Want a mortgage? Then put up with being asked a few questions

Children of the Thatcher era need a better sense of social history



The outrage that has accompanied the news that mortgage applicants are to be asked “intrusive” questions about lifestyle is born of a misplaced sense of entitlement. A home may be a human right; home ownership isn’t. How can it be so?

For a start, if a financial institution is prepared to lend you the thick end of a quarter of a million pounds to buy a starter home, and you put in a grand or something, it seems entirely reasonable that they should ask you about how much you’ll be chucking away on scratch cards, fags and booze.

Indeed, it would be quite in order for the bank to ask you to do a couple of beat-box numbers in the reception area if they wanted to. The sense of entitlement expressed by today’s twentysomething is creating much misery.

I have great sympathy with them, and am guiltily aware that my generation “ate their lunch” when we plundered state industries and the old buildings societies for a quick buck through stock-market sell-offs; we enjoyed tax relief on our mortgage interest repayments (I know, I know); had full-blown student grants (including housing benefit during vacations); and even a pension at 60 or 65 linked to salary.

The 1970s and 1980s weren’t as bad as some have made them out to be. We were spoiled. But it was a land where we expected to buy our first home in our thirties or even forties rather than our twenties.

The “intrusive” questions of today are a substitute – and an inadequate one at that – for the old building society practice of requiring a would-be borrower to maintain a deposit account for years, clearly demonstrating a propensity to pay a sum similar to a mortgage repayment regularly. If they could manage this, and having got to know them over that time, further inquiries could be dispensed with.

Then, as again now, the manager would need to know how a borrower might cope if interest rates rose; perfectly prudent for all sides. But the system had turned chaotic by the 2000s. The last time I got a mortgage, in that boom, it was through e-mails to a broker, and I never met anyone to discuss the loan. We also had something called “self-certified” mortgages, where you could just declare your earnings, no proof needed. Hence the worst banking crash in a century.

Now we are moving back to saner, more traditional ways. An older generation of stand-up comic often had lots of gags about newly-weds having to live with their in-laws during the first days of marriage life. Indeed it may well be that this was the genesis of the “mother-in-law” jokes that sustained the careers of many a comedian into the 1980s.

As remote and quaint today as a Donald McGill seaside postcard, half-crowns and MySpace, the idea of returning from honeymoon to move into a spare room in someone’s parents’ cramped terraced house is anathema to the children of the Thatcher era. That is – understandably enough – why they resent even the most timid checks on their reliability, which unfortunately shades into that sense of entitlement. They need a better sense of social history.

There is more to it than that, though. Property has become the only way to become wealthy in 21st-century Britain. In the past it was only one way to do so, along with securing a good job, investing in a pension, and saving, maybe through an investment or unit trust. Now, thanks to the mess the financial sector got itself into, pensions scandals and the wider inability of our economy to sustain a strong middle class, other, supplementary, routes to financial security seem shut off.

Plus if tomorrow’s graduates do earn a decent salary, the student loan repayments will be taking an extra slice out of their disposable income.

Renting is so expensive that you cannot save for a deposit; hence the urgent demand for 100 per cent loans (and 120 per cent from Northern Rock in the boom, remember). Right now too there is clearly a bubble mentality, especially in London – “If we don’t buy now we’ll never be able to”.

Newspaper headlines recklessly promise decades of unbroken property rises (just as they predicted the opposite a couple of years back). Residential property is, uniquely, free of all capital gains taxes and the only investment you can live in and enjoy, and politics means it is likely to stay that way.

The property obsession is, then, mostly rational for individuals, even if mostly madness for society as a whole, something the Bank of England understands very well, and hence these new checks on borrowers. I wonder if they, like me, prefer the world of  Les Dawson.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Riyadh is setting itself up as region’s policeman

Lina Khatib
Ed Miliband and David Cameron  

Cameron and Miliband should have faith in their bolder policies

Ian Birrell
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor