Horsham less affordable than Hackney for its first time buyers

JPCT 100314 First time buyerTom Rockingham of Storrington. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-141003-125940001
JPCT 100314 First time buyerTom Rockingham of Storrington. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-141003-125940001

Taking the all-important first step into the housing market is a step that seems to grow more costly with each year.

Property prices rise with each passing year, on both a national and local level.

This week, the County Times has heard the story of a young couple who have recently made a successful first step onto the property ladder.

In the Horsham district, the comparatively large number of detached and semi-detached houses makes the going even tougher for first time buyers.

The uphill task facing those seeking affordable housing in the area is striking.

In the Horsham district, the ratio of lower quartile house prices to lower quartile earnings stands at 10.8, when last measured in 2012.

This means that properties priced in the bottom 25 per cent in the Horsham district are out of reach for people whose earnings also fall in the bottom 25 per cent.

Entry level housing costs are more than ten times the earnings of these households.

The lower quartile house prices to lower quartile earnings ratio for West Sussex is 9.1. Nationally, the figure falls to 6.6.

The Horsham district has the highest ratio within the county, far greater than the national average, and, in this way, is less affordable for low wage earners and first time buyers than some London boroughs including Hackney and Lambeth.

These statistics make cases like that of Tom Rockingham and his wife Emily less common in the current climate.

The young couple bought their first property, in Storrington, after renting a smaller home in Horsham for the last three years.

The couple, both of whom work at Gatwick Airport, have been saving for 18 months and asked for contributions to their deposit at their wedding.

Tom, 25, said: “You kind of get annoyed paying other people’s mortgages when you’re paying rent.

“We have really knuckled down since we got married - we asked for money at the wedding to help towards our deposit.

“It has been 18 months of hard saving (for a deposit).”

Tom is originally from Bournemouth and Emily from Bordon, Hampshire.

Since getting married in October 2012, the couple have been determined to save up for a deposit on a home.

After months of saving, they chose to move away from Horsham to own a larger home.

Tom and Emily decided to search within a 40 minute radius of the airport.

Tom said: “The rented house we were in was a tiny one-bedroom place. I think you don’t get as much for your money in Horsham, and the same with Crawley because we looked there as well.

“We originally wanted to stay in Horsham but we realised quite quickly that we wouldn’t get what we wanted in Horsham for the money we had.

“We did cast our net a bit further out - we were looking at Pulborough, Storrington and Thakeham. This one came up and within a week we had it.”

They placed bids for two properties in Thakeham, and though unsuccessful in both instances, it was a case of third time lucky for the couple when their current home was put on the market.

Tom said: “There were two in Thakeham we had gone for. We put bids in - quite far under the asking price - but they were both only on the market for a week, two weeks.

“We were quickly in there with a viewing, a second viewing then putting our offer in but within a couple of days both the properties had gone for over the asking price.

“For this one, I think we were the only people to view it - there were only about six or seven days between seeing the property and having our offer accepted.”

The average property price in the district, taken from figures released from the second quarter of 2011, is £270,000.

This is, perhaps surprisingly, 20 per cent greater than the mean cost of a property across West Sussex - £225,000.

When the sample size is increased to a national scale, the reading is even more grim for first time buyers hoping to move into the Horsham district.

The average price of a house in England is £177,000, 53 per cent lower than the average in Horsham.

In a Strategic Housing Market Assessment Update published in October 2012 by Horsham District Council, Crawley Borough Council and Mid Sussex District Council, statistics reveal the median house price in Horsham doubled in just five years, increasing from £100,000 in 1998 to £200,000 in 2003.

In the five years preceding the 2012 report Horsham delivered an average of 312 homes each year.

All this means that more young people are renting properties, or simply staying at their parents’ home for longer.

More young people are living at home with their parents than at any time since records began in 1996, according to figures released in January by the Office for National Statistics.

Twenty-six per cent of 20-34 year olds live with their parents - more than 3.3 million nationwide.

It is an alien world for Tom, who moved out with his sister aged 18, but he said the figure did not surprise him.

He said: “If I’m being honest, if I could do it again I would probably stay at home a little bit longer and try to save a bit more.

“I’m not surprised people are staying home that little bit longer to get a bit more of a deposit saved up.

“I like the independence of moving out, but I was never good with money when I first moved out of my parents’ house and if I stayed there I’d have probably been a bit better off.”