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In this week’s article on the Luton property market we talk about the affordability of buying a home in Luton since 1997 and how these changes have meant the demand for private rental properties in Luton will continue to grow for the foreseeable future.

Looking back at the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day landing a few months ago, it reminded me of the huge changes that have happened to Luton and more specifically the Luton property market since WW2. Back in 1946, the average wage in Luton was just over £5 a week and to buy an average car would cost you just under £600, yet this is a property blog, so...

The average value of a Luton property in 1946 was £1,002

In fact, in those 75 years, the average Luton house had doubled in price by 1961, then again in 1971, 1975, 1980, 1988, 2000 and 2006. Now a lot of those increases (especially in the 1970’s) were caused by hyperinflation, yet since the start of the 21st Century inflation has been kept low and since the Credit Crunch (2008/9), whilst property values have been rising, they haven’t been at the rates experienced in the latter half of the 20th Century.

Now what a property sells for is irrelevant, its whether someone can afford it.

Increases in Luton property values have produced huge increases in equity for many Luton homeowners and Luton buy to let landlords, yet on the other side of the coin also making housing unaffordable for other people. The best measure of the affordability of housing is the ratio of Luton property values to Luton average earnings (i.e. salary/wages). The ratio works on the basis the higher the ratio, the less affordable properties are.

In 1997, the average value of a Luton property was 2.5 times higher than the average annual wage in Luton, in 2007 it peaked at 6.5, yet two years later it had dropped to 5.3 and since then has slowly risen to 8.4 times higher!

It can be seen that even though property in Luton became more affordable after the 2007/8 property crash (i.e. the ratio dropped), in subsequent years, with house values rising but earnings/salaries not keeping up, the ratio started to rise. This has meant there has been a decline in affordability of property in Luton over the last five years - so for those on particularly low incomes or with little capital, it unfortunately means that buying a Luton home will never become an option.

Therefore, the demand for private rented properties in Luton will continue to grow as many young Luton people are deciding to rent instead of buy their own house (knowing when their parents pass away, the equity built up in their parents property will be passed down - and then they can buy in their 50’s and 60’s - just like it happens in Germany).

Yet, that is many decades away and with fewer Luton people wanting or able to save up the 5% deposit required by mortgage lenders, more and more people are looking to rent. Tie this in with the subtle shift in attitudes towards renting since the Millennium and less people jumping the on the bottom rung of the property ladder, this has driven rents and demand up in Luton over the last few years. Yet (and it’s an important proviso) the type, location and demands of Luton tenants has changed over that same time frame meaning you can’t just make money from buy to let as easily as falling off a log like you did in the early 2000’s.

If you are an existing landlord with us (or even another agent in Luton) or someone thinking of becoming a first time Luton landlord looking for advice and opinion and what (or not to buy in Luton), one source of information is the Luton Property Blog - or drop me an email or phone call and let’s start a conversation - I don’t bite and I don’t do hard sell ... and maybe, just maybe, I could help you get better returns from your property portfolio.

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