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Can you buy a house on a teacher’s salary?

In 1997, a new school teacher could afford an average-priced property on just their salary. In 2018, it’s well out of reach for even two teachers buying together.

Everybody knows that buying your first home isn’t supposed to be easy. But the nation’s teachers seem to have been handed a particularly raw deal when it comes to affordability – and it’s getting worse.

Our infographic, below, shows the ever-widening affordability gap between a secondary school teacher’s starting salary and the cost of an average home in England.

We’ve looked at affordability of a single teacher and two teachers buying together, which you can compare by clicking or tapping the button in the top right.

What does it show?

When our timeline begins back in 2005, a single teacher armed with a 15% deposit could afford a home worth up to £90,169 on their annual gross salary of £19,161.

And with the cost of an average home sitting at £166,168, they’d have been left with a shortfall of nearly £80,000.

However, at least by joining forces with another teacher and boosting their house-buying budget to £180,339, they could have managed it.

Fast-forward to 2018 however, and an average home is well out of reach even for two teachers. With starting salaries of £23,720, a 15% deposit and budget of £223,247, they would still be more than £25,000 shy of homeownership.

But affordability could be on a course of improvement, according to 2019 data (as of June).

With the average house price edging down by just over £2,000 and teachers’ starting salaries increasing to £24,372, joint property buyers would now be just over £17,000 short of buying a home.

The golden days?

Getting a roof over your head wasn’t always this difficult for teachers.

The broader data we collected revealed that, in 1979 when starting salaries were £3,231, a single teacher with a 15% deposit could afford a home costing up to £15,204.

While this just fell short of the average property value of the time (£15,336), it was at least within realms of possibility.

Teachers were largely the right side of affordability in 1986 and 1992, too. In either year a single teacher was less than £1,000 short of affording the average-priced house of £31,176 and £52,994 respectively.
Two teachers buying together were, of course, well in the clear.

The only year in the last 40 years when a teacher with a 15% deposit could afford to buy a property independently was 1997 when house prices averaged £57,577 and – based on a £12,711 starting salary – their budget was £59,816.

How we worked it out

We took classroom teachers’ starting salaries in state secondary schools across England and Wales, stripping out London.

From 1979 to 2001 we used data from The House of Commons Teacher’s Pay Statistics published in 2008, which records salaries in April. From 2001 onwards, data is taken from NASUWT Teachers’ Union which records salaries in September.

We then gathered average house price data in England from the Land Registry as Zoopla’s home-grown data does not stretch back that far.

To arrive at ‘an affordable property price’ for teachers, we multiplied the starting salary by four and added on a typical first-time buyer deposit of 15%. For two teachers, we doubled the affordability and kept the same 15% deposit.

What help is out there for teachers?

Teaching is not the only honourable profession which doesn’t pay enough to fund your own home. In fact, the average UK salary stood at just £24,006 in 2018, which only a whisker above the £23,720 paid to new teachers.

There are schemes to help any would-be first-time buyer get on the property ladder, though.

Help to Buy, which is available until April 2023, offers a 20% equity loan from the government which remains interest-free for the first five years, so long as you can raise a separate 5% deposit.

Carry out some thorough research before entering into the scheme though. You can start by making these 5 checks.

You may also want to look at a shared ownership scheme where you buy just a percentage of a property from a local housing association and pay rent on the remainder.

You are then able to buy further chunks (known as staircasing) until you own 100% of the property. Again, though, it’s important to carry out thorough research.