British people are obsessed with home ownership.
In my role, I attend several housing and property events. One of the things that keeps being repeated by some industry correspondents, which, I am sure that you have also heard in the media is that the British people are obsessed with home ownership. This is then usually followed with shallow comparison with mainland Europe, especially with the EU’s most successful economy – Germany.
Is Generation Rent’s dream of owning a home an irrational one? I assure you that it is not for several reasons.
Financial Security and Wealth Equality (or Inequality)
We, Generation Rent, are not obsessed with owning a home, we are just not deluded and realise that Financial Security in the UK is tied to homeownership, whether we like it or not. As a comparison, in the UK house prices have grown by over 259% on average, between 1997-2017, where the average income has only grown by 68% in the same period. i.e. you make more money by watching The Great British Bake Off, than through your day job, which unfortunately, however hard you work, will never keep up with house prices.
In comparison, the German house prices have only grown by 27% in the same period, therefore people don’t mind renting so much as their wealth is not tied so closely to home ownership. German house prices have remained stable because they have several economic centres spread across Germany, compared to the UK’s one – London, they also have much tighter controls on lending (it’s harder to get mortgages) and their tax system does not incentivise property ownership.
Other Reasons Why Renting in Germany is Much Better
Simply put, tenants are king. In Germany, tenants have much greater security and power than in the UK. For example, Germans have indefinite tenancy terms whereas in the UK, they are typically 12 months long. The average tenancy length in the UK is 2.5 years, whereas in Germany it is 11 years. Revenge evictions are common in the UK whereas in Germany, the courts overwhelmingly take the side of the tenants. Landlords in the UK can serve notice and evict tenants, in Germany tenants can appeal and they will have the support of large lobby groups and local governments to help them.
Because Germans stay in their homes for much longer, they are also able to renovate their homes, part of the cost of which can be passed on to future tenants. This allows tenants to feel like these rented homes are actually theirs.
Another key benefit is that the German government regulates rent rises in the Private Rented Sector ensuring that rents stay affordable.
I am not saying that Germany is a nation of renters, only 40% of the population rents their home and many people want to own their home in the future but they have no rush and renting for a long period is socially acceptable.
If we had the same support and security of tenancy in the UK and if our house prices where not fueling wealth inequality then I guess, yea, renting would be great. But for now, and for the foreseeable, owning a home will be the only way to guarantee financial security for our futures, unless the government put their wellies on and get stuck in. The arms-length approach on housing regulation has unfortunately not worked.
So I hope that the myth of UK home ownership obsession has been busted and can be put to bed. Please spread the message with anyone who uses this argument in the future.
What are your thoughts? would you be happy renting if we had the German support system?