House prices are up 0.5% – but does it really matter

31st March 2011

This country's obsessed with home ownership.

House prices have long been a subject discussed at dinner tables up and down the country. "What's your place worth?" "House prices are falling – how dreadful".

But is it really? As long as you've got a roof above your head, does it really matter?

Well, it does to lots of people.

Recently the issue of some kind of "mansion tax" has come up again.

Originally part of the Liberal Democrat's election manifesto, the tax aimed to redistribute wealth from people who'd made money in property.

The Coalition Government have started dropping hints it may be introduced in the form of higher stamp duty on expensive properties, or an inflated council tax.

Basically the policy aims to get the people who have "done well" out of property to contribute a bit more. But we'd all like to have "done well" out of property.

It suggests someone forward thinking who bought in the right place at the right time – when in reality "doing well" out of property is just down to luck half the time.

I bought my first flat in 2000 for £68,000 and it's apparently worth about double that now.

Did I make a good decision based on what I thought the market might do over the next 10 years? Er…no. 

My purchase was a lot more to do with wanting somewhere to live to call my own and not being at the mercy of landlords.

The UK's obsession with property is nothing new and it's turned us into a nation of haves and have nots: you've not made it as a proper adult until you're a homeowner.

And the more expensive the house you've got, the better you must be doing.

But that's not really the case is it? In most cases your property doesn't actually confirm how much money you've got, but how much debt you're in and the amount a bank will lend to you.

Other countries aren't like this.

In some European countries such as Germany and Italy everyone is seemingly happy to rent.

Yet, here we seem to be gripped by a fear that Britain is slowly returning to feudal times, with a property owning minority and a majority paying them rent. And nobody wants to be on the wrong side of the divide.

In theory house prices only really matter if you need to move, remortgage or have an investment or buy-to-let property you're selling.  

To many, having somewhere where they like living, they can call their own and can comfortably afford is much more important.

Shouldn't we all think like that?

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