A Knight’s Tale (48: The Housing Market)

In those days I was able to buy our first house together for £5,000. It is not just inflation that has meant that the, albeit refurbished, house sold for £1,200,000 earlier this year.

In 1968, 76 Amity Grove was a small semi-detached three-bedroomed Victorian house with one bathroom and combined WC added through a door in the kitchen – an arrangement which would not be permitted today. The first of these images is from 2014 when it was sold for £745,000; the second from 2020 when it was again on the market to be sold in 2021 for the price mentioned above. The still extant picket fence is a rarity in this suburban street because perhaps two thirds of the front gardens have now been sacrificed to the ever advancing motor car.

When we were young it was only possible to obtain a mortgage on the basis of one salary. Once two salaries could be taken into account it became inevitable that prices would increase; and as a consequence, for ordinary people this meant two incomes were needed. This was one contributory factor in a radical change in family life during the 20th century. When two parents both worked child care was required to be found, and often funded from extra earnings.

We could only obtain such a loan for a house purchase if it was to be our permanent residence. Later in that century buyers were permitted to borrow such money under “Buy to Let”, which effectively meant that tenants were paying the buyer’s mortgage costs. My son, Michael, was a beneficiary of this system. This has pushed up the price of rentals and made most young people unable to save for a purchase deposit.

In the case of our first house, Estate Agents raised the social image by changing the name of this side of the railway line from Raynes Park to West Wimbledon – a much more salubrious address for the high fliers who could commute to London’s Waterloo in 18 minutes by train. The addition of a Waitrose helped promote the uplift.

When, in 2008, I was seeking rental accommodation in London after my return from Newark I discovered that the tenancy of 29a Stanton Road, the maisonette in which I had grown up, was on offer for £1,400 per month. I am not sure what my parents’ rent amounted to, but I don’t expect that in the 1950s it was much more that £1 per week.


  1. House price inflation, beyond normal ‘inflation’, as you mention above, is scary. I feel for those, particularly at the start of their property journey, struggling to get funds together to shift from the rental market, if that is what they want to do.
    Those Victorian terrace / semi detached houses that are so classic and beautifully made are, I think, such ‘homely’ homes. Innate beauty and attention to detail in the design that’s not evident in some later models – yet also timeless… I’m sure that your million + pound house has now been zipped up inside as it’s current chapter is written by the present owners – who must love it as much as you did, all those years ago.
    I often think how very interesting it would be if each such victorian home had an album – documenting in pictures the residents, interior decor and garden, through time from the first custodians.

    1. Thanks very much Emma. I wonder whether you have seen David Olusoga’s BBC2 series “A house through time” Now in 4th series (on iPlayer). He does exactly what you suggest in a most engaging way.

      1. Thank you Derrick – I’m not very good at knowing what’s on TV, so appreciate that tip and I will certainly follow it up – looking forward to seeing the series on iplayer! 🙂

  2. My first house in 1976 cost £8,000. The Building Society wanted a 10% deposit which I didn’t have. I went to the bank close by and applied for a car loan of £800. I didn’t buy a car. Once I had the money I went back to the Building Society with the deposit. Simple.

  3. It is interesting how prices for everything change over time. As your first home with Jackie, I’m sure you have fond memories of the place.
    You might remember that our younger child and her husband won their house. They’ve been very fortunate not to have to worry about mortgage payments or a down payment.

  4. It’s shocking how prices have risen. We bought our first home in 1977 for £8000 in Leicester with a £7000 mortgage (£40/month). My beloved had just started work on the princely salary of £2500 pa, I was still at university. We worked weekends in a local pub and I also worked Monday nights in the University burger bar.

  5. Same is true in this country. Terrible the way housing prices have shot up, making it almost unaffordable for regular folks to afford them. Two people might barely be able to scratch enough together to buy a house. But nowadays, a lot of people, like my daughter, are single and probably always will be.

  6. Inflation, inflation. It’s a darn shame that people have to pay so much for housing, if they can. It’s the same thing here.

  7. Unfortunately, Derrick, it seems to be happening all over. In Canada, it is a large matter of foreign ownership for untaxable investment purposes and money laundering. The government is behind it because they incorporated the land taxes to the value of the home. The people who already own a home aren’t likely to complain because they see their investment increase in value. However, it cuts of future ownership to the next generation because they could never save enough for a down payment.

  8. Amazing isn’t it. San Diego home price increases are the second highest in the nation. I am glad I helped my daughter with a down payment at the start of the pandemic. He home’s value has increased 30% in a year.

  9. 1968 and our rented one bedroom flat cost us £5.00 per week.
    1970 Our first house, a brand new detached three bedroom house cost us £2,700.
    1976 we sold it for £3,500 and moved here to what was a small holding with a four bedroom house and paid £27,500.

    Three years later we purchased more of the adjoining land from the farmer who’d sold us his farmhouse, he’d built a bungalow at the other side of the fields.

    We’ve extended the house twice since we purchased it. Upwards and outwards, goodness knows it’s worth today.

    I wonder if the owners of your old house have extended it? It seems to be the norm these days, much cheaper to extend than move.

    Are you soon to do some renovations in your house?

  10. Fortunately, back in our early days of marriage, the military supplied rental houses for Defence families but also introduced equal rent for each rank no matter the location. City rent was same as remote areas. We were able to save a little but with any rent payers, its difficult to save money to buy. We took advantage of bank loans introduced in the 80’s for purchase of rental investments. After the 2nd rental property sold 20 years later, we had a large deposit for our own home when Norm retired from full-time service.

    I love watching the selling/ home shows in the UK. The houses are beautiful whether they’re centuries or decades old.

  11. My father bought a 5 bedroom house ( lots of kids and a grandmother living there) for about $45k in the 1970s. It was sold 50 years layer for $1.2M. This was in San Diego.

  12. My father bought a 5 bedroom house ( lots of kids and a grandmother living there) for about $45k in the 1970s. It was sold 50 years layer for $1.2M. This was in San Diego.

  13. Wowza! And my how times have changed when it comes to rentals and home buying! 😮
    Very interesting to “go back” and think about the $$ end of all the places we’ve lived. And how even tho’ it seems inexpensive now, back when it was a lot of money to us as young adults. 🙂
    I remember my parents saying that in the early ’50’s (before I was born) they bought their small house for $5,000. It was a two bedroom, but my Dad added on a 3rd bedroom. What they loved were the large yards where they could have a veggie garden, fruit trees, flowers, etc., and a place for us kids to play. That little house housed my parents and us 8 kids. They still lived there when I left home at age 17 for college. When my mom turned 91 (after my Dad had died), she finally sold that house.
    (((HUGS))) 🙂

  14. Like everyone else here, I’m shocked at the rise in house prices. Our Sydney house that we purchased for $38 000 decades ago (seems so little when I actually type it!) is now valued at $2m + and rented for $1200 per week. I wish we’d kept it! It was very run down and we spent many years renovating, doing a lot of work ourselves because that’s all we could afford. Our children will never be able to buy a house in Sydney, the prices are completely out of reach for most young people now.

  15. You make valid points as to how the housing market (in Australia too) has reached this point. The problem is to put controls on it without sending all existing home owners (and investors) to the wall. We are just now tinkering around the edges of mortgage controls. Meanwhile, there are also tentative forays into tiny houses. But that is not a solution in massive urban areas.

  16. The housing market here in the US is going through the roof -and is everything else. It’s insane and I don’t see a reason for all the price increases either. These days young people have to inherit a home.

  17. Times have been changing at a rapid, at times a bewildering pace. What has happened to the reality sector is one of the uglier manifestations of capitalism. I am not a sympathiser of communist ideologies, but the very thought of brokers and estate agents leaves me deeply unsettled.

  18. The entire situation with houses, mortgages and renting and so on has taken very much a turn for the worse, especially when people in Cornwall, for example, buy houses as an investment and then leave them unoccupied throughout the entire year. I think it will all end in tears one day.

  19. Watching a well-known property programme recently, I learned that Raynes Park is considered highly desirable. No need to change the name at all. All these things seem to go in circles. Apart from the ever-escalating prices, sadly.

  20. Yes, our housing costs far too much these days. I am very lucky to have been able to afford to buy my house on one salary.

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