How important is the idea of "owning your own home" outside the U.S.A.?

Homeownership is considered (to quote from a recent Newsweek article) “as the cornerstone of the American Dream.”

Is the dream of owning your own home a particularly American desire? How important is the idea of “owning your own home” outside the U.S.A.?

In the UK it isn’t considered a dream. It is culturally considered absolutely mandatory, often to the point of insanity. People worry and get depressed over not being able to get on the “housing ladder”. Arguments with banks ensue because they won’t lend 4, or even 5 times salary to buy a house. As a consequence the UK has a pretty extreme boom and bust housing market and by extension a boom and bust economy as house buying is such a significant part of the economy. The UK now has consumer debt at 130% of income, excluding mortgages. House prices are, on average, around 5 times income yet so many people here think the market will continue to go up, as it has done for the past 10 years or so. I was in Silicon Valley during the dot com boom and the housing market in the UK is eerily similar in nature; a house of cards waiting to collapse.

God, sirtonyh, even before I got to your last sentence I was thinking, “Sounds like he’s describing San Diego.”

Only the solution here is for young families to buy an “affordable” house in the middle of freaking nowhere and spend all their time on the freeway trying to pay for it.

4 or 5 times their salary with 130% debt not including mortgage?

I can’t fathom that… how does one afford that? We have a mortgage of a little over twice our income with additional debt of half our income and I feel like that is a mega ton of debt!

One of the biggest problems with renting where we are is that you can’t find more than a 2 bedroom apartment and none allow pets and some don’t even want kids! If you can find a 3 bedroom apartment it is more expensive than owning a similar sized house!

There are a lot of places that are priced so far out of reality that I still can’t figure out how people afford to live there.

Over the last two or three years the average price of a house in the UK has been rising at between 15 to 20% a year . This at a time when general inflation ( and wage rises ) have been running at about 3%. So you can see why it is so difficult for first-time buyers to get on to the “housing ladder”. My House cost £25,000 in 1981 , it is now worth about £190,000.
In some parts of London the rise has been even greater. Because of this workers such as teachers , nurses and firefighters find that they cannot afford to take a job in London , especially as affordable rented accomodation is also very hard to find.

London’s a joke. I live in a rented flat. It was newly refurbished, but is now very tatty and needs extensive plumbing and rewiring. It’s in a moderately unpleasant council estate area, but borders a very nice and lively area. It’s a ground floor flat (i.e. security problems) and has no garden. It’s a studio: one combined bedroom/dining room/kitchen.

It was valued at £200,000 last time I heard. My parents’ house outside London needed a lot of work (they could only afford a fixer-upper) but ended up as a nice Victorian 3-storey, 5-bed house in a quiet suburban terraced street with an 80-foot garden and brand new windows, wiring, kitchen, bathroom etc. Valued at £140,000 last I heard, and only 40 minutes from London.

The idea of owning a home is just stupid. I could get a mortgage at five times my salary, but I can’t imaging gambling that much. Renting’s not ideal but the alternative fills me with dread. And yet nearly everyone else I know my age has either bought or is in the process of buying a first home. Very depressing.

To own a house is also thought very desirable in Germany, but the idea is more of building (or inheriting) than of buying a house.

As building standards and building cost are quite high (and land zoned for new building is available in limited quantity) that is generally considered a once-in-a-lifetime project, which in turn leads to people not stinting on their house, which leads to high cost, etc. If everything works out well a couple can start building at a young age and pay the house off well into middle age. “If everything works works out well” means: not losing one’s job.

If you don’t build your house it is perfectly respectable, even if your are upper middle class, to rent or own an apartment. You have got significantly more disposable income in this case.

The situation in and around Toronto is very much as sirtonyh has described for the UK.

The same “must buy, must buy” mentality caused the same types of problems in the '80s when houses were vastly overvalued and many people lost their shirts.

Example: One guy at work bought a small bungalow for around $180,000 in 1988. When they sold two years ago, they got $142,000. After all that time, they still lost almost 40 grand. Many people just walked away from their mortgages.

I don’t think house prices are quite as inflated as that as yet, although they have been going up over the last 5 years. We paid $174,000 for our current small, 1-bath, 3 bdrm. house almost 5 years ago. Comparable homes in the area are going for $230,000 at the moment.

Seems like a good deal for us, until you contemplate “selling up” in the current market. We’d end up with an overpriced home likely to become deflated in a few years. We need a bigger house but I want to wait until prices fall before we move. The less money I owe the bank, the better.

The numbers I mentioned are for houses that are small, older, and outside of Toronto proper. Comparable homes in the city of Toronto would fetch much higher prices.

We bought our house 5 years ago for £109000. Its 45 minutes outside of London and at that time wasn’t really considered comuter belt. 5 years on, we had it on the market 2 months ago for £230000. We decided against moving and remortgaged instead, so we now have a mortgage for £170000ish with no other debts (PHEW!!!) I consider this a terrifyingly large mortgage but the payments are probably less than if we tried to rent this place.


Very important in Ireland, which has the highest home ownership rate in the EU.

The cost of housing has skyrocketed here in recent years, particularly in Dublin. I’m trying to find the report and can’t, but a couple weeks ago a study was published predicting that by the end of this year secondhand house prices in Dublin will average about €350,000 (that’s about US $400,000), with the average throughout the 26 counties about €100k less.

Obviously, it is simply no longer possible for most young couples to buy houses in the city, or even in the near suburbs and people are moving way, way out into the countryside. Just to take one example, there is a housing estate in Ballyjamesduff, Co. Cavan (a good couple hours outside Dublin) which is known to the locals as “Hill 16” - it’s a Dublin reference, take my word for it :slight_smile: - because so many have relocated there. And the jobs haven’t gone with them, so most of them have long commutes to the capital.

Mortgage lenders of course are making an absolute killing, oh and the Government recently abolished a first-time buyer’s grant.

It’s a very unhappy situation.

I can’t fathom it either. Say there is an individual earning 20,000 pounds a year, on average they would have total debt excluding mortgage of 26,000 pounds consisting of loans, credit cards, overdrafts, store cards, hire purchase agreements etc. Unfortunately we seem to be living a society that says “I want it now” so people borrow money for vacations, cars, clothes, a night out and pretty much anything. If they sat down and figured out how much of their salary was going on interest payments they would probably think again.

I waited a very long time before getting a mortgage, but my mortgage was less than 3x salary. I’m doing my damnedest to pay it off as quickly as possible. I expect there’ll be plenty of paid overtime next year due to a big office relocation, which will help a lot with that, even though I’ll probably be working 6 days a week plus evenings.

BTW I have no other debts.

Incredibly important to most Australians it seems, it is also becoming important to own an investment home to rent out. Unfortunately in the major cities housing prices have skyrocketed of late and it is becoming thought of as the impossible dream for those without a foothold already. The spinoff in TV shows based on how best to prepare a home for sale and how to renovate and how to buy is enough to send me under the nearest bed.

Having been an owner and now a renter I consider interest to be dead money and I want someone else to have to pay if my roof caves in or my hot water service blows up. I am considered a freak, well I was before I had to stop working.

Only fairly recently has renting become a realistic long-term proposition again in Norway, and not just something to do while you’re getting established or too poor to do otherwise. Long-term it has been more expensive than paying down the mortgage - as always, it costs a lot of money to be broke.

Before the war many people rented, I believe, but after the war there was a push towards home ownership as better not just for individual families but for the country as a whole. New apartment complexes were built that were owned in common by the residents, as a way for people to own their own home without having to have the money for a major investment. Older buildings that had been rental apartments were gradually sold to the residents.

Now, housing costs in the cities, particularly Oslo, have gotten so high that renting is beginning to become attractive again. However, most places you’re still renting from a landlord who owns one apartment here and another apartment there as an investment - and he might decide to sell, so if you can’t afford to buy you’re out looking for a new place to live again. Owning your own apartment is still more common and more secure. Some rental complexes have been built, time will tell if more will come.

Can someone educate the ignorant american…

To me apartments are always rented.

Condos can be bought or rented (glorified apartment with extra monthly fee tacked on for roof repair/shovelling/yard work)

Town houses are condos with no neighbors to the up/down and can be bought or rented. Also extra fee for stuff like condo.

Oddly enough in my town they just built a small village of town houses… they cost more than my single family home! Less space and less privacy but a nice big price tag and extra fees ?!

Homeownership is extremely important in Australia. The Australian dream can be (and often has been) characterised as “the 1/4 acre block”; owning your own home on your own chunk of land.

Now that prices are skyrocketing in the capital cities, that dream seems to have been owning your own home, buying an investment property, renovating it, then selling it at ten times the amount you bought it for.

This has of course pushed home-ownership out of the reach of many Australians, and has become a substantial political issue as a result. The housing boom is always predicted to burst any day now, and god help any government that’s ruling when that happens, because there are a lot of people investing way out of their league at the moment.

I don’t really understand the Australian dream of home-ownership. It implies a permanence that is unattractive to me.

You’re not ignorant - you’re factually challenged! :wink:

Here in the UK, you can rent an apartment. But as other posters have said, home ownership is tremendously popular. (Why pay almost as much money to rent, when you can finish up owning the property?).
I think the leading renters are students, people with ‘mobile’ jobs and businesses.
Fortunately I was able to save up a deposit before buying. Once you are on the UK property ‘ladder’, the initially expensive mortgage gradually becomes better and better as the value of your property rises. (Of course, you can’t see that benefit unless you move somewhere cheaper, or have two houses.)
My parents recently moved. Their property price had increased exactly 100-fold in 58 years. They sold a three bedroom house in outer London, bought a three bedroom bungalow with large garden in the country and pocketed 20% of the selling price.

I think your ‘condominium’ is our ‘apartment block’.
An apartment block can be owned by a company or individual, who appoint a management agent to run it. Or each apartment can be owned and there has to be a legal entity to decide things that affect the whole building (e.g. maintenance, as you say above.)
I assumed a ‘town house’ was a house in a well-populated area?!
Our estate agents (your ‘realtors’) use terms like terraced, semi-detached and detached. (Or Mansion / Country House, if it’s really big!)

We’d call that an estate.

Another aspect of owning property in the UK is to do with freehold and leasehold. In the former you own the house and the land it stands on outright. In the latter you only own “own” the property and/or land for a certain number of years ( the lease) . Usually a lease lasts ninety nine years , although some can be for nine hunderd and ninety nine. This link gives more details :-

glee… what I’d call an estate would be a mansion on gated grounds usually with lots of outbuildings…

Somewhere along the line it was decided that having people living above and below you was crap (which does make some sense) and so the town house became chic. The realtors are getting cheeky and calling them ‘single family attached homes’ which messed me up for a bit when hubby and I looked to move because I was looking at the ‘single family’ part and they kind of hide the ‘attached’ part. They usually have two or three levels but each level is only a room or two. There is also usually a garage underneath. So you have rows of homes mashed together and thats townhouses…townhouse

More or less the only difference between an apartment or a condo is who owns the units a management company or the individual.

So what is a flat? I’ve always thought of it as an apartment.