Down & Out In Faversham and London: Why moving somewhere cheaper is advice based on doublethink

Writing in the Sunday Times last weekend, Kirstie Allsopp claimed to be “enraged” by young people complaining they can’t afford to buy a home. After all, she managed to buy her first home aged 21 (in spite of hardships like receiving family help, and the average house price only being £51,000 back then compared to nearing £270,000 now).

Her advice amounted to “give up Netflix and move somewhere cheaper” and in so dispensing, she then managed to enrage a huge section of Twitter, proving it always ends acrimoniously when the generations talk past each other about matters relating to financial hardship.

As it happens, I’m ahead of Kirstie’s curve on this one, because back in 2019 I did move somewhere cheaper.  My family of four was already spilling out of our flat so tiny I could vacuum the whole thing without switching power sockets, but it was also clear that we’d been priced out of most three-bedroom homes in the capital.  So we moved to East Kent.

Before we go any further, let me be clear; I love where I Iive, I appreciate I’m very fortunate to own my own property, and my income is well above the national average.  By any yardstick, I am doing okay, which risks rendering the rest of what I’m about to say as tone-deaf as the musings of Ms Allsopp, but please hear me out.

The reality is that although my deposit did at least get me onto the housing ladder in Kent, it costs me more to live here on a day-to-day basis than living in London ever did.  For a start, our council tax doubled overnight, we now have to drive because there isn’t a primary school or supermarket on every corner, a larger home inevitably means larger bills and don’t get me started on the cost of my rail season ticket.

The fact is, I’ve become noticeably poorer since I moved somewhere cheaper - an inconvenient truth about the UK’s property landscape that Kirstie’s argument fails to acknowledge.  And this was already the case long before the current cost of living crisis struck.  So while there will be no tiny violins for me, I am seriously concerned about what’s coming - and I am not alone. 

It’s a depressing fact that 22% of UK households already live in relative poverty (after housing costs), but last week at Nous we ran our own nationwide survey and found that 54% describe themselves as either very or extremely worried about the rise in the cost of living.  What’s already becoming clear is this crisis is being felt far beyond those who really are faced with the unconscionable choice between heating and eating - Middle England is also feeling the squeeze.  

If it’s true that nothing brings people together more effectively than a common enemy, then it’s interesting to note that at a time when the UK’s political landscape is riven with fissures, the biggest issue currently uniting people is concern about the cost of living.  The triple threat of rising interest rates, taxes and inflation might actually create the political will required to tighten up regulation of the energy industry, make taxation more progressive, and review the benefits bestowed on property as an asset class.  We will have to wait and see.

So if you are minded to take Kirstie’s advice, then Rightmove, Zoopla and others can all help you find somewhere cheaper to live.  But if you want to live more cheaply in the house you’re already in, you’ll find your needs are currently less well catered for.  Which is why we’ve launched Nous, to help households get smart and stay vigilant as they navigate the imminent cost of living crisis.

We’re currently building a service to create quick, personalised, free reports showing households exactly what impact the squeeze will have on their bills, and what can be done about it. We’re doing all we can to get it ready as soon as possible, so keep this frequency clear. In the meantime, reports that Boris is considering appointing Ms Allsopp as Minister for Inflation, Inflation, Inflation remain unconfirmed.

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