THE RISE... AND RISE... ANDRISE...
OVER THE PAST 25 YEARS THE PRICE OF THISHOMEHASSOARED.ANDTHESTORY IS THE SAME ALL OVER THE COUNTRY...
The “Bank of Mum and Dad’’ has had quite a hand to play in Britain’s 11-year-old property boom. It being near impossible for an ordinary person on an ordinary salary to get a foothold on the property ladder, first-time buyers are increasingly driven to go cap-in-hand to their parents to ask them for a hefty deposit.
But how did Mum and Dad themselves afford their own home? A lot more easily than today’s buyers. In 1977, according to the Nationwide, the average British home cost £12,800, against today’s average of £181,584. That figure needs to be put into perspective. Over the past 30 years, using the Office for National Statistics’s longterm indicator of prices, general inflation has slightly more than quadrupled. In today’s prices, the average house in 1977 cost £52,700. In other words, house prices over the past 30 years have more than trebled in real terms — hence the difficulties in which today’s buyers find themselves.
Some of the inflation is undoubtedly due to property shortages created by low levels of house-building. But above all it has been caused by a combination of lower interest rates and a much more competitive mortgage market. In the 1970s, borrowers had virtually to beg for a home loan, lenders stuck to a rigid rule of advancing no more than three times a borrower’s salary and banks and building societies operated an effective cartel, meaning there was little point in shopping around for a better deal. Nowadays, some lenders will lend five or more times a borrower’s salary.
As some of the stories below demonstrate, in the 1970s many house-buyers were reluctant to borrow money at all. While the easy availability of mortgages may seem to have made buying a home easier, the house-price inflation which has resulted has ultimately achieved the opposite. Many frustrated buyers will sob to learn what buyers used to pay for a roof above their heads. 55 Palace GardensTerrace, Kensington 1983: £200,000 (leasehold and divided into flats) 1986: £450,000 (leasehold and divided into flats) 1986: £675,000 (still divided into flats, but with freehold) 1990: £1.15 million (a single building) 2007: marketed for £5.5 million (now under offer) by John D Wood. When Peter Young of John D Wood moved into Palace Gardens Terrace in Kensington in 1984, he had to rub shoulders with a lady of the night. Most of the stucco villas were divided into cheap flats and it was a busy bus route. Over the years, Mr Young has seen the street gradually turn into a very expensive enclave for wealthy bankers and businessmen. He has also seen the values of the houses multiply.
Thirty years ago no 55 housed a number of flats, while the ground floor was a doctor’s surgery. The building was held on a short lease, due to expire in 2006, with the freehold held by the Church Commissioners. The street really began to go up in the world in the mid-1980s when the church sold many of the freeholds. In a few months in 1986 no 55 was sold twice: leasehold for £450,000 and then freehold for £675,000. Between times, however, the owner had to buy out the sitting tenant in the basement for £20,000. The new owners spent £350,000 refurbishing the building, re-converting it to a single dwelling. When they sold in 1990, the next owners tore everything out and refurbished it again to a higher standard. In the process they also created an extra room in the attic. The value of houses in the street was enhanced when Palace Gardens Terrace ceased to be a bus route in the early 1990s. “The residents persuaded the council to allow them to replace the ugly modern street lamps with Victorian ones, which the residents paid for at £1,500 each,” says Mr Young. “The result was that the street became too dark for buses. We held a meeting before the street lamps were changed, at which someone objected on the grounds that residents might be mugged if the lamps were replaced. An elderly lady at the back said: ‘If I am going to be attacked I would much rather it was under a pretty Victorian streetlight than under a horrible concrete one.’ And with that, the plan was passed.” Hinton Manor, Hinton Parva, Wiltshire 1970: £25,000 2007: on market for £1.8 million (Carter Jonas, 01672 514545) In 1970, advertising executive Michael TalbotPonsonby had no desire to take out a mortgage, says his daughter Caroline Pilkington: “People just didn’t in those days.”
Nevertheless, thanks to an inheritance and the sale of the small £6,000 cottage in which he then lived with his wife Judy and four daughters, he was able to scrape together enough to buy Hinton Manor, an eight-bedroom 6,000 sq ft manor house in 22 acres, for £25,000.
“We were in South Africa at the time, so my father had the surveyor’s report sent to his mother,” says Caroline, who was then 11. “She read it and thought he was completely mad to be spending so much money on a house which had
damp. We were very excited, though. The house had stables and was surrounded with woods and fields. We used to pack some sandwiches and go riding up on the downs all day.”
Unlike nowadays, when it has become customary to refurbish a country house top-to-bottom, the Talbot-Ponsonbys didn’t do a lot to the house. But they did get round to scraping off the yellow paint with which the previous owner had covered the fireplace in the drawing room. “When my sisters and I were in our 20s, we used to bring people down for the weekend and fill the house,” says Caroline. “They had to work, mucking out the hens and so on, but then my father used to take everyone down the pub and drink them under the table. The house expands: last summer we managed to accommodate us and our 13 grandchildren.”
Sadly, there will be no more family gatherings at Hinton Manor. Judy died in the 1980s and Michael in March of this year, leaving Caroline and her sisters Lotty, Lucy and Spud (real name Catherine) to sell the property. Clarke’s Cottage, Rimpton, near Sherborne, Dorset 1954: £3,500 1986: £60,000 2007: £595,000, through JacksonStops & Staff (01935 810141) Returning to Britain to retire after a career working with the British Council, William Brook and his wife Dorothy paid £60,000 for Clarke’s Cottage, a four-bedroom dwelling formed from three 17th-century agricultural workers’ cottages. They then spent £30,000 refurbishing the cottage, which included repairing the roof and shoring up the walls. If it seemed a lot to spend at the time, it was a big step up on the £3,500 which had been paid for the cottage in 1954. Now widowed, Dorothy is selling up to be nearer her son, Peter, who lives in Kent. Oak Cottage, Holywell, Cambridgeshire 1959: £4,600 (plus £300 for the field behind the house) 1974: valued at £35,000 2007: £615,000 (without the field. The field has already been sold in parts for £340,000) When Adrian Quinney, a chartered surveyor with the Ministry of Agriculture, and his wife Louise relocated with his job from Wolverhampton to Cambridgeshire in 1959, he had become something of an expert at buying and selling property: Oak Cottage was the fifth property he had owned. Nevertheless, the estate agent who sold it to him felt it necessary to give him some friendly advice. “Behind the house was a field which I insisted on buying with the property for £300,” says Mr Quinney, 87. “He took me aside and said, as a chartered surveyor to a chartered surveyor, I should be aware I was moving to a cheaper part of the country and that I was paying a ridiculous price for the field. I said, ‘Well, you’ve found your lunatic.’ I have since sold off the field to neighbouring properties for a total of £340,000.”
Today’s civil servants, many of whom can only dream of owning a £600,000 house, may wonder whether they would have been better off being born a couple of generations earlier. In 1959 Mr Quinney was earning £2,000 a year (£30,000 in today’s money). And yet he afforded £4,600 without taking out a mortgage. “I don’t believe in them,” he says.
Now Mr Quinney and his wife have decided to downsize to a bungalow in the local area and are selling Oak Cottage through Carter Jonas for £615,000. Anyone moving from Wolverhampton nowadays will not find the property cheap: Holywell, 15 miles from Cambridge, has come up in the world, thanks to the cluster of technological businesses in the area and the easy commute to London. South Lodge, Mark Cross, near Wadhurst, East Sussex 1971: £7,000 2007: £435,000 (through Humberts 01892 782424) South Lodge was built in the 1930s to house workers from the Houndsell Estate. When the estate was broken up in the early 1970s, the three-bedroom property made a good home for Adrian and Sheila Beetlestone and their two daughters. Previously, they had lived in a semi-detached new house in Hadlow, Kent, which they had bought four years earlier for £4,000. The proceeds from the sale of this just about covered the purchase of South Lodge. Now aged 69 and 67, Mr and Mrs Beetlestone have decided to move to Tunbridge Wells. “We never imagined in 1971 that we would be selling our home for £435,000, but sadly, of course, we still need to live somewhere, and we are buying in Tunbridge Wells, one of the most expensive towns in the country.”
From £4,600 to £615,000: Oak Cottage, Holywell. Below: South Lodge in East Sussex, which has risen from £7,000 to £435,000