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Worst housing crisis in thirty years

Robert Powell
by Lovemoney Staff Robert Powell on 05 September 2011  |  Comments 24 comments

Home ownership rates will fall to their lowest levels since the 1980s, according to a new study. Robert Powell reports on this looming property crisis.

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More: Why inflation is making housing more affordable | Mortgages cost less than inflation | Global meltdown will boost house prices

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Comments (24)

  • Mike10613
    Love rating 626
    Mike10613 said

    If incomes go up then house prices go up, but the incomes of ordinary people are stagnant; only the CEO's of banks and councils have big bonuses to spend. People are cutting down and where I live the only property for sale is a few new houses and a lot of pubs! People aren't getting on to the bottom rung of the property ladder and so no one moves up the ladder. The bottom rung was sub-prime anyway and people on that income level now look to rent. We will be back to Victorian times soon, with people taking in lodgers.

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  • Yorkstyke
    Love rating 94
    Yorkstyke said

    It's a crisis caused by the greed of vested interests:

    1. Buy to let.

    2. The likes of Crusty Allsop and the myriad of property programmes that sprung up, ramping house prices.

    3. The likes of Love Money and previously Motley Fool exhorting readers to borrow like there's no tomorrow in order to buy property, thereby chasing prices ever higher.

    4. Joe Public having seen and read the above flawed programmes and articles, jumping on the bandwagon and treating their houses as cash machines and investments because "house prices only go up"

    5. The banks and building societies allowing Joe Public to take out 125% mortgages and self certificated "liar loans"

    Result?

    The obscene prices we see today and people unable to afford houses.

    We bought our first house in 1972, moved house in 1985 and have continued to live within our means and consider our house to be our home and not an investment.

    It's time for many people to do the same.

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  • Stoniewearer
    Love rating 1
    Stoniewearer said

    Yorkstyke you have more then a valid point !! You have 5 !!!

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  • moreteavicar
    Love rating 23
    moreteavicar said

    Yorkstyke I agree - indeed I was chastised on the old Fool forums for making similar points just a couple of months before the credit crunch! And yet, perversely, many people still talk about homes as investments / assets! I wonder whether they hold their bags of shopping in the same regard as they leave the supermarket.

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  • smithdom
    Love rating 33
    smithdom said

    The trouble is that for house prices to return to a reasonable level many people would end up in negative equity, or at least unable to negotiate a new mortgage if they choose to move. The result is that most people will have to sit tight, hence the lack of houses on the market. I fear that this impasse will only be broken when interest rates eventually rise, and those just able to afford their mortgage repayments now will be tipped over the edge and dispossessed. If this happens too quickly then the snow-ball effect may trigger a significant drop in prices.

    This has been said many times, and dismissed as doom mongering by those with a vested interest in high house prices. We will only see who is right when interest rates finally return to 'normal' levels, which could be a long way off.

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  • meldrewreborn
    Love rating 70
    meldrewreborn said

    I went to school inth 1950's and 60's. In those days I studied "O" level economics. I learnt about supply curves and demand curves.

    There are a number of supply and demand situations in the housing market, but the primary one is in realtion to house prices. We have an aging population, so we need more homes for them. We are living in smaller numbers within in home so we need more homes for them. Plus we have net immigration so we need more homes for them. BUT WE'RE NOT BUILDING ENOUGH NEW HOMES TO MEET THE INCREASED DEMAND!!!

    Therefore, while there will be short term variations in house prices due to the economic situation and mortgage availability (yet another demand / supply relationship) the general trend will be up because supply of new property is increasing less fast than the increase in demand for property.

    Now as far as I know, it isn't a human right to be able to buy your own property. But everybody deserves somewhere safe, clean and of suitable size to live in. Whether its owned outright, on a mortgage, rented from the private or public sector doesn't really matter in my view. If we had more property to go around then the prices of it would fall.

    The current planning laws so restrict the building of new property that any change in the designated use of a piece of land so that it can support housing suddenly increases its value many times over. But if developers could build anywhere it suits them then land aquisition costs would fall and so would the price of new property. And these falls would transmit themselves to the rest of the market. Rents would fall because at the moment high rents follow from too many people chasing too few properties. I'd support the compulsory purchase of land at agricultural prices plus say 10% and for this then to be sold to developers at similar levels in return for low selling prices of new property.

    IF you want affordable homes then we need not special schemes, not subsidised public sector housing but just more homes built - and we need at least an extra 2 million of them over the next 10 years over and above current levels of building. If we don't get that then the current situation will only get worse, which is fine if you have substantial equity in a property, and desperation if you don't.

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  • russbiker
    Love rating 70
    russbiker said

    Where I live, there are endless new houses & apartments constantly being built.

    Result? Streets packed with parked cars, ridiculous hospital waiting times, over-subscribed schools and people everywhere.

    I certainly don't want to see more development!

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  • Ed Bowsher
    Love rating 80
    Ed Bowsher said

    Hi Yorkstyle,

    You said:

    "The likes of Love Money and previously Motley Fool exhorting readers to borrow like there's no tomorrow in order to buy property, thereby chasing prices ever higher."

    I think that's unfair. I worked for The Motley Fool from 2005 to 2009 and we published plenty of articles during that time pointing out that property wasn't a one-way bet and indeed that the housing bubble would burst eventually. (Many, but not all, of these articles were by Cliff D'Arcy.)

    We also published some more positive articles about property but that was because we wanted to air all sides of the argument.

    Plenty of readers attacked us for daring to suggest that buy-to-let had its downsides.

    I also think that both sides of the argument were presented on the Motley Fool discussion boards although we obviously weren't directly responsible for that.

    I left The Fool in 2009 to join lovemoney.com - once again, i think there's been a reasonable spread of views presented on this issue.

    Regards,

    Ed

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  • SevenPillars
    Love rating 70
    SevenPillars said

    That old chestnut about not building enough new homes thus sustaining current prices is a nice propaganda myth that the VI's like to put out to justify the status quo of overpriced housing that was really brought on by the mortgage credit bubble prior to 2007. All Government's have these dreams of building, or somehow getting the private builders to build more homes, remember Prescott's plans to build hundreds of thousands of new affordable homes? Came to nothing of course as soon as the VI's saw that this might mean lower prices. Whatever happened to those £60 grand affordable houses that Prescott dreamed up? I think there were none built for less than £200 grand and labelled "affordable". It's a joke.

    However, the main reason why the housing market is currently as dead as a dodo is the simple fact that banks will no longer lend on the generous unregulated, let's not bother with checking your income terms that were on offer pre-2007, but prices haven't fallen to reflect this gap in lending and buyers don't have the 30-40% deposit to make up the difference. It is amazing that we still get rubbish analysis in the mainstream media which concentrates on supply and demand or lack of building, alongside calls for the Government to do something, which usually means a scheme that props up prices.

    The trouble is that this simple truth of lack of mortgage credit on less generous terms is hard to swallow, because the only real answer as buyers cannot find those 30-40% deposits is for prices to fall, yet property owners still want to live with the dream that prices only ever go up. They do when you have a mortgage credit bubble, otherwise you get what we have now, stagnant prices with nothing selling or prices have to fall. Building new houses will not resolve this basic fact of financial life because you can build as many as you like, but if they are priced in line with current market expectations few will sell! The buyers won't be able to get mortgages! Oh dear, the Government will no doubt be asked to do something about it.

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  • yocoxy
    Love rating 152
    yocoxy said

    I still don't see a lot of downsides in Buy to Let.. More people renting, high demand and low availability of new housing, these aren't indications that Buy to Let was a poor investment.. and it will be a good investment again if prices slip significantly. My investment properties have been more profitable in recent years due to low mortgage rates and I haven't raised rents despite being advised to do so. I also haven't really suffered any rental voids (partly due to keeping rents reasonable).

    Sure, prices have slipped a little but not to the extent that Cliff hoped and they've fared significantly better than shares in recent times.

    Before I get a torrent of criticism, I treat my primary residence as my home, (we've been here 18 years) and my two rental properties are providing homes for people who couldn't afford to buy in the same location. I don't see any problem with that, or need for Government intervention.

    The only property investment mistake I'm prepared to admit is taking a Euro mortgage for too much of the buying price of a holiday home in Europe. I'm at the mercy of exchange rates and they've gone heavily against me. A bit of a shoolboy error.. but I don't blame the Government or anyone else. I'm investing in an asset, I understand the risks and they've broadly paid off across the portfolio as a whole.

    I'm teaching my kids to manage their money and take personal responsibility for everything that affects them. (not everything is someone else's fault and your cirumstances won't change if you don't change them). I'm part buying a house with my son to help him onto the property ladder and right now the market around here (central southern England) is very buoyant with high turnover and stable prices (anecdotally they seem to be rising but I'm prepared to believe the statistics that say they're not)

    One last thought.. There seem to be a few socialists who think everything is the fault of big business or big something else.. They're horrified with the idea that we're returning to historically normal rent/ownership proportions. But who was it who created the dramatic rise in property ownership that some seem to think should now be protected? Yep, Lady T. that swearword of the very same socialists..

    So.. should half of society be renting (in which case we're headed in the right direction) or was Lady T right that higher levels of ownership are a good thing?

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  • supasap
    Love rating 19
    supasap said

    seven pillars I am not sure what you mean by VI - the lad who did his o level got it right.......... demand and supply determines the price - also wrt VI how exactly do they "protect the prices"......... no one can buck the market in the long term ........ why didn't VI stop house slump in Ireland and USA - also many owners are not interested in price rises as they have kids who are victims of high prices........... as the o level guy said it is supply and demand not a conspiracy

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  • Yorkstyke
    Love rating 94
    Yorkstyke said

    Hi Ed

    "The likes of Love Money and previously Motley Fool exhorting readers to borrow like there's no tomorrow in order to buy property, thereby chasing prices ever higher."

    As I see it, one of the main aims of both LM and MF was / is to push / sell financial products particularly mortgages and loans and in so doing encourage, maybe unintentionally, people to borrow like there's no tomorrow.

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  • nickpike
    Love rating 309
    nickpike said

    WHAT A LOAD OF TOTAL RUBBISH.

    If there is a housing shortage, how come the owned properties and the rental properties manage to house everyone. There are also 1 million empty houses.

    The problem is that this asset bubble was engineered under the Labour government and now houses are TWICE THE PRICE they should be, being continually fuelled by these ridiculously low interest rates.

    The economy is screwed and things will get a lot worse. The housing market will become more stagnant and prices will collapse. Then we can all buy again and get on with our lives.

    This is a dreadful report. No real investigative journalism at all. The first guy interviewed has a vested interest in more house building.

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  • meldrewreborn
    Love rating 70
    meldrewreborn said

    "we manage to house everyone so there can't be a housing shortage". Well if we never built another new home in this country we could cram more and more people into the existing properties - greater human density in each - but would prices remain the same go up or go down? Well with more people with an income per propery and new housing supply zero prices would go up.

    The vested interests are presumeably those already with property who might see themselves lose out if prices go down. People like to live in attractive places with room to live a decent life. Having made their decision they are reluctant to accept new housing just where they live- it creates more cars, need for schools and other public services and changes their lives. Its a natural reaction. But these are the same people who then have concerns for their children who currently find it impossible to find somewhere to live within their means. These vested interests though do not control the levers of power in this country. You currently have the Coalition government trying to relax and simplify the planning rules in favour of sustainable development. Then look at the opposition that creates!

    We all want to live somewhere nice and of - in our view - appropriate size for ourselves and our families. As a nation we can't meet those aspirations without building more property - whether for rent or sale isn't really important. But building will create tensions as at heart we are all nimby minded. We can't have it both ways!

    At present 85% of the population lives on 5% of the land. The land is there and it doesn't all have a special status to preclude development. Unfortunately unless we can reduce our population the requirement for more and more homes to live in will continue ad infinitum.

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  • gjm
    Love rating 10
    gjm said

    If you own a house you don't want to see prices fall.

    If you don't own a house and want to buy, then you DO want to see property prices fall.

    As for living within your means... We bought our current house 8 years ago and were, at the time, a little stretched. It was manageable, we weren't over-borrowing, we had a fixed rate mortgage, and we balanced our books each month.

    8 years on and the cost of living has risen massively, but we've seen no pay rises to match it. Insurance is through the roof (28m Brits have no life insurance said one headline - I'm not surprised), bread has increased from ~40p a loaf to over £1, fuel costs have at least doubled, etc, etc, ad infinitum... So we are now firmly in a mess.

    We started with significant equity in our property, put a HUGE amount of time and effort into it (and not a small amount of additional, very hard-earned money) and now face the very real possibility that we might be able to sell it for what we paid.Might.

    No-one said life was fair, but that feels like a kick in the teeth. And frankly, the next smug flat-renting hack who tells me house prices must fall is likely to get just that.

    We're looking at moving to NZ. We may arrive all-but penniless; house prices falling here, house prices stagnating there, and an exchange rate that has fallen from NZ$3=£1 to NZ$1.9=£1 have seen to that.

    I don't blame anyone, but I'm fed up with people making money by telling me who is at fault.

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  • oldhenry
    Love rating 343
    oldhenry said

    So Osborne has to be followed eh? He is a moron if he thinks the UK economy problems will be solved by more developments. peopel need income to buy houses and run them. They need income from jobs, good jobs too, not burger flippers jobs that Cameron would call growth.

    Also the running costs of houses are now so high many will not be able to afford these 5 beds executive homes builders love to erect ( profit is much higher on these).

    So how to sort out this mess? my take is that manufacturing needs to be broughtback from the far east. If people stopped buying far eastern goods it would be a start. Just look at IKEA stuff- all brought over in massive container ships creating lots of CO2. All made in factories burning coal creating massive CO2. mean while back here we have to sit under a 11watt energy light bulb to get under our 'targets'. The chinese have a real respect for their economy and stuff the cO2, burn more coal.

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  • meldrewreborn
    Love rating 70
    meldrewreborn said

    The average house price in england and wales, from the land registry website, has risen from £130,000 to around £163,000 in the past eight years, an increase of circa 25%, or less than 3% per annum compounded. Thats not massive, is it, but it is indicative that the prices we face today are not abnormally high, nor that the market is not working. Prices have fluctuated wildly over that period, and there will be people who have bought a few years ago and are now facing losses or only small increases in their property's value.

    Many people will be finding it difficult to obtain a mortgage because the conditions in that market have tightened up considerably in recent years. Many would consider that mortgage terms should never have been allowed to get so slack as they were in 2007, and that the position now is what should be the long term situation should be - that is borrowers should have a significant deposit and a maximum of 4 times income in the loan (both of these to protect the leders against default). So because of these conditions there will be many people who formerly might have obtained a mortgage, now cannot. So they rent - this is the norm in most of europe - its not something to be ashamed of.

    Rents too, are governed by supply and demand - at least outside of council housing where people, once they have qualified for a property, are then subsidised for the length of their tenancy irrespective of any change in their circumstances. In the private sector supply and demand regulates prices. With many people not being able to buy their home, demand for rented property is high. Too much demand chasing too little supply raises prices - this is classic economic reality.

    I'm not thinking about the wider economy and how to get us out of the current period of nil or minimal growth. I'm look just at the housing picture. There is no getting away from the reality, long term house prices will continue to go up unless we increase housing supply markedly. Whether you think this is a good or bad way to tackle our current wider economic issues is a different matter, but building creates jobs not only for builders, carpenters, plumbers and the like but those in manufacturing of bricks cement roofing tiles and house fittings. More people will benefit from modern well insulated and cheaper to run homes / housing.

    I can think of many worse projects that the government could stimulate.

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  • SevenPillars
    Love rating 70
    SevenPillars said

    Supasap, I never suggested that it was a conspiracy. The VI's in the housing market are very powerful as a group working together, the banks, builders, estate agents, press/media which largely presents house prices going up as a good thing, prices falling a bad thing, landlords and the majority property owners, all backed up by Government policies designed to promote home ownership and rising prices as an indicator of wealth. Their interests are higher prices, so that is largely the policies and propaganda that we get.

    As for supply and demand, it is distorted in the current market. Supply isn't there because people want to sell at 2007 prices, while demand is there, but probably at 2000 price levels. It's all about the lack of mortgage credit, with banks wanting to lend at closer to 2000 price levels, but they will never say this which is why they are asking for 25-40% deposits to plug the price gap.

    I don't think you can compare the UK with Ireland or the US, as we have done very well so far convincing the markets that we are not a basket case. The markets haven't attacked us yet. I also think when it comes to property in the US, they did have massive oversupply of new builds and the US Government has chosen to take their banks (and some British ones) to court for fraud and miss-selling of mortgages. In the UK the Government and FSA did a clever job in sweeping self-certification under the carpet. They want everyone to believe that NINJA loans didn't happen here. It did, it was called self-cert and fast track and they were 50% of the mortgage market in 2007. If ever the truth came out about this, UK prices might just collapse and that is too dangerous for any UK Government to admit to.

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  • supasap
    Love rating 19
    supasap said

    "if the truth ever came out about this"........... it has on many occasions about self certs but the VI having influence is well overstated, no country that operates in a reasonably free manner can buck the market, it is not possible, if a buyer wants to buy at 2000 prices and a seller is willing to do so then it will happen, if seller is not desperate then it won't happen, it is all about free and voluntary action which is called the market, bit like the 250k houses that lie empty in UK despite restrictions on construction, the demand is not high enough otherwise prices would rise more steeply and these empty houses would get filled, but nor is demand falling otherwise we would see a drop in prices, I also don't think you have addressed my earlier assertion that not all owners want a price increase especially those with kids

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  • SevenPillars
    Love rating 70
    SevenPillars said

    In what way has the truth come out about self-cert? Have the banks opened their mortgage books to independent audit? Has the Government forced the largely taxpayer funded banks to open their mortgage books to scrutiny? Have the banks gone back and checked over all those self-cert and fast track mortgages they gave prior to 2008? Has the FSA and police chased after the fraudsters or investigated the banks? Do the media cover this issue with the same critical analysis that they might if it was another country, say Greece or even the US? The answer to all is no. It is simply left to a few of us to point out the obvious that prices went up on the back of loose lending and the rise in popularity of self-cert and fast track mortgages and there was a reason for this. Studies in behavioral economics have shown that people are more likely to commit a fraud when it is presented to them that everyone is doing it and nothing is done to stop it.

    Bucking the market?

    Government support and taxpayers (present and future) money to bail out the banks bucked the market. They'd have been bust without it and the knock on effect on house prices might have been more dramatic with the banking system collapsing all around us.

    QE bucked the market. Printing money stopped the tailspin of asset price deflation in 2008.

    Reducing IR's to next to nothing when you are supposedly fighting inflation bucked the market. It gave all those property owners on BoE linked IR mortgages a payment holiday and probably stopped many from having to sell.

    What has been successful over the last three years is that we aren't seeing as many forced sellers and the actions above contributed to that, but there again sales are now only running at around 30% of 2007 levels. If you are a seller and prepared to wait months or years someone eventually may come along and buy. Doesn't mean the market is healthy or entirely free.

    Do the owners with kids want to see 30-40% price falls so that their offspring can afford to buy? In most cases I doubt it, especially if it would see them fall into negative equity.

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  • meldrewreborn
    Love rating 70
    meldrewreborn said

    SevenPillars.

    you are right in that there was loose and fraudulent lending in the 2000's and probably before. however, if loans are not serviced (i.e. repayments met) then those loans are called in and the property sold on. the effect of those is already in the market. Demand and supply are not static figures but are curves - the market price for an item is where the two curves meet. housing is a good example of an inelastic curve in that no matter how the demand for property varies, supply cannot change quickly and for all intents and purposes can be regarded as fixed in the short term. given this, its demand that is keeping prices at their current high level.

    You are just plain wrong to ignore the situations in USA, Ireland and Spain as examples of how excess supply of property impacts on prices - this is a different (although allied) aspect from the ecomic mess they found themselves in. All three had house BUILDING booms fed by the (obviously incorrect) idea that property prices only ever go up. However, they all produced more property than the market wanted or needed, and now that property is very very hard to sell at anything like its construction cost. I'm certainly not saying we need to saturate the market with homes that nobody wants, but we do need to increase house building to prevent housing costs, to both owners and renters, from increasing ever faster in the future.

    People entering the housing market will need to be re-educated about likely future values of their property if supply is expanded, otherwise we'll have ever more of the finacially illeterate complaining about how they were missold their propert.

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  • SevenPillars
    Love rating 70
    SevenPillars said

    meldrewreborn

    Demand from a limited number of buyers at current price levels are keeping the market going. Sales are massively down from 2007 due to the contraction and availability of mortgage credit and the conditions attached to that credit. Sellers have not been put into the forced selling position in part due to Government and Central Bank intervention after the financial collapse of 2008. Had the banks been allowed to go bust, a potential doomsday scenario that the free market probably would have inflicted on us had there not been intervention, we may well have had a house price collapse at some stage as a side effect of banks having no money to lend and the resulting economic recession/depression. I'm not suggesting that this should have happened, but it bursts the bubble of those that believe the Government/Central Banks/VI's don't intervene to save the asset bubbles they have helped create.

    I think I mentioned the over supply issue in the US, but didn't expand upon it. I would accept that we haven't done the same here in the UK and some use this as evidence as to why prices here will not fall. I'm not sure it matters when we have a restrictive mortgage market where banks are reluctant to lend because they know what really happened in the past. The industry could build 250,000 houses a year for the next five years, but if they tried to sell them at current market prices the vast majority would lie empty for years, so they aren't going to build anyway and the Government isn't going to subsidize them.

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  • yocoxy
    Love rating 152
    yocoxy said

    @nickpike "prices are twice what they should be"

    If only we lived in a dictatorship we'd have someone who could mandate prices. Until then you'll have to accept that supply and demand sets the price.

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  • matchmade
    Love rating 38
    matchmade said

    SevenPillars: the Government is subsidising houses - £3.5 billion over the next five years - there were a load of announcements just recently about housing association "affordable" home projects that are going to be funded. Affordable homes are also subsidised by developer and builders, who have to give away between 33-45% of their units to housing associations and are only reimbursed for the build cost, with not a penny for the land or development or finance costs. There's a huge number of affordable homes in the pipeline, all to house the underclass and public sector workers at ultra-cheap rates. The actual number of new-builds for private sale is nowhere near the 105,000 supposedly built this year.

    I've just built four new-build flats myself, and the main problem holding back the massive demand is not affordability in terms of monthly income, but the size of deposits demanded by banks. Mortgages are extremely affordable at the moment: you can get a 3.99% interest rate fixed for 10 years with the Chelsea, with a 70% LTV. This means you can buy a new 2-bed flat or house for £200K in my area, and your £140K loan will cost you just £477 interest-only a month for 10 years, much less than the cost of renting, so you can spend the surplus on paying down your mortgage. The downside is that you need a £60K deposit to get started. Hence why the rental market is so strong at the moment.

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