The weekly shop would cost £453 if food had risen in line with house prices…

February 7, 2013

Building bricksI am currently taking a healthy interest in property prices. To be more precise, the impractical, sky-high price of London property, coupled with our need to upsize in the next year or so. Watching all the property programmes? Constantly looking at Rightmove? Yep, that’s me…it’s fair to say it’s something that’s on my mind a lot.

So it was pretty timely when Shelter dropped me a line last night about its latest research conducted to highlight the extent of the UK’s dysfunctional housing market. Shelter analysed the cost of a typical weekly shop for a family of four based on house price inflation since 1971 and found that the average family’s weekly food shop would cost a pretty shocking £453 if food had risen in line with house prices over the last 40 years.

Back then the weekly shop cost £10.40, and the average home £5,632; can you imagine? You could put that on a credit card now. By 2011 the price of the average home had shot up to £245,319 – over 43 times more expensive. The research highlights one of the many challenges faced by modern families in Britain today, with more and more people renting across the capital due to being locked out of the housing market. Shelter is warning that home ownership is becoming unaffordable for millions of young people and families who, despite working hard and saving up, still can’t get their foot on the ladder.

I can well believe it; we are incredibly lucky that we are already on the property ladder, having been able to buy a flat a while ago, but know lots of people that can’t and won’t even consider anything other than renting at the moment.

But we’re close to outgrowing where we live, lovely as it is, and while living on the top floor of a building with no lift has been annoying but passable with one baby, it would be impossible with two. So we’re currently facing the London conundrum of potentially being priced out of the property market; prices for a flat with just one more bedroom in this area, or child-friendly areas around here, are a whole lot more. And a house? Forget it. And it’s not exactly much cheaper further out, and then further out again we’re approaching the commuter belt where prices are exactly the same as London anyway.

And while we could borrow more money, we don’t want to be in a precarious and potentially risky financial position where we’re crippled forever-after by huge mortgage repayments. Especially as I’m now only working part-time so I can be with Eliza as much as I can.

We will never see the kind of financial benefit the previous generation did with property, and it really irks me that elsewhere in the country, we could buy a 3-4 bedroom house with garden for what we paid for our flat.

I know you could say that we chose to live in London (true, but we’re tied close to here with work, don’t want to spend hours and hours commuting, and it’s where our lives and all our friends are) or that having good jobs and London salary weighting means we get more money to compensate (but we’re already dealing with nursery fees that are higher than the rest of the country, and unless you work in working in banking-type jobs you’ll never be able to afford houses priced for banking-type wages).

I also know we’re all lucky to even have somewhere to live as lots of people Shelter support don’t, but the report makes for fairly grim reading. So what’s the answer? I have no idea, but will gladly listen if anyone does. Or if anyone can tell us nice, child-friendly areas to buy reasonably priced houses in or within easy reach of London then that would be great…

You can support Shelter on Twitter @Shelter #pricecheck


  • Chloe

    February 7, 2013 at 9:52 am

    Come to South Norwood. No, don’t. We bought a house (2 beds & a big garden) for £185k, cheapest area we could find, and the only area we could afford. But it’s not a nice area, not particularly child friendly, and the schools are (apparently) awful. We’re in a similar position RE upsizing, going to try and stay here as long as we can even though it’s really quite small, especially for 2 children! But when we eventually do need to move I think we will be looking at going further down south or into Kent where we can get slightly more for our money.

    1. gillian

      February 7, 2013 at 2:06 pm

      I did wonder about South Norwood as houses do look a lot cheaper (and it’s just down the road!). But you’re not selling it very well 😉 If it was just the two of us then it wouldn’t really matter about the area, but when you have to factor in children and schools and future things it gets a lot more complicated. I think if we lived on the ground floor with direct access to the garden we could probably make it work for a lot longer. It’s so difficult isn’t it?

      1. Chloe (from Chloe Witters)

        February 7, 2013 at 3:40 pm

        You know what, it’s not AWFUL awful, but it’s nothing compared to child-friendly Crystal Palace. The High Street is just a deadzone with nothing going for it, and I wouldn’t describe it as particularly safe (I would worry about Arlo if we live here when he is a teenager). But saying that, there are a LOT of young families here because they can’t afford anywhere else, and the residential areas are quiet and safe enough.

        When we bough our place, our priorities were cheap, good transport, near to friends and family, near enough to both of our places of work. This was before Arlo was born (just!) and our priorities have changed considerably now. I no longer need to be near my old place of work, and all I can think about it living in a ‘nice’ family area with decent schools. I’d be happy to live further out in the sticks although it would be a shame to be further from family, but I have a feeling that’s a sacrifice that many of our generation of Londoners are going to take.

        1. gillian

          February 10, 2013 at 2:49 pm

          When we bought our flat we weren’t really thinking about babies – hence buying on the top floor! So we have amazing views but it’s not really practical at all. Which is a shame as it’s lovely, and I’m sure we could make it work with two, but it would be impossible to get two up and down the stairs (I’m thinking ahead though!) x

  • Laura

    February 7, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    I live in Bournemouth, whilst slightly cheaper it’s still one of the most expensive places to live outside of London. Knowing that the only way we will even be able to think about getting on the property ladder is moving in with my inlaws makes me mad/upset/confused. Since when was it supposed to be that hard to buy a place? We are looking to relocate and buy a property in Portsmouth. It’s the cheapest place we can find near family and friends. Not the best place, nor the safest but we just want a starting point.

    1. gillian

      February 7, 2013 at 2:09 pm

      Hello! Interesting you should mention that – my parents just moved to Bournemouth a few years ago, and house prices in the area they live seem cheaper. We’ve thought about making the move but it would be impossible to commute (plus it’s about £5k for a season ticket!) It’s so hard isn’t it? Let me know what you decide and how you get on…

  • Laura

    February 7, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    We moved from london to the north east a couple of years ago to start a family. We have a properly lovely three bed house with a sea view for less than the price our rented one bed flat in se london was put up for when we moved out. But, and it’s a big but, the job market is properly terrible and so career progression is much harder.
    It’s still been the right decision for us because our quality of life is better and we can afford to work part time to spend time with our son which is important to us, but i guess everyone needs to weigh up their priorities as london and the south east have high house prices precisely becasue there is a buoyant economy and the jobs to sustain the housing market.
    I definitely feel lucky to have been able to have the choice to move as it’s much harder to move areas if you live in social housing.

  • Shirley

    February 8, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    Have you thought of a place in a nice(ish) area but a run down house/flat which you could get a bit cheaper and spend time doing it up as and when your finances allow. You will be suprised how many friends, friends of friends and family have a skill or just able to help you do it up – you then have the rest of your life to make it up to standard.

    1. gillian

      February 10, 2013 at 2:39 pm

      Yes, that would be ideal, but developers have probably got there first! London property market seems pretty tough 🙂

  • Diane

    February 9, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    I move to Luton. There are so nice areas here. Limbury, Warden Hill, Bramingham Park – a lot of people in London said a lot of negative stuff but I love being here. I love being close to Bramingham Park and the walks. Bus service is TERRIBLE so a car is important. Being in Luton reminds me of growing up in London in the 70s. Everyone talks to each other and neighbours are friendly. Yes there are terrible parts but that is no different to being in London. There is good and bad in most places.

    1. Diane

      February 9, 2013 at 3:44 pm

      Sorry, hit send without even reading it… I meant to start with

      I moved to Luton. There are some nice nice areas here 🙂

  • Harrovian Mama

    February 15, 2013 at 10:15 pm

    My name kind of gives it away but look at Harrow. It has a bad rep but is an absolute wonder. We were driving through to view another house further out when I saw our (current) house for sale. It was a green, tree-filled street, next to a park and great school, metres from a Met line station and I just KNEW. Prices are cheap but rising rapidly as everyone clocks onto the hidden wonder!

    Fabulous blog by the way, a new follower here!

    Blogging about life with two aged 2 and under, and our new home:

    1. Harrovian Mama

      February 15, 2013 at 10:16 pm

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    March 3, 2013 at 6:20 pm

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