Are You Dying to Buy a House?

Like many young people in the 70s I bought my own property. Rents were high and buying made sense. Especially if, like me, you could get a mortgage on a modest salary, and put down a deposit of £10.00 for a flat that cost £7,000. Then sell it three years later for over £11,000.

Less than a generation before that, such a transaction was virtually unheard of for a single woman in her early twenties. Fast forward to the 2020s and ‘generation rent,’ now struggles to get together the hefty deposits for almost any type of property without parental or other help. Even my modest one bedroom flat, in an area known for relatively cheap property, now sells at over £95,000. Once again, few young women (or young men for that matter) can afford to buy a property on a single salary.

Of course, as I said, I couldn’t afford to buy a property without a mortgage. I thought I understood what this was: a loan from a building society that I would pay back over several years, or transfer to another property as my housing needs changed. In technical language it is the ‘conditional conveyance of a property (real estate) as security for the repayment of a loan [or] the deed affecting such a transaction.’

But I never gave a thought, till now, as to what the word meant originally. In fact it translates as a dead pledge, from the Old French mort – death and gage – security. (Your money or your life?) Maybe this really was taken more literally when the word was first used. At least now it is only the agreement that is dead if the conditions of the loan are breached.

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