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UK house prices raised age of ownership by eight years since 1997

The Guardian logo The Guardian 18/02/2019 Richard Partington Economics correspondent

For sale sign For sale sign Britain’s increasingly unaffordable housing market has delayed the age when most adults become homeowners by at least eight years since 1997, according to official figures.

Among one of several signals that young adults are being forced to wait until much later in life to reach key milestones, the Office for National Statistics said it took until the age of 34 for more than half of the population to own their own home, compared to 26 in 1997.

Average house prices in Britain have skyrocketed by more than 270% over the past two decades – with a significant acceleration for property values since the financial crisis a decade ago – pushing homes out of reach for growing numbers of people.

The ONS study revealed that the average age by which more than 50% of the population lived in a home they owned had been 28 as recently as 2007, meaning the bulk of the shift since 1997 has taken place in the past decade.

File: Monopoly board properties used to illustrate the rise and fall of house prices across the UK © Getty File: Monopoly board properties used to illustrate the rise and fall of house prices across the UK

The analysis underlines the shifting living standards of millennials in Britain amid growing concerns that those born between the mid-1980s and mid-90s could be the first generation in modern history to experience worse economic conditions than their parents.

Factors that have exacerbated the housing issues facing millennials could include the rising cost of an entry-level property and the introduction of stricter mortgage lending rules introduced after the 2008 financial crisis, according to the ONS.

Mortgage rules capping the amount an individual can borrow as a multiple of their earnings were launched after the crash, following the failure of several banks in the credit crunch after a period of reckless lending. However, the tighter rules have made it harder for people to get on the housing ladder.

In 2016, the average house price-to-income multiple was 8.2 times, down from a peak of 11.2 times in 2007, even though earnings have stagnated over the past decade and house prices have accelerated.

File: People look at property listings at an estate agents window © Getty File: People look at property listings at an estate agents window

Over the past 20 years, renting has become more common across all age groups except the oldest in society. The most substantial change has been for those aged between 25 to 34 in 2018, with 55% renting, up from 35% in 1998.

Other milestones are also being reached later in life. The ONS said it is not until the age of 19 that more than 50% of people are in full-time employment, with the average age of leaving full-time education rising from 17.8-years to 19.3-years in the past two decades.

Estate agent gives keys to buyer © fstop123 Estate agent gives keys to buyer

The first age when more than half of young people had left the parental home has also risen from 21 in 1997 to 23 in 2017.

Sarah Coates, of the centre for ageing and demography at the ONS, said: “Over the past 20 years the UK has seen many societal, economic and demographic changes which will have contributed to the changing milestones into adulthood.

“While recognising everyone’s journey into adulthood is different, these figures show a shift in the timing and occurrence of some of life’s most important moments.”

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