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insight into how home ownership works in the UK. Listen to real experiences and along the way practice listening to a British native speaking, you can listen for intonation patterns, and British pronunciation while you learn some new vocabulary and of course have fun.
Owning your own home is an ambition of many UK residents. But what does it mean to actually own a home in the UK? In this episode, we talk about a huge aspect of British culture – buying a home. But first, we warm up our English listening skills with a few everyday phrases to help you improve your English language fluency. You will also be practising your English listening skills to improve your English, and learning new vocabulary along the way.
Mortgage Ambition Property Rent Aspire Ladder Flatmate
Hi there and welcome to this podcast from Adept English. If you like listening to our podcasts, then don’t forget to give us a review or a star rating, if you’re listening on Apple podcasts. And if you’re listening on Spotify, you can help us out by sharing our podcast with other Spotify users and adding us to your playlist. So let’s talk today about a feature of British culture – and something which is an issue for many people. This will enable you to be working on your English language learning, while listening to something that might interest you.
One of the things which is part of British culture – we aspire to home ownership here. And I think it’s far less the case in the rest of Europe than in the UK. The verb ‘to aspire’, ASPIRE, means ‘to wish for, to want to, to dream of’ even, and with a sense that it’s something you hope will happen and you’re willing to work towards. So most people in the UK ‘aspire’ to home ownership – they like to own their own homes.
This probably involves having a mortgage, that’s MORTGAGE and that’s when you borrow the money to buy your home from the bank and you pay it back over many years. But once you buy a house or flat, even with a mortgage, it’s yours. You have some security in that you know where you’re going to be living. And hopefully, your house or your flat is an investment – that’s INVESTMENT. And if something is ‘an investment’, it means that it increases in value over time. It becomes worth more. So you spend time improving it, making it nicer, making it yours.
We talk also in the UK of ‘being on the property ladder’. Vocabulary for this phrase – the word ‘property’, PROPERTY can mean a number of things – broadly speaking, ‘your property’ is what you own. Someone might say an object is ‘my property’ – meaning ‘it’s mine’, ‘it belongs to me’. If you lost your rucksack or your umbrella on the train, you might go to the ‘Lost Property Office’ to see if ‘your property’, meaning the rucksack or the umbrella, had been found and handed in. But we also use this word in English to mean houses or flats – the home that we own is ‘our property’.
A photograph of a toy house surrounded by money. Learn English with an English Language Learning Podcast.
So if you use this word ‘property’ as a countable noun – you say ‘a property’, it’s talking about a home, a house or a flat that someone may own. And a ladder? Well, if you wanted to climb up to your upstairs windows, you would use a ladder on the outside of the building, that’s LADDER. A ladder has steps and it’s used for standing on and reaching things that are high up.
So the idea of a ‘property ladder’ is that you start off by buying a small property, perhaps a flat initially and you gradually move up the ladder, you swap your flat for a small house. And then in a few years, you might be able to buy a bigger house and so on. That’s what we call ‘the property ladder’.
So this want to buy your own place is very much a British thing. A survey by Property Reporter in the UK asked people to rate how important different things were in their lives – the things that they aspire to. When asked to rank the importance of things like their social life, getting married, having a baby, buying a property, going on holiday, home ownership came second only to starting a family as the most common top priority.
Interestingly, getting married was the top priority for only 6% of people! So home ownership is seen as pretty important then – on average, only having a family is a greater aspiration. How nice is the property that you live in – well, that’s seen as part of people’s ‘quality of life’. And you have much more control of this, if you own your own home. What do you look out on? Is it noisy? Do you get on well with the neighbours? Have you got a garden or outside space? How many rooms do you have?
But also revealed in this survey – owning a home was not priority, not important at all for 30% of the people who replied. Maybe this signals the start of a change? In the rest of Europe, there’s more variation. Spain is the country with the highest level of home ownership – that means the highest percentage of people who own their own homes. But in Germany and Switzerland for instance, home ownership rates are much lower and it doesn’t seem to be considered the same priority to buy your own home. It’s harder to get a mortgage there and the cost of renting – that’s paying monthly to live in someone else’s property – the cost of renting is kept quite low and protected from price rises.
So it seems that people are more comfortable renting there. In the UK, our property market can be up or down. That means in the ‘up’ times, the cost of buying or renting a house can rise very quickly – or fall during the downtimes. I know that rental prices in London fell quite sharply last year, because my elder daughter benefited from this.
The pandemic meant that more people wanted to move out of London – and the trend for working from home meant that people aspire to living further out of the city. So if you stayed in London, you benefited from this – the cost of rent went down and you could get more for your money. But in countries like Germany, the cost of renting is relatively stable – it stays pretty much the same, which is perhaps reassuring if you’re renting your property and why more people are comfortable doing it this way.
Let me give you a personal viewpoint on this in a minute. Firstly a word about our podcasts. Our podcasts are designed to help you learn English – I give you something interesting to listen to, so that you can practise. If you’re new to Adept English – and you like our podcasts, we the latest 75 podcasts available for free on our website at adeptenglish.com. But you can also buy podcasts from us – in bundles of 50! That’s a lot of podcasts and 50 podcasts will really help your English language learning.
There are currently 7 podcast bundles available for you to buy and bundle 8, so episodes 350 to 400 will be available in a few weeks’ time. This is a fantastic resource for anyone wanting to improve their English language. So visit our website and check out our podcast download page today. Back to our topic!
Just reflecting on this issue around property ownership from the personal viewpoint. As of yesterday, both my daughters are living away from home now, in flats. The elder one lives in a very nice flat in London – but in order to be able to do this, she has to share with 3 flatmates. A ‘flatmate’, FLATMATE is someone that you share your flat with.
It’s a nice flat, but she’s on the fourth floor, with no outside space. That’s fine for now as she’s only young, but I imagine in a few year’s time, she may aspire to home-ownership – and she will find it a costly aspiration to have. She’ll probably have to move out of London to achieve it. My other daughter moved into her university accommodation just yesterday – a ‘flat’ in university accommodation or ‘halls of residence’ as they’re known, which she will share with five other girls.
It’s quite a small room – and it looks out over a busy road. But I don’t think this will bother her too much while she’s at uni – the property that you live in is not what uni life is about. But I do wonder for both of them, when they’re older, will they be able to afford the kind of property that they would like to live in?
Both would like gardens eventually, I know that. But the UK property market is so expensive that this may prove to be a challenge for them both. Owning a property in the UK is out of reach for many people. And rental costs are high, so it’s really hard to save up your money for a deposit for a house, while you’re paying high rent.
A deposit, DEPOSIT, is an amount of money that you pay initially for something, to signal either that you’re then going to buy it in full, or you’re going to rent the thing ongoing. So even saving for a deposit to buy a house is difficult in the UK, if you’re paying high rent. And when it comes to buying, the UK has some of the highest property prices in Europe, so I think that being a nation of home-owners – well, that’s probably going to change in time. It’s is a pity, because I think there is security in owning your own home – you can make changes, improve it, put effort into your garden - pass it on to your children, eventually, I guess.
I was lucky – I was able to buy a house when I was young. It was much more affordable back then. ‘Affordable’ means that most people have enough money to do it. And apart from a few months when I rented, I’ve lived in a property that I own ever since. So my generation – that means ‘people my age’ – my generation has been lucky in this respect. But this will be different I suspect for my children.
Home-ownership is a difficult aspiration to hold now, if you’re in your 20s and 30s, living in the UK. It’s so expensive. And renting is fine, if you have the security of knowing that you have rights and that your rent isn’t going to increase very much over time. You live differently.
Rather than putting your effort into making your house a nice place to be, you instead go on holiday more, focus on enjoying your activities, going out with your friends, on other things in life. But I do think there needs to be change here in the UK. Perhaps we need to think about how to make renting more affordable and more secure – as more and more people are going to have to do this, just as they do in Germany or Switzerland. It’s either that, or do something to make property prices come down for those who want to buy.
Let us know what you think. I’m interested to hear whether these problems are the same – or different in your country. As ever, it would be lovely to hear from you.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.