Opinion: Winners - and losers

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Estate agents are predicting that 2014 will see an upturn in house prices, though no London-style boom.

Rising house prices are often seen as a sign of confidence in the economy. If there are businesses thriving and jobs being created, people will be attracted to an area and homes will be in demand.

For those already on the property ladder it may also be seen as good news; you work hard to pay the mortgage to create a home and if it also turns out to be a good investment, so much the better. It’s a win:win.

The agents in Sheffield are expecting a modest increase in prices this coming year - unlike the madness that is the London market.

But in an area like South Yorkshire where many earn below the national average income, home ownership is still a dream that will never be realised.

Often young families are forking out in rent much more than they would shell out in mortgage payments.

The killer, of course, is being able to find a deposit. For huge numbers of aspiring buyers saving for a deposit while paying rent is nigh on impossible.

For them, any price rises will just push home ownership another step beyond them.

That dream is still something that we cling on to in this country, unlike our continental neighbours where renting is more the norm. But many of us still aspire to buy.

True, the Government is pitching in with incentive schemes such as Help to Buy and many house builders have their own schemes to help first time buyers on to the ladder or to allow families seeking to move into bigger properties once their families have expanded.

In fairness, for some, renting rather than buying is a lifestyle choice offering greater flexibility if career progression dictates relocation, for example.

And certainly the rental market in Sheffield, as elsewhere, is very healthy.

The agents are right to sound a note of caution.

And, as ever, there are winners and losers in every situation.