Comparing the UK housing system with other European markets confirms what many people would expect: The country, and London in particular, is one of the most expensive places on the continent to live.
But there are also surprises. You get more space for your money in outer London than in Paris, for example, and despite a drop in the rate of homeownership in the UK, we're still about level with most western European countries.
Germans and Dutch people are more likely to spend 40% of their disposable income on housing than Brits, and when it comes to housebuilding, the UK doesn't fare too badly – Spain, Italy, and Portugal all build fewer houses per 1,000 people.
We've weighed eight aspects of the UK housing market against 13 other European countries, using data from the Deloitte 2016 property index and the latest figures from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, to put our situation in perspective.
The average size of a home you can buy for €200,000
It’s not surprising that in the UK you get less for your money than elsewhere in the EU. Nevertheless, what is startling is the difference between the UK and some of the other large European economies. Around €200,000 (£170,000) gets you a 40-square-metre flat in the UK – roughly the downstairs floor area of a double-decker bus. Compare that to nearly 100 square metres for the same amount in Germany and the Netherlands, and even more in Spain.
The differences are just as stark when comparing the size of homes you can buy in both inner and outer London to Europe’s major capitals. You'd get more than 15 times more space for the same amount in Budapest.
The rate of homeownership in Britain is slightly lower than the EU average of 69.5%, but fairly similar to most western European countries. The one glaring exception in the EU, where a solid majority of people own property, is Germany, where about half of people rent.
Germany is one of several countries to have introduced rent controls, meaning that in property market hotspots (mostly larger cities like Berlin and Munich) rents on new tenancies cannot be higher than 10% above a local average. Germany also stands out because the government has banned agents from charging letting fees to tenants.
Meanwhile, the highest homeownership rates in the EU are found in central and eastern Europe.
Buying a home
The UK is home to the priciest housing market in Europe with dwellings going for some €5,000 (roughly £4,200) per square metre, about double the going rate in Italy.
A flat in London costs more than 350% of the UK average, while the price differential in outer London is greater than in a number of major European capitals, including Berlin, Rome, and Dublin.
Number of new homes built per country
The need to build new homes is an issue that parties across the UK political spectrum promise to address, with government after government boasting about the number of new builds their administrations enable. But the data tells a different story: The rate of new dwellings completed per 1,000 people in Britain is significantly lower than in many other EU countries.
A lack of new homes is one of the factors that make the UK, and London especially, home to the most expensive housing market in Europe.
How housing cost compares to disposable income
One in eight (12.5%) of Britain’s population spend more than 40% of their disposable income on housing, in a measure known as the "housing cost overburden rate". It’s higher than the EU average (11.3%), according to Eurostat figures. The UK rate is, however, lower than some other EU member states, including Germany and the Netherlands. But it is well above both Italy and France. The highest rate is registered in Greece, where an eye-watering 41% of people are "overburdened".
Price of a home as a multiple of annual salary
It is not just a poor building record that sets the UK apart from other places in the EU. The issue is coupled with the low affordability of what’s available. Germany has the most affordable property for sale – a person needs to save their entire salary for an average of 3.2 years to pay for a new dwelling, according to the latest Deloitte property index. That is closely followed by its neighbours Belgium and the Netherlands. And relatively affordable housing can also be found in Spain and Portugal. Unsurprisingly, the UK is the least affordable country among those analysed by Deloitte. Britons have to save their whole salary for almost 11 years to pay for a new apartment.
Alberto Nardelli is Europe editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Alberto Nardelli at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chris Applegate is an editorial developer for BuzzFeed and is based in London.
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