I heard on the lunchtime news a few days ago that the average age of the first time home buyer in the UK is now 37 years. By teatime, on the same channel, this figure had mysteriously risen to ‘approaching 43 years’.  A 6 year increase in as many hours. Blimey I didn’t think things were deteriorating that quickly!!

Whichever is right it is an astounding fact and one that got me thinking about our own journey on the so called housing ladder, and how lucky we are to have been born at the ‘right’ time.

We bought our first home in early 1973 for the princely sum of £500. It was a one-up-one-down, through-by-light, mid-terrace cottage in the hilltop village of Sowerby in West Yorkshire.

A grant from the council enabled us to install a bathroom and kitchen, and a helpful granny helped us to buy it without having to get a conventional mortgage. We were on the first rung of the property ladder and neither of us had reached our 20th birthday.

The next house was a 2 bed-roomed semi on the outskirts of Halifax. It cost a mighty £17,000 and this was the first time we had a ‘proper’ mortgage. It was the early 1980’s and house prices were just at the very beginning of their meteoric rise.  No-one could have believed where they would eventually end up.

The cottage at Sowerby had been sold for somewhere in excess of £5,000, I can’t actually remember the exact figure, but certainly a handsome profit on our first investment.

The semi was in good condition but tired and faded, so we installed central heating, double glazing and a new kitchen.  In 1986 we sold it for around £28,000, which enabled us to buy a detached house, just down the road, for £41,000.

By this time Peter had also bought his picture business, so the finances are a bit of a blurr, and we had a large mortgage, but suffice to say we were on the up. I had always dreamed of living in a detached house but never believed I would actually do so. This was a dream come true, but as we all now know, it was to get even better.

We spent 10 happy years in the detached house, but it wasn’t our ideal place and the garden would have been more suited to a mountain goat than a 40+ year old civil servant, so in 1996 we came to the conclusion it was now or never, and decided to sell the house and the business and move to Lincolnshire.

Why Lincolnshire? Well, Peter’s parents had moved there some years before and on our visits we had often window-shopped in the Estate Agents so we knew house prices were lower than in Yorkshire and the gardens were generally bigger and flatter.

And so began the mammoth task of selling a house and business simultaneously plus house hunting in a different county, whilst we were both in full-time work. To cut a long story short, we eventually sold the house in November 1997, without having found a new one. So we moved all our worldly goods, and 4 cats, into the rooms over the shop, and after Xmas 1997 began house hunting in earnest, this time we had the advantage of being able to offer ‘no chain’ as part of the deal.

It was clear the business was not going to sell as a going concern, so we just ran the stock down over the months leading up to our move here in June 1998, and the rest, as they say, is history.

We still have a mortgage, but we also have a lovely detached house with a large, flat garden in the heart of the beautiful Lincolnshire countryside. It doesn’t get much better than that.

I don’t know the current value of our house, but it must be in the region of £200,000. A far cry from our little £500 cottage in 1973.

I don’t pretend to understand the economics of such things, I don’t even know if it’s right and proper to acquire wealth in this way. All I do know is that we were born in the right place at the right time, and it would have been foolish not to take advantage of the opportunity.

Yes, we’ve sailed close to the wind from time to time and done things by the seat of our pants occasionally, but it has worked out for us in the end and we are very grateful for that.

That’s why I feel so sorry for the younger generations not having the same opportunity as we did and having to wait so long to buy their own homes. Some will never make it, I’m just so glad we did.

As a postscript to this story, I thought it might be fun to take a trip down memory lane courtesy of Google Street View. Here are pictures of the cottage, the chimney of the semi (for some reason the front of the property didn’t get Googled) the detached house and finally the shop, complete with day-glo closing down signs in the windows.

    goodbye gallery

Isn’t technology a wonderful thing? If you’d told me in 1973 I’d be doing this I wouldn’t have believed you, that’s assuming I had the vaguest idea what you were talking about!!

Post Script added 01.02.12

I’ve just found out that a big house, about half a mile further up our lane sold in November 2011 for £510,000. Now that is a big number!!