Investment: Houses have made us rich

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The Independent Online

Britons are richer than ever due to the decade-long boom in house prices, new research from the Halifax claims.

Since 1996, the total wealth of all UK households has shot up by 127 per cent – against a rise in retail prices of just 30 per cent in the same period.

More than half this rise in wealth can be attributed to increases in the value of people's homes. All in all, housing equity – the value of residential property minus mortgage debt – has gone up from £787bn in 1996 to £2,702bn at the start of 2007, according to the Halifax.

Meanwhile, household debt is up sharply but not by as much as property prices.

Martin Ellis, chief economist at the Halifax, argues that the rise in debts has been a by-product of increasing household wealth as people take on bigger mortgages to move up the ladder.

"The financial position of households in total has strengthened substantially over the past decade.

"While much has been said about the rise in debt, it is important to note that the value of households' assets has risen at a faster pace."

Mr Ellis concludes that "housing has played an important part in boosting wealth."

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