A good home is a key building block of a good family life. But once the excitement or relief of moving to a new home subsides, the full cost of maintenance, furniture and essential household items can come as a shock.
Our new report, Home Economics, supported by Lloyds Banking Group's Money for Life Programme, shines a spotlight on this unwelcome and unexpected burden which can often put families under strain.
Polling by YouGov, carried out for the report, found that the costs attached to setting up a new home that are considered "surprisingly expensive" include removal costs (cited by 25% of British adults), buying new furniture (23%) and buying essential household items such as fridges, washing machines and cookers (23%).
The survey found that one in 12 Britons spent nothing at all on maintenance or essential household items over the past year. Some 17% of UK adults did not know how much they had spent. Some 21% of Britons overall, and 32% of young people aged 24-35, expressed concern that they could not afford what they were spending on their homes.
With the cost of everyday essentials rising faster than income and squeezing family budgets, it is hardly surprising that almost 60% of respondents said the state of their homes had either worsened or stayed the same over the past five years, while only 36% said their home was in better condition now than it was five years ago.
Nevertheless, Britons are willing to make a range of sacrifices to furnish and maintain their home. Many would forgo holidays (50%), food and heating (17% and 13%) and new clothes (29%). Others would use credit and rent-to-own schemes to keep their homes to a certain standard, despite the potentially damaging effects on low income families faced with high interest rates and mounting debts.
Low income families are penalised by the poverty penalty that forces them to pay more for essential goods and services, because they are so often excluded from mainstream credit. This creates a cycle of debt and poverty, making it much harder for people to run a home, or in extreme circumstances, leaves them unable to afford the absolute basics such as beds and fridges.
Unsurprisingly, the poorest and most vulnerable families are most likely to suffer from living in what are effectively "broken houses". Thousands of individuals approach Family Action's grants programme every year asking for help to buy a bed, carpet, and other items for a new home, sometimes after having fled their previous address as a victim of domestic violence.
This report demonstrates the importance of providing information and budgeting support, particularly to low-income families, regarding credit and high interest loans and the impact they can have on families' overall expenditure. The government and the Money Advice Service have more to do here.
Moving to a new home may be a life changing experience for some but it is also one which brings with it a range of unexpectedly high costs. This report highlights the challenge of ensuring families are prepared so their home is a haven and not a burden.