To mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, Halifax put together a fascinating look at housing over the past 60 years.
There can be no argument that residential property has been the best investment for Darby and Joan over these six decades.
A few may have struck it rich on shares through a lucky or canny investment. Some may have picked the right work of art.
But for across the board wealth creation nothing can touch bricks and mortar. House prices have increased by 186 per cent in real terms over the past 60 years, says Halifax.
But could it be that we have already lived through the golden age of home ownership? Two-thirds of people in the UK now own their home compared with a third in 1953.
But the current 66 per cent figure has fallen from a peak of 71 per cent hit in 2003.
My mum, now 90, bought her four-bedroom terraced house in Norwich – in which she still lives – for £400 cash in the 1950s. It meant saving hard and making real sacrifices but it gave us a roof over our heads with no rent collectors knocking at the door every week.
Today youngsters think they are saving hard if they restrict themselves to three holidays a year.
But when house prices average 4.8 times gross annual earnings, saving a deposit, let alone buying, can seem a daunting prospect. Incidentally in 2007 the multiple hit 5.8 per cent.
But when house prices average 4.8 times gross annual earnings, saving a deposit, let alone buying, can seem a daunting prospect
The attempt by government to create a healthy private rental sector was hailed in the 1990s as a great advance for mobility and choice. Sadly it has become a charter for speculators squeezing youngsters out of the market. And squeezing them for every penny of rent.
The banking crisis has not helped. Lenders often regard first-time buyers with exaggerated caution and scepticism – though it was their own lax lending practices that fuelled the borrowing bonanza.
Politicians, when they speak of housing, usually talk of wanting a stable market. But they often speak with forked tongues.
They know that rapidly rising house prices are good news for them because they encourage optimism and spending among homeowners. And with luck any crash will come just after an election rather than just before one.
Margaret Thatcher strongly believed it was the right of every person to own their own home.
Many young people still aspire to this goal. It would be a shame indeed if high mortgage rates for first-time buyers, mortgage rationing, competition from speculators and ill-judged policies from governments were to shut them out permanently.