‘Time to put the home back into home ownership’ says CEO

Mark Grahaam, chief executive at Co-Ownership.
Mark Grahaam, chief executive at Co-Ownership.
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Most mornings, while having the first of about three coffees per day, I have a scroll through Twitter. What catches my eye most often is the amount of news stories focused on home ownership, writes mark Graham, Chief Executive at Co-Ownership.

One day my newsfeed might say ‘UK property asking prices fall as Brexit hits confidence,’ and on another, ‘Northern Ireland house prices soar’.

It’s all about economics, rarely about what having a home means to people. The sharpest fall in first-time buyers has been among those who came to adulthood after the great financial crisis of 2008 and those who are on middle-incomes and without the financial support of Bank of Mum and Dad.

The root causes of the initial sharp decline were the much more cautious mortgage criteria introduced after the crash – especially the need for a 20% deposit. Mortgage criteria over time have eased and the reason for the continued challenges are more to do with this generation being less-well-off than they were before the crash, and even more so than their parents were at the same age. Something only a growing and more equal economy can address.

But what I have noticed from the headlines is how infrequently what it means to have a secure and affordable home is mentioned. It’s always about house prices, a home as an asset, an investment. But when people talk about home ownership to us it’s really about having a home that meets their needs, offers them security - somewhere they can settle down in a community.

At Co-Ownership we get real insights into people’s experience of finding a home. We hear at first-hand what it means for people to have a home with comments like; “a brand-new home (note home, not house), it was the most incredible feeling knowing that it was ours!”

Prospective home buyers often talk about the challenges they face when buying their home; being trapped in the rental market, unable to raise a deposit - or the perception that being employed on a temporary contract doesn’t make for attractive mortgage lending.

When people talk to us about what it means to them, they talk about the difference in cost to them, with a recurring statement of “I was wasting money for years”. They talk about security and escaping the fear of landlords asking you to leave without much notice. But most of all it’s the sense of autonomy and control over their own lives - compared with the private rented sector - whether it’s being able to settle down in one place when children go to school or simply being able have a pet or to decide how to decorate your home.

A recent study by Santander said that the top life goal of young adults is to own their own home. My immediate reaction when I read this was, really? It hardly fits with the stereotypes of millennials. It’s something that is often left out of the daily headlines I see - peoples want and desire to be a homeowner. In this day of ‘click bait’ it’s just not that exciting to say, “Young adults want to own their own home, settle down and have a family”, as I think most readers would think, ‘Isn’t that obvious’?

A key question the survey asks is why home ownership is a life goal. Over 50% said, “it provides a sense of security”, a third said it was cheaper than renting. The want and desire for homeownership is mainly driven by need and aspiration, not financial gain, so let’s get the home back into homeownership.