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The UK property market is evolving

  • Adults are choosing to buy homes with friends rather than wait for a partner
  • Increased number of online searches for tenancy in common

The homeownership market in the UK is evolving, with more tenants choosing to buy and live in homes with friends, rather than with a partner or on their own.

To understand this emerging trend, online furniture retailer Furniture Choice conducted a UK wide survey and spoke with individuals who have already bought a house with a friend.

The research found that a surprising number of people are thinking about buying a house with a friend; over a third (38%) of the UK would consider doing so, with the biggest motives being unable to afford a property by themselves (54%), as well as not having a partner to buy with (42%).

The average purchase price among first-time buyers in England is £198,3251, requiring a minimum 5% deposit of £9,917, which would see  individuals needing to save £827 every month in order to buy within a year. After income tax and national insurance, the average net salary is £1,793.932 a month; to save this much individually, the average Brit would be left with just over £900 for rent, bills, food and travel, nevermind social and leisure activities.

However, financial ability isn’t the only factor when choosing to buy with a friend; one in three (35%) would rather live with a friend than on their own, but still want the stability of home ownership.

Marriage rates have been declining since the 1970s, with the average duration of marriage lasting just 11.7 years before divorce3. While many couples are choosing to cohabit rather than marry, others are opting to purchase their first home with friends or siblings instead of with their partner.

This trend is particularly prevalent in younger adults; 45% of 18 – 24 year olds have thought about buying a home with friends in the past, and 50% are currently considering doing so. One in ten from this age group state they would trust a friend more than a partner when it comes to making such a big commitment.

Felicity Brown, 24, bought a house with two friends in South East London. “We chose to buy a house as a three, as otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to buy a property.

“The purchase process was pretty stressful; there was only one lender in the whole of the UK that offered three-way mortgages, and it was hard to find properties with three similar sized bedrooms.

“However, it’s definitely worth the stress; it’s great having my own place, and I love living with my friends. I’d definitely recommend people do so, although with a few caveats! You need to be very confident in your friendship, and have similar expectations and tastes. We drew up an agreement outside of the required legalities between ourselves, such as not allowing partners to move in; any disagreements we have are reverted back to this ‘contact’ and no one can argue over it!”

Rebecca Snowdon, Interior Style Advisor at Furniture Choice, added: “Buying furniture for your first home is an incredibly exciting experience, and having someone with similar tastes can make the process much easier – not to mention avoid a clashing of decors!

“We’d recommend agreeing beforehand on an overall style or theme, and purchasing the big pieces, such as sofas, together so you both feel involved. Creating a moodboard can be a fun way of ensuring you’re both on the same page.”

For the two thirds (62%) of Britons who wouldn’t considering buying with siblings or friends, 34% are put off as they wouldn’t know what would happen if they fell out, and over a quarter (28%) don’t trust their friends to make the initial large investment. These concerns are reflected in the minimum length of time needed before committing to buy a house together; a third (33%) would want to be friends for up three to five years before doing so, compared to two to three years (34%) for doing so in a relationship.

While this trend is in its early infancy, there are a number of things which can be done to help encourage more individuals to buy with friends or siblings, in order to increase the number of first time buyers. Having government backed schemes (48%) such as Help to Buy, encouragement from banks and estate agents (29%) and ensuring that regulations are easy to research (27%) on this type of joint mortgage are the main incentives that would encourage individuals to buy with friends.

Tom Obbard, Director at Furniture Choice, commented on this trend: “A few decades ago, just cohabiting was unimaginable – it was marriage, or no go. Adults nowadays are much more relaxed about the relationship between having a family and owning a house, and as high prices means it’s difficult to buy alone, it’s refreshing to see individuals turn to friends in order to get on the property ladder.

“It’s good to see that people prefer to be friends for a certain amount of time before deciding to do so; similar choices in lifestyle and even trivial things such as interior decor preference are all important when buying a house together, and having a strong friendship and understanding of each other’s likes and dislikes can lubricate the process and prevent any fallouts.”

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