I also felt that a move was a critical time for me, personally, and I wanted to look to the future. I didn’t want to end up somewhere that ruled out living with someone and even having a baby.”Ratcliff is not alone in her predicament, and voices many of the concerns of the ever-growing market of single home buyers. In two years’ time, there will be almost one million more single people, according to research by Datamonitor. By 2005, there will be nearly two million fewer nuclear families and the number of under-18s will shrink by almost 500,000 from 2000 levels. The study expects people to continue delaying marriage and childbirth.In the meantime, single buyers such as Ratcliff must juggle the competing demands and constraints of their lives. “Although I live on my own, I still need to be able to entertain eight or 10 people. I don’t want to be crammed into a small space as though everything I did was for one person.
I also want a garden with privacy, and if you are having to finance that by yourself in London it’s tough to find the right place.”I have seen some dreadful places as well as lovely ones You have to accept you are on your own and get on with it I do need to discuss it with friends and family It is an emotional time and I have needed to let off steam. I also need sound advice because if you are buying within a tight budget it is easy to make a mistake. I was really keen on a house that had been empty for a while in an area of south-east London that is supposed to be up-and-coming. It was a price I could afford and I turned a blind eye to things that worried me about the street. It wasn’t until my mother told me bluntly that she could not imagine me being happy there that I saw sense.
Once I had made the decision it felt like a huge weight had been taken off me.”Although in London and the South-east, single buyers are particularly stretched to meet the cost of property, their numbers have risen dramatically. Figures from the Halifax, London’s largest mortgage lender, shows that more than 50 per cent of the capital’s new home buyers are single, compared with only 25 per cent in 1983. Of the single buyers, the fastest growing group is single women aged between 30 and 50. The Council for Mortgage Lenders also reports a far higher percentage of loans being granted to single mortgagors than in other regions.
And in the past 10 years alone, the percentage of single purchasers has risen from 35 per cent to almost 43 per cent across the country as a whole.While Bradford & Bingley finds that more than half of first time-buyers are single, this number drops to 29 per cent for second or more moves. The survey shows that the North-west has the highest number of single, first-time buyers.The housing market inevitably is in the frontline of any major social change, yet for obvious reasons it doesn’t react overnight. For instance, families comprised 52 per cent of the market in 1971 and only 35 per cent in 2000, according to the Office of National Statistics. The need for homes that can accommodate children is apparent, however, when the figures show that the proportion of lone parents in the housing market has risen from 4 per cent to 11 per cent in the same period.In the singles market, another factor has been the strength of the “pink pound”. Gay Times recently reported that gay people accounted for 11 per cent of the British population, rising to 15 to 20 per cent in London, Manchester and Brighton.