Somewhere in the middle

Oxford from above

Having traded up from a flat or a smaller house, the middle of the housing journey is firmly the preserve of families living in large homes.

This tends to be the point on their housing journey where people linger the longest. Here ties to the local area are at their strongest and the disruption and cost of moving home are at their highest. On average, a little over half of an owner’s housing journey is spent in the middle of it.

With these households among the least likely to sell, big homes are bought and sold less often. Almost half of the five bedroom homes sold in 2016 had the same owner for the previous two decades. The same figure for one bedroom homes is just 29%. For someone to move from one family home to another, there has to be a particularly good reason for them to do so, with schools often providing a reason to stay put. This means the majority of moves tend to be to a smaller or larger home, rather than sideways. Upsizers and downsizers move on average half the distance compared to someone moving from one family home to another.

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It is here, in the middle of their housing journey, that most people finish paying off their mortgage and find themselves with the greatest proportion of their wealth tied up in housing. It is also often at this point that people start under occupying their home as offspring fly the nest. Coaxing people into moving on when they find they no longer need the space they have has proved a tough sell.

While there have been calls for a Stamp Duty holiday for would-be downsizers, it’s hard to justify taxpayer help when there are struggling first-time buyers. Instead the solution will have to be provided by housebuilders delivering attractive homes in a place that downsizers really want to live.

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Our final feature in this weeks Snakes and ladders series looks at the final chapter of a home owners housing journey. With people looking to move from the family home, either downsizing or moving out of city locations to the coast or countryside.