How Come We’re Ashamed To Admit We Borrowed From Our Parents To Get On The Property Ladder?

New stats show 40% of first time buyers had help from their parents. So why does that still make us feel so uncomfortable?Illustration by Beth Hoeckel


by Anonymous |
Published on

I distinctly remember the first night I spent in my very own home. Totally insufferable to be around, gurning wildly with pride, I walked around every room, smiling at the fact that I, a Michael Jackson fan who’d rather stand eating cheese out of the fridge than cook something, owned some of England’s land. Land! Me and my house, my house and I. Every time I held the keys it filled me with butterflies. What a bloody grown up I’d become.

In the first few weeks of living there, I soaked up every inch of my new home. I spent the first evenings sitting in different corners of my new rooms, so I could observe them from every angle. I would lie on the living room floor and look up at the cornicing around the ceiling, memorising the faint cracks along the edges and making faces out of the sun-faded wallpaper. I’d run my fingers along every surface as I walked around, taking particular note of the grooves that ran on the inside of my banister as it curled up and around the dog-leg staircase. I couldn’t help being smug. I felt so damn grown up!

The people who are meant to know better than you – I know, them again – say that the three most stressful things in life are death, divorce and moving. I’ve only done two of those so far and I have to agree (I don’t fancy the first one much either.) These days the ‘moving’ part has taken on a whole new level of stress because for many people, it can take years to even get to the damn ‘move.’

A recent report by Shelter revealed that in nearly two thirds of areas in England, couples with a child could face over a decade of saving for a deposit for a home of their own. Unsurprisingly, London residents are most affected – with single people facing an average of 30 years of saving. Yes, 30 years. THIRTY. So, kids, don’t narrow those options too much when choosing your dream home – there’s a strong possibility it won’t be available once you’ve got enough dough.

The bank of mum and dad

How the hell do we get past this ridiculous and lengthy process then? Our parents, largely. Parents contribute an estimated £2 billion per year, in the form of gifts or loans, to help fund our deposits, and new stats say that between 2009 and 2013, 40 per cent of all first-time buyers had help from their parents or friends.

When I look around at all of my friends who have bought houses in the last five years, however, it’s nearly 100 per cent who have had help from the bank of mum and dad. (A note to those lot: remember to send a Father’s Day card, yeah?)

And yet, despite the fact it’s desperately common, those of us lucky enough to have had some help from their parents are often too embarrassed about it to let on. Borrowing money from my parents makes me feel like I’m just playing grown up. When it comes to my house moves, they have paid for everything from removal men, to deep oven cleans and deposits for me.

I have often set up things where I pay them back each month – I did that when I first moved into my house – but my mother soon realised she was still lending me money at the end of every month and the repayment plan was scrapped. And although I don’t mind people knowing my parents help me out now and again (and again) with a new coat or some holiday spending money, the fact they’ve basically bought me a house is not something I’m proud of.

As a result, I admit there have been times when I’ve skirted around the subject with friends. But why?

Poor little rich girl

‘I just feel like I’m rubbing it in people’s faces when I tell people that my parents bought me my flat. It just feels easier to lie and say I inherited some of the money and put the rest in myself,’ explains 26 year-old teacher Sarah – it’s telling that the people I spoke to didn’t want to give their second names – whose family bought her a two-bedroom house last year.

‘It somehow seems more acceptable that I’d got some money from a long lost dead aunt rather than some very live and kicking parents. I also feel ashamed that, at 27, I’m not anywhere near in a position to buy a house on my own. By the time my parents were my age, they’d already had a baby and had lived in two houses which they’d owned.

‘I could barely afford £500 rent on the flat I was sharing before my parents stepped in and helped me out. Having a house that I own puts me on a different playing field to my friends who are all still renting – and that’s wonderful and I’m so grateful – but it’s embarrassing. I don’t want my friends or boyfriends to think of me as a “poor little rich girl”.’

From mate to landlord

‘I think part of the problem is that it’s very weird going from someone’s friend to their landlord,’ explains 25 year-old Sophie, who works in publishing. ‘It’s very difficult to navigate asking for rent and bills to be paid on time, because before you’d become the landlord, you’d happily let your mate off a bit of money or lend them a couple of quid without blinking an eye. But when there’s a mortgage involved things are a lot less casual.

‘And it’s hard to let normal messiness – which you probably didn’t mind when you were renting – slide when it’s your home they’re fucking up. It can make you feel like a real bore. Sometimes, especially if you’re charging less rent than you could make if you went through a letting agent, you can feel like you’re being taken advantage of.

‘Silly, of course, but you can't help the way you feel.’

Fake renter

‘I should feel like I can tell my friends anything, but I just feel uncomfortable telling my friends the truth of my living situation,’ says 24 year-old Emma who’s a freelance press officer. When she left university, her parents bought her a flat in London so she had somewhere to live while she interned. She doesn’t pay rent, but she tells people that she does.

‘I lie and say I’m still renting – I just don’t want to be the odd person out and it’s humiliating, really, that I’d probably not be able to afford rent even on the crappiest flat. I have about £500 to my name every month as a freelance, and even then I can’t rely on it. I don’t know what I’d do without my family. A lot of my friends understand why I work the way I do because it’s hopefully going to lead somewhere, but I do worry that they’d think I’m selfish for relying on my parents when I could just get any old normal job. And the truth is I’d be a big mess without my parents.’

Interest rate insecurity

Maybe it would help if we remember that, even for those who get help, things can be financially hard. My friend Georgia who owns her own house, did so through the help of a fat deposit from her parents – something she is reluctant to talk about. She’s a classic case of coming from a family with money and being ashamed of anyone finding out she didn’t have to do a single bit of saving or hard work to be gifted her deposit (lucky sod.)

But even though she’s now firmly on the property market, she’s completely terrified that the increasing rise in interest rates will mean that she soon won’t be able to afford her own mortgage. I’ve had that terrifying fear before, living on my own, paying my own mortgage and being made redundant is not a happy place to find yourself. Even when your parents help you out, you’re not ‘safe’ in this current climate.

Still, given that most people can only vaguely imagine owning a place in their 40s – if they focus really hard – no wonder there’s a tension, there. Sadly, it’s now a fact that unless you earn exceptionally good money and live in a rental that lets you save (or live with your parents – yep, they help us that way too), my generation and younger simply won’t ever get on the property ladder.

This is why we really should get over any shame. Get over the weirdness about being a landlord to mates, by accepting that by giving them mates rates we get to live with people we love rather than some deadbeat housemates. Realise that we’re some of lucky ones who don’t have to ever go through the hell of flatmate auditions that make The Hunger Games sound timid. And get around to actually sending that Father’s Day card.

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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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