Get on the housing ladder - I can't even afford a ladder

Posted by Elizabeth Harrison in Neighbourhood on 24 June 2013 - Elizabeth is a Senior Credit Analyst at checkmyfile.

If money were no object, have you ever considered where you might choose to live or what sort of house you'd buy? A survey carried out by earlier this year revealed that our dream home is a 4-5 bedroom house in the south-west of England. Apparently we don’t have particularly extravagant tastes. A detached Victorian house in Devon or Cornwall, with a large garden, garage and walk-in wardrobe will do very nicely thank you.

So that’s the dream but what’s the reality? Even without an endless supply of money, with a few compromises in terms of size and requirements maybe the location at least could be attainable. But is a home in Cornwall an affordable option? The latests results of the most and least affordable cities in the UK shows that 3 of the top 5 ‘least affordable’ are in the south west with Truro, the capital of Cornwall, at number 4. In 2006 Truro was put forward as a good bet for those looking to invest in property. At that time, Truro was the 17th most expensive city. Jumping up to 4th place should make those who did buy property in Truro at that time fairly happy.

So for those of us in the area already I guess we should feel pretty lucky. Halfway there to living the dream! When the sun's shining it's hard to believe a nicer place in the country exists but a combination of high unemployment, an average wage lower than the rest of the country and a proliferation of second-homers pushing house prices up means that buying a house in Cornwall is not easy.

Regardless of location, getting onto the property ladder is tough for young people. But certain aspects of life in Cornwall make it even tougher. The county is the poorest in England and thanks to a local economy heavily reliant on tourism, has above average levels of unemployment. Add to this a higher than average cost of living and high house prices and you’re pretty much scuppered. It comes as no surprise then that large numbers of people who can't afford to buy a home are forced to rent or live with parents. Neither or which are necessarily long-term solutions.

Recent figures relating to employment and pay do little to boost morale. The Office for National Statistics has reported that unemployment in the south west has just risen despite figures for the country as a whole showing a fall. So poor job prospects face those currently looking for work but what about those with a job? A TUC analysis published last week ahead of its new pay campaign: 'Britain Needs A Pay Rise' revealed that the value of south-west England's overall pay packet has fallen by 10 per cent since 2007. So great prospects all round then! Not an issue for second-home buyers, but even they have to deal with the region's poor public transport and the most expensive water rates in the country.

Maybe we should just leave the beaches and countryside behind and head north. The most affordable cities are all situated in the north of the country or Ireland. Can't guarantee the employment prospects look much better there but if you can find work, houses are certainly more affordable.

It's either that or stick here in Cornwall and carry on dreaming...

Elizabeth Harrison is a Credit Analyst at checkmyfile. She has a degree from the University of Manchester in French and German.

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