By Joanna Roughton.
What makes a house a home? Of all the questions which the Home Renaissance Foundation was set up to muse on, this one remains key.
I thought about it this week in the wake of a report about the cost of moving. In parts of the UK it has now reached eye-wateringly high levels – £31,000 according to one news report.
Why so high?
Increases in stamp duty – a tax imposed on the sale of a residential property – seems to be the main reason. But there are other causes too. Conveyancing, estate agents’ fees, and the cost of physically emptying the contents of a house and removing it to a new location all add up.
Obviously, many people reluctantly acquiesce to part with the cash. In a housing market which persists in being bullish, moving up the residential ladder has become the dominant philosophy for some individuals and families seeking financial security.
And for workers, a new address is often the price demanded by a flexible labour market which requires employees to move to a different part of the country at the drop of a hat.
But the truth behind the statistics may surprise you. In reality, and counter-intuitively, British people are spending longer in their homes. Research by the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association published last year found that the average UK home changes hands every 23 years — up from every 8 years in the 1980s.
A little over 4 per cent of the UK’s private housing stock was bought and sold according to the most recent figures. Three decades ago that turnover figure was 12 per cent.
So much for all those people who view their homes as chips on the housing market roulette wheel, or as temporary digs until the next job promotion comes along.
These figures show that, contrary certainly to my intuition, people and home are enjoying a longer union.
And, if you feel, as I do, that a happy home takes years to create, then there is cause for cheer here.
But why is turnover falling so quickly? Partly, it’s a function of the growth in the rented sector. Sad to say, people are also taking longer to buy their first property. But the research also attributes a desire to be less itinerant on the part of middle-aged homeowners who are ‘staying put’ in record numbers.
Some people will decry this as the inertia of boring middle-aged folk. I prefer to see it as uplifting.
After all, in a world where communal bonds are decaying, social cohesion requires some stability. Remaining in the same home allows families to put down roots. Properties which encourage inter-generational living send those roots ever deeper. Oh, and it means you don’t have to pay £31,000 every time a ‘for sale’ sign is erected in the front garden.