence and demand is likely to rise at this point leading to a rise in house prices’. If interest rates were to continue fall in this manner so would house prices, until the housing market reaches a state of oversupply.

McQuinn and O’Riley (2006) suggest that lower interest rates mean that mortgage repayments are lower and hence the house purchaser can potentially borrow more. This would also lead to an outward shift in the demand curve with prices increasing.

‘The fall in UK interest rates (and unemployment) over time has had two linked effects. It has brought the cost of borrowing down sharply, leaving lenders (and borrowers in terms of pressuring for) with the dilemma as to whether to increase the multipliers applied (i.e. up from three times loan to income ratio- LTI) which in turn has increased demand and through that house prices’ (Forest, Lee, 2007, p. 168).

2.1.2 Supply and demand

Supply and demand is defined as, ‘the quantity of goods available for sale at a given price, and the level of consumer need for those goods. The balance of supply and demand fluctuates as external economic factors (such as the cost of materials and the level of competition in the marketplace) influence the level of demand from consumers and the desire and ability of producers to supply the goods’ (BNET, 2010)

Kate Barker, a member of the Bank of England monetary policy committee, was commissioned by the Treasury to examine housing supply (Guardian, 2008) and establish why house prices in the UK are rising so fast. Within the report she established that the main reason was due to the supply of housing not keeping up with demand, which she put down to the increased growth in population (Barker, 2004).

In an article for the Mirror Martin Ellis, housing economist at Halifax puts it best by saying “unless we can get the supply and demand in balance then that is going to lead to more upwards pressure on that ratio of prices to earnings.” (House prices ‘have quadrupled’, 2010)

Data collected from the ODPM revealed that housing supply in the UK is currently growing at 150,000 new homes each year, in comparison to the 190,000 new households each year. This shortfall of 40,000 new homes which would be needed, in order for supply to meet demand, could be a significant factor in the currently rising house prices (Office of National Statistics, 2008). In speaking to the Estates Gazette (EG) Yvette Cooper, the former housing and planning minister, revealed that in order to keep up with demand 200,000 new homes would need to be built each year (EGI, 2005), with 3 million new homes built by 2020. However with the credit crunch having just hit and the uncertain state the economy is in, it is looking less and less likely that the Government will be able to meet these targets.

2.1.3.Rise in population and increasing number of households

As previously mentioned supply and demand of houses has a direct effect on house prices; the aim of this section of the report is to establish how changes in the population can in turn have an effect on supply and demand of houses.

It is a well known fact the UKs population is gradually growing; there have been various contributing factors to this, but the main reason is longer life expectancy. The average life expectancy of a male in the UK has risen from 67.1 in 1970 to 77.53 in 2008, and female’s life expectancy has risen from 74.7 in 1970 to 81.74 in 2008 (Office of National Statistics, 2008).

The rise in household numbers isn’t solely the result of the rise in life expectancy, there’s also a variety of different demographic factors which have contributed. These include: Divorce rates.

According to the Office for National Statistics, in 2008, the divorce rate in the UK stood at 11.2 divorcing people per 1000 married; this is in comparison to 6.1 in 1971, which is a 46 per cent increase. With the amount of couples getting divorced increasing, so too will the number of households, pushing demand up (Office of National statistics, 2008). Decline in number of marriages.

The increase in the number of households in the UK can also be largely explained by an increase in the mean age that couples are getting married. According to the Office for National Statistics the mean marriage age in the UK has increased from 27.1 in 1970 to 35.6 in 2003 (Office of National Statistics, 2006). With the general public opting to marry at a later stage in their life the number of households is likely to increase; as explained before an increase in the number of households is likely to lead to increase in demand for houses, which will in turn lead to a rise in house prices. Major influx of immigrants.

Migration is an important factor in the changes in the UKs population over the last 40 years, when inward migration is greater than outward migration; the population would rise at a higher rate. According to the Office of National Statistics 518,000 people immigrated to the UK in 2009, whereas 370,000 emigrated, giving a net migration figure of 148,000 (Office of National Statistics, 2009).

2.1.4 Income

According to McQuinn and O’Reilly (2006), rising income will mean that borrowers can borrow more on the basis of higher income and hence bid a higher price for a property, thus the demand curve for housing will shift outwards with prices increasing. It is also suggested that higher household incomes will result in households having more disposable income, which in turn will lead to increase in normal and luxury goods, since it is assumed that housing is a normal/luxury good, it can also be assumed that demand for housing will increase, and so too will house prices.

Keynes best describes this theory as “The fundamental psychological law, upon which we are entitled to depend with great confidence both a priori and from our knowledge of human nature and from the detailed facts of experience, is that men are disposed, as a rule and on the average, to increase their consumption, as their income increases, but not by as much as the increases in their income (The General Theory, 1936, p.96)

In their book ‘Booms and Busts in the UK Housing Market’ Muellbauer and Murphy suggest that income growth alongside predicted income growth can lead to an increase in public confidence to spend disposable income; this increase in public confidence, respectively lead to a rise in house prices, through demand rising.

There has been a marked increase in the number of women in paid employment in the past 60 years (Hogarth et al., 2001) there are a variety of different reasons for this, but one of the most significant would be the introduction of the Equal pay Act 1970. With many households now having two incomes they can arrange for a joint mortgage, which in effect means they can bid up house prices.

2.1.5.Buy to let market

Buy-to-let (BTL) mortgages are where an investor purchases a property for purpose of renting it out; the investor rents the property out to tenants with the intention of using the money from the rent to pay off his mortgage, with a possible excess which would be kept by the landlord. The landlord would also be looking to make a capital gain on the property over its life time making it a very good investment.

Since July 1996 when the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) launched BTL loans, there has been an explosion of investors entering the market hoping to get both income and capital gains from their investment. According to Paragon Mortgages, BTL now accounts for around 14% of the mortgage market (Stepek, 2007, para. 4)

According to the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) buy-to-let mortgages outstanding continue to rise, in 2008 there were 1,103,000 BTL mortgages in the UK worth ?132.5 billion, which is a rise of 19% by volume and 25% by value from a year ago previous (CML, 2008).

This surge in investors entering the BTL market has been in part due to the soaring house prices of the late 90’s, but also largely due to relaxation in the lending criteria , the CML have revealed that in 2008 on average, lenders would offer a maximum loan of 83% on the value of the property (CML, 2008). However with more and more investors looking to make an easy buck, upward pressure is being put on demand, resulting in house prices to rise. To add to this, investors have predominantly been buying up smaller homes, consequently making it harder for FTBs to even get small premises.

2.1.6 Unemployment

With unemployment at its lowest since the 1970s (, there is more people with the potential to gain a mortgage and enter the housing market, this upward pressure on demand is turn going push house prices up. Armstrong and Taylor suggest that, low unemployment leads to higher wages, which in turn lead to an increase in demand for housing and hence higher house prices (Armstrong, Taylor, 2000, p. 208)

2.1.7 Confidence

‘In analysing the ingredients that have contributed towards the recent strong growth in house prices analysts have consistently made reference to the strength of consumer confidence. The implication is that consumer confidence positively impacts upon house price growth.’ (Report on confidence)

Garratt goes on to say ‘While consumer confidence is not a significant factor in driving household consumption, it does have a role to play in influencing the willingness of households to undertake secured borrowing’. (report on confidence, look in my docs for file)

‘Speculative demand for housing draws new buyers into the housing market on the expectation of future price increases and associated capital gains. The extra level of demand funded mainly through mortgage finance adds to the existing level of mortgage debt – but the speculative demand creates a ratchet effect whereby expectations of higher prices leads to an increase in demand which sends actual house price higher ‘ (Riley, 2005, p. 73)

Due to the extreme rise in house prices of the mid 90’s, public confidence in the housing market grew (further explained in chapter?), which led to a rush in people purchasing property with the expectation of trying to get a piece of the action, which has caused greater demand for houses, pushing prices up.

2.2 Changes in the property market over the last 40 years with respect to affordable housing.

In order to establish how the changes in the property market over the last 40 years, with respect to affordable housing has affected FTB statistics, it is first important to discuss the development of affordable housing within the UK. This will enable FTB statistics to be compared to a time-line of these developments, giving an impression of their effectiveness.

2.2.1 Right to Buy

In past history a lot homes in the UK would have been council owned, but since the 1980’s the proportion of council owned homes has diminished instead favouring towards providing support to various other forms of social housing. In 1980, under power of Margaret Thatcher the 1980 Housing Act introduced the Right to Buy scheme (RTB), which offered council tenants (of three years tenancy) the right to buy their council house, with discounts up to 50per cent, which in 1986 went up to 70per cent for flats (Power, 1993, p. 217).

The RTB scheme has faced lots of criticism since its introduction, said to favour the more affluent home owners rather than the poorer more in need (King, 2006, p. 68). However if we were to look at the policy and whether it met its initial aims, the RTB could be viewed as having been very successful; over the past 25 years the RTB scheme has helped broaden owner occupation, particular to the working-class and helped break up municipal housing (King, 2006, p. 68).

However it has also been argued that the RTB scheme has lead to a shortage of social housing available, largely due to Government edicts which have prevented councils from spending the proceeds of sales of social housing on new housing (Hallett, 1993, p.230). Accompanied by an increase in demand for affordable housing, this could be a major contributing factor in rise of house prices.

2.2.2 HomeBuy Schemes
2.3 Changes in the private lender schemes over the last 40 years.

This section of the literature review aims to look at how, changes in credit available to consumers in the UK has played a role in the increase in house prices over the last 40 years.

Aoki, Proudman and Vlieghe (2002, p.10) suggest that credit frictions may be important in understanding the relationship between interest rates, house prices, housing investment and consumption and found that significant effects of households access to credit on consumption and on housing investment in UK aggregate and regional data. Over the last 40 years credit constraint has seen some significant changes, with access to credit more easily available to consumers. This can be largely explained by the removal of exchange controls in 1979 and bank lending in 1980, it can be further explained by the Building Societies Act 1986, which lifted the restrictions on how building societies operate, which gave them the same status as banks (Aoki, Proudman and Vlieghe, 2002, p. 14). Other significant changes in the last 40 years include the inclusion of non-bank entrants such as department stores, retailers and insurance companies in offering credit through services such as credit cards, unsecured loans and mortgage products. Furthermore an increase in internet banking in the 1990s and better credit scoring methods also contributed to better credit conditions (Muelbauer, 2005, p.5).

In the 1970s and early 1980s building societies collectively agreed the mortgage and deposit rates they offered (Aoki, Proudman and Vlieghe, 2002, p.14), but due to relaxation in lending criteria and increase in competition between the lenders, the setting of interest rates have been a far more competitive, which has led to lower interest rates for consumers. Interest rates can have a direct effect on the supply of mortgage loans, which in turn will affect house prices.

According to the financial money group, there are currently 2,003 different mortgages available on the market (Burridge, 2010, p.1), the result of this increase in competition, is the reduction of the cost of borrowing , which in turn will encourage more people to take out a mortgage. This increase in demand, as explained before will have an adverse effect on house prices.

2.4 Variables affecting FTBs accessibility to the housing market.

This section of the literature review aims to establish the various variables that have affected FTBs accessibility to the housing market; this will be done through the analysis of various scholars opinions on the subject matter.

It has become apparent in recent years that the rise in house prices in comparison to incomes has become a major issue within the UK, which has resulted in FTBs finding it difficult to gain access to the property ladder.

As a result of incomes not rising at the same rapidity as house price inflation, the principle problem for FTBs is affordability; in the last 20 years the average price a FTB is expected to pay has increased by 294 per cent, “with the average UK property now costing five times the average earnings of a full-time male employee” (Chesworth, 2004, p. 2).

To help emphasis the problem that FTBs face this dissertation will examine the rise in house prices in comparison to income since 1970; in a study by Alliance Trust Research Centre they compared the problem facing FTBs with that of their parents when they tried to buy their first property (Alliance Trust, 2006). According to the study house prices have risen from 2.5 times the average income in 1970 to 3.9 times the average income in 2005, equating to a 60 per cent increase in house price to income ratio (Alliance Trust, 2006).

The average household income is ?38,302, and the house price index report shows that the average house price in the UK is ?197,000, meaning the house price to income ratio is about 5.1. These historically high figures mean that young FTBs are finding it increasingly difficult to gain access into the property market and can often lead to FTBs having to take on risky mortgages, for example interest only schemes. This can result in high household debt, which currently stands at 150 per cent of household income (Ratio of House Prices to Income, 2008).

Though more recent data collected in November 2008, from the price index published by Nationwide Building Society has revealed that house prices are currently on a downward descent, FTBs are still finding it difficult to purchase their first home (CML, 2008).

Though FTBs ‘loan-to-value ratios’ have been going down, with the average FTB taking a loan out on 84per cent of the value of the property in comparison to 90per cent in 2007 (CML, 2008). This is merely the result of lenders lowering the amount that they will lend; in previous housing climates borrowers were able to take out 100per cent mortgages, but with the downturn in the market, lenders are requiring a substantially larger deposit. This subsequently has meant that FTBs are now faced with the prospect of having to find a larger deposit; the research revealed that the average FTB deposit rose from ?15,000 in 2007 to ?19,000 in 2008 (CML, 2008).

Talk about a lot of FTBs in the past would have got the money for the first house from inheritance, from parents and grand parents…but due to longer life expectancy this isn’t always available.

As discussed in chapter? Late marriage can not only have an effect on housing demand, but can also play a part in FTBs accessibility to the housing market. With a lot of people opting to buy their first house once they are married

With the mean average age that people are getting married in the UK rising from 27.1 in 1970 to 35.6 in 2003,

As already discussed in chapter? The buy to let market has led to a massive in surge of investors buying up houses, it is typical that these investors will be buying up smaller typical FTB houses, with demand for these houses going up so will price, making it harder for FTBs to gain access to the market.

More luxury goods available people spending their money on other things

Sudden drop in house prices has led to parents being less likely or able to assist their kids in purchasing their first property due to their investments (house) taking a massive drop.

Jobs less stable in the past people had jobs for life

Contract employment; less people on full time

3.1 Research Strategy

The aim of this research project is to compare and evaluate the variables that have affected the FTBs accessibility to the housing market over the last 40 years. In order to come to the best conclusion to this, it is essential to gather data.

This chapter aims to provide a description of how this data will be gathered, and the particular research methods that will be implemented.

The data collected can be split into Primary and Secondary data. ‘Secondary data consists of information that already exists somewhere, having been collected for another purpose. Primary data consist of information collected for the specific purpose at hand.’

3.1.1 Secondary Data

Since the basis of this investigation, is to analyse house prices over the last 40 years and the effect this has had on FTBs accessibility to the housing market, secondary research will be very useful, mainly due to the extensive amount of information and data already available. The bulk of the secondary data collected has been sourced from journals, reports and websites of professional bodies. However, due to the fact that a lot of the information gathered has the potential to be bias, a variety of different sources will be used and then compared. The majority of the information gathered will be statistical data, which will include economical statistics, demographical statistics and housing market statistics; this will enable an analysis of the factors and variables that affect house prices and to spot any trends. Though a lot of these statistics were included in the literature review, the aim of the next chapter is to give a more specific investigation and data analysis.

Secondary data includes:

Academic Journals
Internet Sites and Web pages
Newspaper Articles
Other Academic Studies
3.1.2 Primary Data

In order to gain the views and opinions of the housing market, questionnaires will be conducted using a sample group of home owners and non home owners. These questionnaires will be conducted using social networking sites, the advantages of using this method is, low cost of data collection and processing, ability to get a wider return rate from all over the country and the disadvantages to using this method is that it allows for errors to be made due to misunderstandings of the questions or lack of knowledge on the subject. So for this reason the questionnaires have been designed in the simplest manner.

Another drawback to using questionnaires is that they may not provide an accurate view of the housing market, since only a relatively small sample group was used, it is possible that the information that is gathered may give a distorted view and conflict with the secondary data. Had there been more time it would have been beneficial to the investigation to carry out a questionnaire using a much larger sample group, giving a more accurate representation. To further the research even more it could have been very advantageous to have set up interviews with the governing bodies responsible for setting Government policy on housing and interest rates. Implementing these two methods along with the research already carried out would have allowed for opinions from both sides.

3.2 Literature Review

With the aim of keeping the literature review as orderly and concise as possible, it was divided into four distinct sections, these sections are listed below.

Factors’ that have affected the rise in house prices other the last 40 years.
Changes in the property market over the last 40 years with respect to affordable housing.
Changes in the private lender schemes over the last 40 years.
Variables affecting FTBs accessibility to the housing market.

The literature review provided an overview of the factors that have affected house prices over the last 40 years and variables affecting FTBs accessibility to the housing market. Though this research gave a good outline of the broader issues at hand, the literature review alone is insufficient in meeting the aims of the study, so for this reason it is paramount that further investigation is undertaken.

3.3 Timeline

Carrying out the literature review bought forward the possibility of creating a timeline of changes in the housing market over the last 40 years. The basis of the timeline will be creation Government policy related to housing, as well as any significant changes in private lender schemes over the last 40 years. By analysing this timeline alongside statistics and data gathered from the secondary research, along with the responses from both questionnaires, direct correlations can be examined.

3.4 Questionnaire

As already stated questionnaires will be sent out to two different sample groups, home owners who bought their first house over the last 40 years and non home owners. This will give a reflection on the UK public’s perspective of the housing market.

The structure of both questionnaires is shown below:

3.4.1 Questionnaire: Property owners
60 and above:
North West:
North East:

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