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Mortgages: how many Britons have one, and how much do they owe?

how many mortgages can you have

The UK's a nation obsessed by owning a home: whether saving up for a deposit, struggling to pay off the mortgage, or fearing selling up to pay for retirement, it's a national preoccupation.

As part of its series 'Wealth in Great Britain', the Office for National Statistics released numbers on Monday measuring exactly how much Brits owe on their homes – and the results aren't necessarily what you'd think.

The research, which is published for only the second time, compared 2008/10 against the first time this information was collected in 2006/08.

1. Fewer than two in five UK households have property debt

The UK might have a reputation as a nation of mortgage slaves – interest rates are often reported as if that's the case – but that's not the reality. The ONS figures reveal 9.2 million UK households had property debt in 2008/10 – that's 37.3% of the total.

This figure was actually a slight decrease from the 9.4 million households who had property debt two years earlier. Those households might be making those repayments for a while yet, though: between them, they have a total of £847,911,798,000 to pay off on their properties (median debt £75,000).

2. Fewer people with a mortgage consider it 'a heavy burden'

Possibly thanks to a long period of low interest rates, only 13.6% of respondents, compared to 15.2% in 2006/08, considered their mortgage a "heavy burden".

The proportion considering it 'somewhat of a burden' is also down 1% while 'not a problem at all' responses are up almost 3%.

As you'll see though, that's one of the only surprises to come out of the research.

Unsurprisingly, the more you have to pay, the more likely you are to consider it a burden. While on average 13.6% of those with a property debt consider it a heavy burden, this rises to 1 in 5 of those who have over 80% of the value of their property left to pay.

3. You're least likely to own your home outright if you live in London.

. and most likely to own it if you live in Wales. 23% of London's households own their property outright compared to 37% in Wales. The picture changes slightly if you consider the typical amount left to pay - where those with property debt in London typically have a slightly smaller fraction of their property value to pay (36% compared to 40% in Yorkshire & Humber) but because of property prices, this means a median household property debt of £128,000 in London (compared to just £65,000 in Yorkshire & Humber)

Median excludes households without property liabilities. Source: ONS

4. Rich people don't rent

Again, not exactly shocking given that 92% of the poorest 20% of people rent their main residence, compared to a mere 3.2% of the wealthiest fifth of society: meaning the poorest people are almost 30 times more likely to rent their home than the wealthiest.

Tenure of main residence by household total wealth. Source: ONS

5. The older you are the less you have to pay off

Category: Credit

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