69 Ways To Get On the Housing Ladder
Illustration: Helen Frost
Life

69 Ways for Idiot Millennials to Actually Buy a House

A guide that may or may not allow all renters like me to get on the housing ladder.
January 15, 2021, 9:15am

I’d say the least-adjusted thing I do, for fun, as a fully grown adult rapidly approaching his thirties, involves walking around southeast London and idly fantasising about owning each and every house and home I walk past. I am the Charlie Bucket of house-hunting, and I'm pressing my grubby little urchin nose and paws up against the glass panes of the sweet shop, forlornly yearning after all the chocolate bars within. Show me a home and I will covet it, ravenously.

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Owning a home won’t be an instant cure-all to all my many inane problems and miseries, but I’ve recklessly decided that, actually, yes it will. In more sober moments, I’ve mostly resolved myself to the fact that - barring some miraculous upturn in fortunes - homeownership probably won’t ever happen for me and that this is an extremely unremarkable future for those within my cohort to face. But I refuse to give in. And neither do you. That’s why you’re here. Let’s do it, friend. Let’s escape our fates.

Let’s get on the property ladder…

1) HAVE INCOME

“Most people will only be able to borrow four to five times their annual income for a mortgage,” explains Simon Youel, the head of policy and advocacy at Positive Money. “This presents a bit of a problem when a house in somewhere like London costs around 12 times the average income.”  

To buy the average price property in the UK (£231,185) you’d typically need to be earning around £46,237 a year. Enter any other house price into a calculator, divide it by five, and then feel Extremely Bad. 

2) A LOT OF INCOME

According to government statistics, the median yearly earnings for 18-21 year olds is £18,200 and £25,740 for 22-29 year olds. So even if you’re accurately represented by the latter figure, you’d be looking at property worth £128,700. According to the most recent stats, there is no single region in the UK where the average house price is within reach of this figure. 

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3) HAVE A NEST DEPOSIT EGG

“It’s currently a tough market for any first-time buyer, as the majority of lenders won’t accept you unless you’ve got a 15 percent deposit,” says Johanna Noble, the money editor at MoneySavingExpert.com. That averagely priced £231,185 home? You’ll need to be on £46,000 a year and have £34,678 saved up for the majority of lenders. But that isn’t all lenders... 

4) SPECIALISE

“If you can only afford a small deposit, have a look at specialist mortgages,” says Noble. “A number of deals will take parental income - or another relative - into account as well as the child's income, as long as the parents can still cover their own mortgage. These deals are few and far between, so it's best to speak to a broker to see if any are available to you.” 

5) START SHOPPING AROUND EARLY

When you’re a germ cell forming in the seminiferous tubules of your prospective father’s ball-bag, for instance. Before you spend nine months feasting off glucose, fats, and protein filtered through your host mother’s placenta, ask yourself: am I likely to inherit any financial advantage from this particular insemination? Only enter into the mitosis process to become a germ cell when you’ve found the parents that work for you.  

6) RAID THE BANK OF MUM AND DAD

“It's very hard to buy a house, or a flat, if you're in your twenties or early thirties if you don't have support,” says Maja Gustafsson of the Resolution Foundation. This will be a blow if your nearest and dearest have nothing to give you except their “unconditional love”, a commodity with very little attached market value. 

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7) CHECK YOUR INBOX

If you’re obliviously rich enough that an editor has sounded you for a “money diary” because you don’t understand why taking them up on the offer to flaunt your obscene inherited wealth as replicable advice might be received “badly”, then congratulations! You can get on the property ladder!

8) GET IN SOMEONE’S GOOD BOOKS (I.E. THEIR WILL)

Old people, they die.

9) OUTLIVE YOUR SIBLINGS

Beloved only children of homeowners are quids in when their parents become worm food. But what if you have competing next-of-kins? No one wants to be the last descendant of their surname, but if you’re serious about your chances of getting on the property ladder, you might have to fight for it.

10) SIMPLY EARN THE AVERAGE SALARY AND WAIT

According to Maja Maja Gustafsson, a researcher at the Resolution Foundation, the average first-time-buyer is typically between 28 to 32, and on their average income “they would have to save for about 21 years to save up enough for the average first time buyer’s deposit”.

11) BUY WITH YOUR PARTNER

A x2 financial multiplier for your combined yearly income, your savings, your deposit fund, access to any vestiges of familial wealth etc. Also a x2 stress multiplier. Every minor disagreement or screaming row now carries the threat of instigating a break-up process whereby you both lose a catastrophic amount of money. 

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12) BUY WITH A FRIEND

The same as the above, but with someone you have no perilous romantic attachment to! However, this significantly complicates the ability to form and move in with any potential future perilous romantic attachments.

13) GET ADOPTED INTO MONEY

The UK’s adoption limit is 18, which isn’t ideal for those of you only realising, now, in adulthood that your dumbass parents didn’t accrue depraved amounts of wealth and assets to pass on. However, you can still overcome the disappointment of your actual ancestry by moving somewhere like the US, Japan or Germany, where adult adoption is entirely legal.

14) MARRY INTO WEALTH

It’s possible that you could simply happen to “fall for” someone whose minted lineage has absolutely no sway over your affections, but frankly, the only true love that matters here is between your in-laws and their child, whose future they’ll pay to secure.

15) RETRAIN

Wash your hands of your obsolete livelihood, erase your financially unviable dreams from your memory, mash “highest paid jobs in the UK” into Google, bang open a few YouTube tutorials and simply become one of life’s winners. 

16) ASK YOUR EMPLOYER FOR MORE MONEY

If several centuries of capitalist hegemony have shown anything, it’s that those who own the means of production are extremely receptive to requests for a fairer distribution of the surplus value created by their employees’ labour. 

17) JOIN A TRADE UNION

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“The structural features of the labour market and the welfare system make it hard for ordinary workers and particularly low paid workers to save at a rate which gives them any hope of buying a house anytime soon,” says Common Wealth’s Mathew Lawrence. “My answer would kind of be: join a trade union and have collective bargaining to boost wages. That’s probably your best short term bet.” 

18) USE THE LIFETIME ISA

The government’s Lifetime ISA is available to 18-40 year-olds, letting you “save up to £4,000 a year towards your first home, and gives you a cash bonus of 25 percent, up to £1,000 a year, on top,” advises MoneySavingExpert.com’s Johanna Noble. “It’s a good place to keep your savings if you’re looking to buy in over a year’s time, which is the earliest you can withdraw to get the bonus.”

19) NO MORE THINGS

“When saving for a deposit, think about what you can realistically afford and budget,” advises Noble. “MSE’s Demotivator Tool can show you much you can save by cutting out regular spends like coffee or lottery tickets.”

20) WIN THE LOTTO

Contrary to the last bit of advice, which is probably sound, if you do manage to win the lottery (odds: one in 45,057,474), you’ll probably have enough for a deposit.

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21) SHARED OWNERSHIP

A scheme whereby you buy a share in a property (typically somewhere between 25 percent and 75 percent), pay a mortgage on that share, and pay rent to a Housing Association for the remainder. Through “staircasing”, it’s possible to eventually buy up all the shares, until you are the sole owner of the property. However, before then, you “bear full responsibility for the costs, but have none of the legal benefits of ownership” and can potentially lose all of your equity if you fall behind with your rent, warns Resident Analyst’s Neal Hudson.

22) HELP TO BUY

“Here, you only need a 5 percent deposit, while the Government will lend you up to 20 percent (40 percent in London) interest-free for five years,” explains MoneySavingExpert’s Johanna Noble. “However, the loan is only for new builds that are £400,000 or under in value – £600,000 in London.”

Again, Neal Hudson chimes in again to caution that new builds are “not always a great idea, given any kind of issues around ground rent service charges, building safety and quality”.

23) HAGGLE

“Before you even apply for a mortgage, see if you can drive down the price of the property you wish to buy,” suggests Noble. “The less you pay, the more the amount saved for your deposit will be worth. For example, if you have a £20,000 deposit and pay the £143,000 asking price, that would equal a 14 percent deposit. Yet if you put in an offer of £133,000 and it gets accepted, your deposit would equal 15 percent.”

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24) WAIT FOR THE HOUSING MARKET TO, FOR SOME REASON, SUDDENLY BEND IN YOUR FAVOUR

Sure, why not.

25) MAKE PROPERTY A BAD INVESTMENT

The more prohibitively expensive housing becomes, the better investment it is. And the better investment it is, the more prohibitively expensive it becomes. It surely follows inversely, then, that one way of making housing more affordable, would be to break this infinite feedback loop, and make property a worse investment...

26) BUY PROPERTY RIDDLED WITH JAPANESE KNOTWEED

Japanese knotweed is an extremely invasive and difficult to remove plant which can grow through a property, causing monumental damage to the foundations, floorboards, walls, plumbing and just most parts of a home you wouldn’t want to be monumentally damaged.

This all sounds bad, but it dramatically reduces the value of properties teeming with the stuff, often by as much as 15 percent, and sometimes, entirely!

27) PLANT JAPANESE KNOTWEED UNDER OR NEAR YOUR DREAM HOUSE

If you went on the internet, bought a load of knotweed and a balaclava, then – in the dead of night - crept round the back of a home you’d wanted for years, lobbed the seeds into the garden, then this would be illegal, and I can’t be seen to advise it. 

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28) MOVE IN WITH YOUR PARENTS

If you’ve got one (or multiple) parents with a spare room you can move into, for free or for below-market rent, hit them up! It’s time to un-fly the nest.

“It's probably not great for people's mental health,” Maja Gustafsson notes. “Probably not that great for people's kind of sense of self. And sense of achievement. And their labour market prospects. And they're less mobile. 

“But it does offer an opportunity to save.” 

29) SEIZE THE NEW NORMAL

If we have the novel coronavirus to thank for anything, it’s the rise of remote working, video conference calling and the “virtual office”,  rapidly expanding into every corner of your life. No more commuting expenses, no more renting in punishingly unaffordable cities, no more Pret gristle. You could move somewhere cheaper for a bit, reduce your costs-to-income, finally save up for that deposit! 

30) SQUAT

According to “the law”, squatting in residential buildings is illegal and “can lead to 6 months in prison”, a “£5,000 fine” or “both”. Squatting empty non-residential buildings, however, is more of a legal grey area.

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31) BUILD YOUR OWN HOUSE

According to “tradesmencosts.co.uk” you could build a two-bedroom house for between £180,000 to £280,000 – a relative bargain. This figure might be somewhat misleading, given that it doesn’t seem to include the “additional costs” of legal fees, stamp duty, land survey, architect fees, drawings for planning permission, drawings for building control, structural engineer, warranty, insurance, utilities connection, building control fees, planning application or, crucially, the plot of land. Do you even (know how to) lift (a hod), bro?

32) START A HOUSING CO-OP

Crudely and in short; instead of owning an individual unit of property, you own shares within a bigger corporation. If you move out, instead of selling the unit of your home, you sell your shares. In theory, this can give residents far more control over their living situation, and allows them to utilise their collective purchasing power to acquire land, assets, property and build from scratch more affordably.

33) GET A STARTER HOME

A scheme whereby 200,000 new builds could qualify for a discount of up to 20 percent off the market price, to be reserved for first-time buyers under 40. Sounds alright! Hatherley is less enamoured: “The very concept of a starter home is repugnant.”

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“You shouldn't be building subpar housing. Starter homes are based on the assumption that certain kinds of housing should be substandard. That's the thing that you start on, and then you eventually get yourself something decent. Countries as rich as this should not have a housing system based on the idea that you give some people crap.”

34) CHANGE “THE SYSTEM”

“These problems are pretty structural and ingrained, and therefore need like a sort of political economic intervention, at a systemic level,” says Mathew Lawrence. “But, you know, one person can't do that on their own. So that can't really be your advice...”

35) ORGANISE A NATIONWIDE RENT STRIKE

Just think: what if we all stopped paying rent at once? What would happen? Chaos! Maybe we could all use our time not paying rent to save for deposits, while the value of housing slumped, on account of our not paying rent! The website rent-strike.org is an invaluable resource for information, strategic materials, legal info and other organising contacts.

36) DON’T GET INTO CONTENT

The industry that coined the term “pivot” to describe the desperate rats-off-a-sinking-ship scramble to leave it and was already in gargling death throes before the global pandemic is not in the rudest of healths for you to consider pivoting into it now. More importantly, I personally don’t need any more competition. 

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37) GET INTO CONTENT TO WRITE AN ARTICLE ABOUT HOW YOU’RE “LEAVING LONDON”, PRECIPITATING A MASS EXODUS

The hyper-competitive number of people vying to live in limited accommodation in a city where all the opportunities are being concentrated means the most derisory living spaces are going for increasingly astronomical fees. But what if everyone simply…. fucked off?

“If there's falling demand [then] that might be a deflationary pressure because there’s less demand for houses,” says a skeptical Mathew Lawrence. “I wouldn't say, it's impossible...

38) MOVE TO A SMALLER, BUT EQUALLY GOOD CITY

“There's this kind of idea that there's London and there's everywhere else,” says Tribune’s Owen Hatherley, extolling the virtues of Nottingham, Bristol, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, and…

39) MOVE TO THIS CITY SPECIFICALLY

“There's a very nice bit in one of Danny Dorling's books,” Hatherley recalls. “He describes this wonderful city with cheap housing, rolling hills, great pubs, nice cafes, good culture, good universities, nice schools, and then goes, at the end: and this place is called…”

“... Sheffield.”

Sold.

40) MOVE ANYWHERE BUT SOUTH-WEST ENGLAND

Government stats show the overall house-price-to-average-earnings ratio for England and Wales is 7.06, but 13.67 in London and 10.8 in the South East - compared to averages of 5.64 in Wales, 5.56 in North East England, and 4.66 in the North East.

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41) MOVE TO AN ABSOLUTE SHITHOLE

End game.

42) SOLVE AN INTRACTABLE POLITICAL PROBLEM

“A lot more people have housing wealth in this country, relative to other forms of wealth,” explains Common Wealth’s Mathew Lawrence. “The distributional politics of housing is therefore much more complicated. [You could have] a transformative politics that will make housing affordable, but then, well, who wins? Who loses? Who bears the cost? There's more people in play there than: we're going to have a wealth tax on billionaires.”

Simply come up with a way of reducing house prices that doesn’t cause the home-owning population of the UK (65.5 percent) to lose a tremendous amount of money.

43) VOTE CONSERVATIVE

‘The ladder hasn't existed for ages. There is no ladder!” says Hatherley. “Inheritance will not be enough to inculcate Conservative values in the new generations. And they know that. The ones among them that are less stupid are aware of this.”

Matthew Lawrence reckons "there is a real political incentive for the Conservative Party to be like: we're gonna build a shit-tonne of housing”.

“The jury's out,” he adds, “[but] in some ways, that's less implausible than, like; 'Hey, we're gonna have collective bargaining post-crisis because we think we need to rebalance power between capital and labour!'”

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44) VOTE LABOUR

“I'm sounding excessively miserable,” says Hatherley. “But actually, things are better now than they were from the early 2000s until about three years ago, because there’s an awareness of the problem. Even quite right wing Labour figures will now admit, privately, they made a big mistake on housing. That they allowed this bubble to be pumped up. They didn't build enough council housing. That they didn't regulate landlords and regulate rents, and that a lot of the problems that have been caused are their fault. Privately they will tell you this. So there is an awareness of the problem...”

45) START YOUR OWN PARTY

Mathew Lawrence explains that succeeding governments since Thatcher have maintained a fairly consistent political approach of “keeping a frothy housing market, asset price inflation, enabling a wealth effect that drives debt-fuelled consumption, the growth motive, the financialisation of housing and wider financialisation of the economy, keep those plates spinning”.

“If that's going into reverse, there’s a political push for parties to go: how do we solve this? If we're looking for something like an opening, there is probably a big political payoff for whoever can step up and resolve this.”

46) GET INVOLVED IN LOCAL POLITICS

Owen Hatherley’s book Red Metropolis documents the gains made by municipalities throughout London since the late 1800s and serves as a rallying call-to-arms for the radicalism which can be won through local democracy, against the tide of Westminster.

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“In some ways, you have a similar kind of Conservative onslaught going on now,” he tells me, which he identifies as a place of opportunity. “Even fairly right wing and centrist Labour councils are nowadays looking at council housing again, and I think pressing them on that and pressing them to do more of it is a possible route.”

47) DON’T ROB A BANK

If you can successfully rob a bank without implicating me or VICE, then fair play, but frankly, it’s against the law, and you really shouldn’t.

48) BE A BANKER

According to Prospects, a banker’s starter salary is around £40,000, rises to £50k after three years, and can increase to a base salary of £150,000 with experience. That’s loads. Plus, you’d know a lot more about mortgages than someone reliant on internet listicles for advice. 

49) BE A BANK

Create money out of thin air, give out mortgages irresponsibly, take absurd financial risks and have them underwritten by the state if they backfire? Sign me up!

50) BECOME A ROGUE LOCKSMITH

Locksmiths don’t get enough attention. These people have tools and expertise which mean they can essentially unlock any property they want. I’m sure there are ethics in place which prevent them from abusing this power, but you should fuck around and find out.

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51) MANIFEST A HOUSE

Buy yourself a keyring that you’ll imagine you’ll eventually pop next to the fob which unlocks the security doors of your dream speculation opportunity. Will it work? No. 

52) JUST START THE PODCAST ALREADY

There’s a certain social stigma attached to being a would-be “podcaster” in the year 2020, but every cunt’s at it and there are only so many Patreons your meagre social media followers can reasonably donate to without realistically bankrupting themselves. Swallow that pride. 

53) TIKTOK

I am among the youngest of the millennial cohort. I am effectively dead in the eyes of marketeers. Therefore, anything popular which baffles me must be profitable. I don’t “get” Tiktok. Get miming, friend.

54) GO TO PRISON

I’ve been at pains not to recommend anything illegal so far, and this tip is no different. Simply get yourself convicted of a crime you didn’t commit, plow all your savings into a decent ISA, do a 30-year stretch and come out with a naughty little pay packet. 

55) GET CRYOGENICALLY FROZEN

This costs £160,000, apparently, and gives you a tenured home for ages. Maybe the housing crisis will be solved by the time you’re thawed out. 

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56) CROWDFUND

It seems a bit ghoulish to put yourself forward as a deserving GoFundMe case just because you’re not on the property ladder. I mean, it is, unquestionably, but it might work. Assuage the guilt by offering “rewards” to give the backers a lil something back. Tenner for your name in a guestbook, a couple of hundred allows you to pick out the flat-pack furniture, £20,000+ gets a personalised thank you video. 

57) PARTNER WITH ME SO WE CAN REALISE MY £1 BILLION APP IDEA

I once came up with an absolutely horrible idea for an app I can guarantee will make you money. This is not a joke. It’s legitimate. It will make you money. Email me if you’re interested. No time-wasters. Please. I need a win.

58) INDISCRIMINATELY INVEST IN CRYPTO

I’ve no idea how it works. Worth a punt. 

59) PROJECT MBAPPÉ

Kylian Mbappé’s father wasn’t a World Cup winner who earned £16.2 million a year by the time he was 21, but his son is. Simply have a child for the express purpose of hoping it escapes your structural disadvantage and becomes a multi-multi-millionare. This is a healthy approach to human life.

60) LIVE IN VR

With enough tutorials, a headset, some electricity and an internet connection, you could make a veritable palace for yourself, escape the horrors of your miserable, grey lived reality into a paradise of pixels. Step back into the Matrix.

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61) DO A #JOURNOREQUEST

Anyone got a spare house I can have? It’s for A Thing! DMs open! 

62) LIVE RENT FREE IN MY HEAD

Maggie Thatcher. Stan Kroenke. Harry Kane. Gillian Duffy. Ricky Gervais. The Parliamentary Labour Party. Swindon Parkway Train Station. ISIS. The England Men’s National Football Team. The Dentist Who Shot Cecil The Lion. Not one solitary pound’s worth of rent paid by my mortal enemies years now. No bailiffs can remove them. Add yourself to the waiting list by rattling me within an inch of my life. 

63) CONSULT A FINANCIAL ADVISOR

Probably should have thought of this ages ago yourself, instead of reading the proceeding bits of execrable drivel to get to this point, shouldn’t you?

64) START A CHANGE.ORG PETITION TO GET THE GOVERNMENT TO SORT THE HOUSING CRISIS OUT

Never know, this might be the one that finally gets them to change their mind.

65) WIN A HOUSE IN A RAFFLE

According to this on VICE, only two people (as of July 2020) have entered a raffle and subsequently seen their name on the deeds to a house. That said: £2. Pretty cheap, for a house!

66) BECOME A SUB-LANDLORD

Become a landlord without owning property in the first place by subletting your room for more than you pay in rent. If you started renting all over town, and subletting at a profit, either with your landlords’ permissions, or by flouting the confusing laws, then you could rake in a whole wedge as a parasite’s parasite. A babushka doll tapeworm. I hope you’re proud.

67) WRITE A BESTSELLER THAT REALLY CAPTURES THE ZEITGEIST

The best kind of books clumsily and unconvincingly smash a bunch of buzzy topics together, with a title that appears to coin a neologistic phrase you'll suddenly start seeing everywhere, apparently having diagnosed The Modern Condition. Mine would be called Rental Health: How To K*ll Yourself Rich.

68) JUST FUCKING DIE

Alleviates a lot of your costs of living, and the burden of housing you is passed onto your next of kin, who can choose between giving you permanent residence in the dirt or a huge furnace.  

69) SEIZE THE MEANS OF PRODUCTION

The housing ladder has made you desperate by design. This is fairly explicit in the imagery of the “ladder” - people are clambered over, each rung must be left with less, and the bottom with the least, by design. In the inexplicable circumstance that any of the advice contained in the previous 68 tips helped you get “on the ladder”, this still maintains “the ladder” in some form. Even if the ladder could be scaled, why should anyone be allowed to sit at the top? Who should people be consigned to languish at the bottom? We dismantle the ladder, smash every rung. Shelter is not to be withheld by a hierarchy, it must belong to us all.

Anyway. Good luck!

@tristandross