In 1980s Britain, the average house changed hands once every ten years. Fast forward to 2015 and houses had the same occupants for an average of 21 years. There are a number of reasons why this figure more than doubled in this time, but all of them are rooted in the same cause: moving house is far too expensive.
How much does it cost to move?
Figures from Rightmove show that average house prices have more than doubled so far this millennium. An average house in Liverpool in 2000 would cost around £93,000. Now, it would cost over £200,000. An average North West London property would have cost around £400,000 in 2000; now it would cost over £1.5 million.
Since average wages actually fell between 2007 and 2015 in real terms, these house price increases are particularly punishing, and there is no doubt it’s a big factor in the decision to stay in one place for longer and longer. But it’s not just the price of houses themselves that is putting people off moving. There are several hidden costs embedded in a house move that house prices alone do not encompass.
Removals firm AnyVan’s cost of moving home calculator reveals some of these costs. Valuation can cost up to £1,500 for a £720,000 house. Surveyor fees can be up to £600. Then there’s Stamp Duty, which again is dependent on the value of the house, but can cost £2,500 for a house of just £250,000. Then, of course, there are removal costs, which depend heavily on how much you are moving, but can range from £195 to £599 and beyond.
Most of these costs only apply to home buyers, but delivery costs apply even to those moving from one rented property to another. As do estate agent fees, which the government has pledged to tackle, but so far taken no action on.
While it is difficult for movers to do anything about most of these costs, delivery prices are something people can try their best to keep to a minimum. The lower cost of short distance moves could be behind the finding, published by Zoopla, that most Brits end up living just 63 miles from their birthplace.
What else could be stopping Britain moving?
Nearly all of the things stopping people in the UK from moving house more often are cost-related, but social factors could be making a difference too. Perhaps due to rising house prices, it has become far more common for young people to live in their parents homes well into their 20s, as the Office for National Statistics shows.
While the older generation may have risen up the property ladder over many years, their children, who are moving out much later, will have much less time to climb.
Another cultural shift perhaps caused by the cost of housing is the trend of young people giving up on ever owning a home. A Halifax survey, published in the Guardian, found that the government’s ‘Help to Buy’ schemes are having little impact on motivating young people to save to buy homes, and that lower levels of home ownership could become normal.
What can we do to get homeowners moving again?
So what will it take for Britons to return to moving houses as much as they once did? In an ideal world: lowering house prices or raising wages. This is unlikely to happen. Instead, we could hope for higher profile, more helpful ‘Help to Buy’ schemes that people actually use. A nationwide programme to really help young people get onto the housing ladder would be one way to get Britain moving.
There is, of course, a large number of people who do move house frequently: private renters. According to Shelter, renting families can move three or more times in five years, often not out of choice. There are many reasons that this is a terrible state of affairs, and one of them is the high cost of moving house that, as discussed above, may also be discouraging homeowners from climbing the property ladder.
According to Shelter, one quarter of renting families say moving has “strained their finances.” Lowering the cost of moving, and making houses easier to buy, will help these families settle down in stable homes, and help homeowners move as much as they once did.
A recent survey found that there are an estimated 1.4 million empty homes in the country. These are mostly people’s second homes, or homes sitting empty for a variety of other reasons. If these homes could be opened up to those who need them more, the overall housing situation in the country would be better for all.