This is Home Front with Vicky Spratt, a subscriber-only newsletter from i. If you’d like to get this direct to your inbox, every single week, you can sign up here.

Imagine that you own a home, and you want to sell it. You bought it having internalised that idea the housing was a “good investment” so you’re hoping to make some money… but there’s a catch. House prices are falling – by 1.3 per cent on average, according to the latest data from online listings site Zoopla.

What do you do?

You might ask for more, listing the property at slightly more than it’s currently worth in the hope that a buyer will come in under asking price but still somewhere in the region of what you’re hoping to get.

But be wary of asking prices because, right now, they are an extremely thin and flimsy veil for the state of the UK housing market which barely covers just how precarious things are.

According to another property listings site, Rightmove, asking prices for properties popular with first-time buyers – that’s those with one or two bedrooms – hit a record average high this spring of £224,963. That was 2 per cent higher than a year ago.

This happened even though mortgage rates and the Bank of England have been rising against a backdrop of terrible inflation which has made doing pretty much anything – from eating to heating your home or travelling to see friends and family – more expensive.

In part, it can be explained by the fact that the Bank of England last year loosened mortgage affordability regulations, which were put in place after the 2007 global financial crisis, in an attempt to keep the housing market moving.

This means that the impact of higher mortgage rates hasn’t been felt as harshly as it might have been but rates are still rising and economic reality will eventually catch up with the housing market.

Indeed, if new data from Moneyfacts, which shows that banks and lenders have pulled around 800 residential and buy-to-let mortgages recently because of fears about imminent rate rises and the impact they could have on people’s ability to repay loans, is anything to go buy, it already is.

All buyers need to watch out but first-time buyers are vulnerable, in particular, to paying over the odds to get on to the housing ladder as they’re often looking at starter flats and new builds which come at a premium.

Experts are warning that rising interest rates are very likely to trigger a housing market downturn and if these dour predictions come true it will be people who bought at the top of the market and stretched themselves who are hardest hit by a drop on the value of their home.

The number of agreed sales has hit its highest point so far this year according to Zoopla. This means that buyers are out there, trying to get deals over the line – particularly in Scotland, the North East of England and London.

This will sound like good news and no doubt encourage anyone hoping to sell but buyers beware. What someone wants you to pay for their home is not the same as what it’s actually worth.

Key housing 

National Union of Students and the University and College Union demonstration ‘United For Education’ calling for free, accessible and quality further and higher education across the UK, and to demand an end to the marketisation of university and college education in 2016, London (Photo: Mike Kemp/Getty Images) 

This week I’d like to quickly debunk an argument that I’ve seen flying around all over the place but, particularly, in the pages of other newspapers.

Since the Renters’ Reform Bill was announced by Michael Gove a couple of weeks ago, it has been argued by the landlord lobby that the proposed changes will harm student landlords and stop them making money.

The change in question is the introduction of periodic tenancies as opposed to fixed-term 12-month contracts which will allow renters’ to end their contact whenever they like as long as they give two months’ notice.

This, the landlord lobby has argued, will mean that student landlords lose out because they can’t get student renters to sign up for a full year.

True as that may be, isn’t it sort of…exactly the point?

Not all university academic years run for exactly 12 months. Mine didn’t.

And I remember how challenging it was to have to find the money – from bursaries, grants and loans – to pay rent on a house I wasn’t living in from June to October.

So, when student landlords argue that they will lose out from the new rolling contracts because they give flexibility to the tenant, remember that the alternative means that students stand to lose out by paying rent on a room that they might not even be living in outside of term time in a city that is not their hometown. Indeed, they may also be paying rent elsewhere at the same time if they don’t or can’t live in their family home.

It seems like some landlords may have just been introduced to the idea of a free market – the problem is, this time, it doesn’t work in their favour.

Ask me anything

‘If nothing changes to make housing more affordable, major cities might, one day, be the preserve of the old and the wealthy’ (Photo: Getty Images)

A young reader has written to me via Instagram to ask a question which has broken my heart.

“Is it worth moving to London on a median salary? I work remotely but I want to leave my hometown and I’m craving new experiences. I know it might be a bad move financially but I want to meet new people and have a more diverse life.”

Now, as a journalist I can’t give financial advice but I wanted to spotlight this question because I think it highlights the plight of younger adults today.

Historically high housing costs mean it’s not as easy as it once was to leave home – remember last week’s newsletter about how the number of people still living with their parents in their twenties and thirties is rising?

This question is what the impact of that looks like in real terms. Young people who want to try new things, to change their lives and see what might be possible for them, held back from doing so by economic forces beyond their control.

We already know that schools are closing in London because there aren’t enough young families to fill their places in some parts of the capital. If nothing changes to make housing more affordable, major cities might, one day, be the preserve of the old and the wealthy.

Ask your question for next week via Twitter @Victoria_Spratt, Instagram @vicky.spratt or email [email protected]

Vicky’s Pick

Succession has changed TV forever by resisting the pressure to give its characters redemptive story arcs (Photo: HBO)

Ok – obviously this week it’s got to be Succession and by now you, like me, will have seen the final episode. It struck me that the finale was a masterclass in the brutality of patriarchy as told through the experiences of complicated anti-feminist anti-hero Shiv Roy who is, as her brother Roman puts it, played like a “pregnant cello” by the men around her. She was a woman who didn’t always favour other women and, in the end, a victim of her own family’s sexism. Goodbye Succession, a perfectly written show. Goodbye Shiv, a perfectly drawn and incredibly complex character.  

This is Home Front with Vicky Spratt, a subscriber-only newsletter from i. If you’d like to get this direct to your inbox, every single week, you can sign up here.

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