I received a very interesting letter the other day from a Rotherham resident who was retired and mortgage free. He stated how unaffordable Rotherham’s rising property prices were and that he worried how the younger generation would ever afford to buy.

He went on to ask if it was right for landlords to make money on the inability of others to buy property of their own. He wondered whether landlords are actually denying the younger generation the ability to buy their own home by buying buy-to-let properties.

Whilst doing my research for my many blog posts on the local property market in Rotherham, I know that a third of 25 to 30 year olds still live at home. It’s no wonder people are kicking out against buy-to-let landlords – they are the greedy bad people who are cashing in on a social woe! In fact, most people believe the high increases in Rotherham’s (and across the country) house prices are the very reason owning a home is outside the grasp of these younger would-be property owners.

However, the numbers tell a different story.

171 - fixed Graph showing Average Age of First time buyersAverage Age of First-Time-Buyers

Looking at the age of first time buyers since 1990, the statistics could be seen to pour cold water on the idea that younger people are being priced out of the housing market. In 1990, when data was first published, the average age of a first time buyer was 33, today it’s 31

Nevertheless, the average age doesn’t tell the whole story. In the early 1990’s, 26.7% of first-time buyers were under 25, while in the last five years just 14.9% were. In the early 1990’s, four out of ten first time buyers were 25 to 34 years of age and now its six out of ten first time buyers.

House Price-to-Earnings Ratio

There are also indications of how unaffordable housing is, the house price-to-earnings ratio has almost doubled for first-time buyers in the past 30 years.

In 1983, the average Rotherham home cost a first-time buyer (or buyers in the case of joint mortgages) the equivalent of 2.6 times their total annual earnings – today that has escalated to 3.7 times their income (although let’s not forget, it was at 4.6 times their income for Rotherham first-time-buyers in 2007).

Percentage of Wages

Again, those figures don’t tell the whole story.

Back in 1983, the mortgage payments as percentage of mean take home pay for a Rotherham first time buyer was 27.6%. In 1989, that had risen to 57.6%. However, today it’s 23.0%… no, that’s not a typo! It’s now only 23.0%!


So, to answer the gentleman’s questions about the younger generation being unable to afford a house it isn’t all to do with affordability, as the numbers show.

And what of the landlords?

Some say the government should sort the housing problem out themselves, but according to my calculations, £18bn a year would need to be spent for the next 20 or so years to meet current demand for households. That would be the equivalent of raising income tax by 4p in the pound. I don’t think UK tax payers would swallow that.

So, if the Government haven’t got the money… who else will house these people?

Private Sector Landlords! Thankfully they have taken up the slack over the last 15 years.

Some say there is a tendency to equate property ownership with national prosperity, but this isn’t necessarily the case.

The youngsters of Rotherham are buying houses, but buying later in life. Also, many Rotherham youngsters are actively choosing to rent for the long term, as it gives them flexibility – something society seems to crave more than ever.

As ever, I’m keen to hear your thoughts. Send me a Tweet or a Facebook message.