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Missing Movers: A Long-Term Decline in Housing Transactions?

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Published: 30 June 2017

The housing crisis is often characterised in terms of young families struggling to get a
footing on the housing ladder and the major hurdle presented by high house prices
and deposits and low rates of new housebuilding. This has in many ways shaped
housing policy.

Less attention tends to be paid to those who already own homes and their ability to
move to homes that better suit their needs. Yet movement among home-owners has
been in deep decline for almost three decades. Despite many more homes in private
hands, buying and selling activity has halved over that time.

The scale and significance of this long-term decline in movement of home-owners has
been highlighted by the latest recession and recovery. Before the recession, there
were about 1.6 million home sales in the UK. Home sales fell to 860,000 in 2009 but
had recovered to 1.2 million by 2014. This means there are 400,000 fewer transactions
each year, with the majority of those being mortgaged-movers.

This report seeks to identify why this has happened and what it means for the
housing market and the wider economy. It also considers what might be done to
fix the problems caused.