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The property ladder is getting shorter

Press release: 27/03/2015

  • Brits in their 20s and 30s today will own half as many homes over their lifetime than their parents did
  • The number of homes being sold in the UK has fallen by a fifth (21%) over the past decade according to HMRC data
  • Almost 2.4 million Brits[1] have 'fallen off' the property ladder and now rent
  • A third of homeowners (32%) are stuck in homes that are too small for them

The property ladder is getting shorter, with Brits owning fewer homes over their lifetime than a generation ago, according to a new study.

The research, from LV= home insurance, reveals that rising house prices and stricter lending criteria has resulted in Brits making fewer moves up the property ladder. It's estimated that today's twenty and thirty-somethings will own just 1.7 homes on average over their lifetime, compared to the over-50s who will own almost twice as many[2] (3.2).

Number of homes Brits will own in a lifetime, by age in 2015

Age in 2015

Estimated number of properties owned
over a lifetime on average











These findings echo official HMRC data showing that the number of property sales in the UK has fallen by a fifth (21%) since 2005[3], suggesting the downward trend is ongoing.

This means that today's under-50s have much lower expectations of home ownership than their parents'. Most homeowners born after 1966 (i.e. aged under-50 today) believe they will own less homes over their lifetime than their parents did, while those born before 1966 believe they will own more. This partly due to people renting for longer as home ownership has become less attainable.

Renting rather than buying a property has become the only option for a large proportion of the population. Around a quarter of Brits (25%) currently rent their home and have never owned a property, with most renters doing so because they are unable to buy. In total, almost a third of renters (28%) want to move to a bigger house but can't afford the deposit.

While many can't get on the property ladder, there is a significant number who have 'fallen off'. Almost 2.4 million adults have previously owned their own home but now live in rented accommodation. Some of these say they like the flexibility of renting (28%) but for many the reasons are financial, such as struggling to get a mortgage due to stricter lending rules (12%), not being able to afford a home in the area they want (11%) or struggling to afford the deposit they need (7%).

However, the decline in home ownership isn't solely due to there being more renters. Around a third of homeowners (32%) want to move to a bigger property but are unable to, as house prices are so high. A fifth of homeowners (21%) can't afford the deposit needed for a bigger home, and 16% are waiting for prices to drop before even contemplating a move. In fact, moving house has become so unattainable that many Brits believe they are already in their 'forever' home, including one in five people in their 30s (19%).

With so many people unable to move into a bigger property, some homeowners have tried to stretch the space in their home by partitioning a room, converting the loft into a living space, or even converting a basement or garage into a bedroom. Homeowners who have improved instead of moved say their building work cost an average of £9,000 to complete.

Yet many families don't realise that these modifications may contravene building regulations and could be unsafe. Among those who have carried out work, one in ten (10%) have no idea if the work complies with building regulations and just over on in 20 (6%) know for certain it doesn't. Structural changes to a property need to be checked by the local authority and certificated as completed to a suitable standard. This could include knocking down internal walls and changes to how a space is used, e.g. from a garage to a bedroom. Homeowners also need to ensure they tell their insurer about any significant changes in their home as it may affect their cover.

While owning your own home was achievable for the previous generation, it is an impossible dream for many today. Rising house prices and strict lending criteria are not only preventing people from buying their own home but also stopping many homeowners from moving, forcing them to modify their homes. Building regulations are designed to ensure that home modifications are safe and we urge all those considering modifying their home to ensure any changes they are planning to make meet regulation standards.

Selwyn Fernandes, Managing Director of LV= home insurance

For further information please contact:

Vanessa Chance,, 0208 256 6996 / 07947 380074


LV= employs 6,000 people and serves over 5.5 million customers with a range of financial products. We are the UK's largest friendly society and a leading financial mutual.

When we started in 1843 our goal was to give financial security to more than just a privileged few and for many decades we were most commonly associated with providing a method of saving to people of modest means. Today we follow a similar purpose, helping people to protect and provide for the things they love, although on a much larger scale and through a wide range of financial services including insurance, investment and retirement products.

We offer our services direct to consumers, as well as through IFAs and brokers, and through strategic partnerships with organisations such as ASDA, Nationwide Building Society and a range of trade unions.

Authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. LVFS is a member of the ABI, the AFM and ILAG. Registered address: County Gates, Bournemouth BH1 2NF.


LV= home insurance commissioned ICM Unlimited to conduct research among 2,000 British adults. The research was conducted on 25 and 26 February 2015.

  1. Source: ICM research. 5% of adults said that they have previous owned a property but now rent. UK adult population is 47.7 million, 5% of 47.7 million = 2,385,000.
  2. Source: ICM research. This figure was calculating by asking homeowners whether they believe they are currently in their 'forever' home, i.e. the last home that they will ever own. This was then compared with the average age of the homeowners and how many homes these homeowners have previously owned.
  3. Source: HMRC. According to the HMRC's UK Property Transaction Statistics released on 24 February there were 1,443,660 residential property completions in the UK in the financial year 2005-2006, while in 2013-14 this had fallen to 1,140,170, a decline of 21%.

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