We all know that property prices in London are too high, and way out of kilter with average incomes. Everyone wants to buy here, and for the last two decades, it's been the investment of the century.
A few days ago, I was listening to cab drivers on LBC grumbling that their kids can no longer afford to buy in London and are moving elsewhere. Another caller then told the LBC host that an ex council property his parents bought in London for 18K in 1987 is now worth £800K. It's like winning the lottery if you bought your council house, but unfortunately Maggie Thatcher contributed towards stuffing up my generation of everyday Londoners' chances of ever owing a home here, inadvertently changing the face of London.
Having said that, I live in London, in a flat I love. It has a gorgeous garden and it's in a street that I have wanted to live in since I was a kid. I could never afford to buy my home here, but renting here is very doable. Up until recently, I've found it utterly soul destroying that I've never managed to save up a deposit and will probably never be able to afford to buy my own home in London, but now I've had a change of heart, because London is becoming less and less the place it used to be.
We are constantly reminded that your average Joe can't afford property in London anymore. Where I lived as a teen in Kensington & Chelsea, it was once a vibrant mix of ethnic minorities. We had Kensington Market, record shops, independents and working class Londoners. Now all I see is a high street full of estate agents, bland coffee bars and wine bars for the rich folk who have the money to live there. The taxi drivers, health workers, entrepreneurs, artistic creatives, historically the poor, have long gone, priced out by a mortgage market propped up by successive governments, desperate to stave off a house price crash, rich foreign owners who barely live here and an unfettered free movement of cheap European labour. Salaries haven't gone up but property has gone through the roof, even renting here is out of the grasp of many. Average Joes are disappearing and moving out, and with them goes the vibrant atmosphere that makes London so special.
It's important that ordinary Londoners who can't afford to buy here accept that London isn't the centre of the universe, and that renting is a great option if we must be here to work. It is perfectly possible to enjoy living elsewhere. Of my friends and family who have moved out of London, though they took time to adjust, all are glad of the move and find local community and local shops that they didn't have to the same degree in London. Equally, with the internet, we are all connected... you can live in the countryside without being isolated and unable to earn a living. London has become the domain of the super-rich. it isn't a community of ordinary people any more, and that makes it a lonely place to be.
Even if you're fortunate enough to have the savings to allow you to buckle to the pressure to buy in London and mortgage yourself to the hilt, interest rates can only go up, which means higher repayments. You will still need to keep a bundle of notes tucked away for replacing that leaky roof, blown boiler or rewire. And you might find that the cheery old lady who lives upstairs has just been replaced with a twenty something well-to-do urbanite who's brought a set of drums and his DJ-ing equipment! Yikes....if this happens to me, im either on the phone to the landlord or I can simply look for somewhere new. It's great to rent. Of course, homeowners will always say; "Yeah, but I'll have paid off my place, when you're still paying rent". And I'll say, 'It looks like we'll all be working till we drop, and even be made to sell our homes that we saved to buy, instead of renting, to pay for our healthcare so why bother with the stress of ownership?'