A Nation Detached?

Modern Masonry launches research into UK homemakers’ aspirations

  • Over 80% of respondents place performance-related issues at the top of the agenda when looking to buy a property
  • One in three people aspire to live in a detached house and two-thirds in a suburban setting
  • Less than 10% live in a house a decade old and only a fifth live in a house under 20 years old
  • More than half of us want to move within the next five years, but only a third will be in a position to do so
  • A quarter of people think they’ll never be able to buy their own home
  • Over a quarter feel that the current government housing policy does not meet their needs and half feel they do not know enough about it to comment

Today, Modern Masonry, the representative body for the UK masonry industry, launches a specially commissioned report, ‘A Dream Home: An Exploration of Aspirations’.

This important research was conducted in response to a perceived disconnect between the construction industry and consumers, particularly within the housebuilding sector. Do developers truly understand what makes the nation tick?

In an industry where the public’s voice is not often heard, a national sample of 2,000 adults was surveyed to address this concern head on. The results give a clear insight into what UK buyers and renters think.

With home-ownership at a 30-year low, aspirations unsurprisingly follow suit. A lack of new builds, high property prices, crippling stamp duty and years of government inaction have all had an impact on the nation’s residential prospects.

When asked to describe the most important attributes that make up the basis of the ideal home, movers and homemakers were surprisingly realistic. Aesthetic qualities were of the least importance while performance issues such as energy efficiency and sound insulation scored well above 80% across the board.

The majority of people polled merely aspire to live in a detached house (33%) in suburbia (64%), as opposed to one of the ambitious Grand Designs or fashionable ‘tiny houses’, which flood the media. As the report reveals, modest aspirations also correlate with low expectations of home ownership.

Respondents were vocal about the negative occurrences that scared them the most. In particular, highly emotive human factors such as burglaries, break-ins and bad neighbours scored high (66%) on the list of potential worries. For renters, damp caused major distress with nearly half of those polled (44%) highlighting this as a concern.

The research also found a nation facing housebuilding stagnation. Three-quarters of those polled live in houses with two-thirds of these classifying themselves as homeowners. Nearly half of these live in a home over 40 years old. Worryingly, less than 10% live in a house a decade old, and only a fifth live in a house under 20 years old. This speaks volumes about levels of new build construction over the last 30 years.

In this static landscape, there also exists a sizeable minority of renters with little or no prospect of getting a foot on the property ladder. Affordability is a key issue here, but there is also concern that the government is not doing enough to help first time buyers.

Commenting on the findings, Andrew Minson, director of Modern Masonry says: “These findings show a distinct lack of awareness about how government policy is going to increase stock and simultaneously offer quality, value-for-money houses. People, understandably, want to live in a robust, quiet home that’s cheap to run, providing sanctuary and a place to raise their family. It is striking that in a media-saturated world of Grand Designs, people still aspire to a modest house. Expectations may not be high, but are they even achievable?”

Is this a country trapped by pessimistic perceptions of the housing market, or are current aspirations the most realistic expectation from a nation of pragmatists? Modern Masonry’s report seeks to get to the heart of this issue.

The full report can be downloaded here.

Key Findings

High Hopes?

Even though most people tend to want to live in a detached home, even more modest ambitions are apparently too grandiose for a significant number. A quarter stated they would never be in a position to buy. It creates a stark picture, especially when you factor in that only 7% indicated the ability to purchase outright, a further quarter holding a mortgage and 18% expressed the ambiguous sentiment of home ownership as a long-term aspiration.

Figures for those currently in the process of looking to move were low too. Only 14% highlighted they plan on moving within the next year and just under a quarter in the next two to five years. Unsurprisingly, those in the 18-24 age bracket were the most likely to be moving, but this result can (in part) be attributed to the constant turnover of the rental market.

Town Called Malice

Most people (66%) considered good security as an essential requirement for an ideal home, particularly from human factors (burglaries and bad neighbours).

Disasters were a concern for a quarter (23%), who indicated fire damage, flooring subsistence and structural collapse as constant worries.

These findings underline the universal truth that the public place safety and comfort at the top of their agendas when home hunting.

The significant number of renters highlighting damp (44%) leads to questions about ventilation and insulation in rental accommodation, ongoing maintenance and the professionalism of landlords.

Ain’t Nothing Going on but the Rent

A significant third of the sample (37%) are currently renting, 16% of whom are over 55 and 10% in social housing. When further asked if they would buy or rent as a next step, a third (34%) of 18-24 year olds said they’d rent as opposed to 10% of those aged over 55. Six in ten of over 35s planning to move are looking to buy.    

Only 12% of us prefer to rent, with 17% of people planning their next move into rented accommodation. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), social housing makes up 17% of the housing in England and 16% in Wales, while privately rented properties account for around 21% of stock. There’s no doubt rentals are a significant part of the British housing market. Despite this, a quarter (24%) of us consider rental properties to be inadequate and not up to contemporary living.

Right to Buy

A lack of information prevails. Poor clarity over government housing policy amidst almost half of respondents (48%) as well as a similar lack of information on flagship schemes such as Help to Buy (44%) all indicate a scandalous deficit of public information.

This is emphasised by a quarter (27%) highlighting that current efforts have not met their housing needs, leaving them powerless to get a foothold on the property ladder.




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