The VE property market

May 06, 2020

Over the past century, there have been many global impacts on our property market, the current pandemic being just one example.

On Tuesday, 8th May 1945, we celebrated Victory in Europe Day, generally known as VE Day – the formal acceptance by the Allies of World War II of Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender of its armed forces.

We all know that property prices have changed over the years – as has the value of the pound. But what did the property market look like back on that momentous day?

During the second world war, the property market suffered a hit from two fronts. Not only did the German bombing cause widespread damage to properties nationwide, but the financial repercussions and lack of construction materials and labourers meant that building and repairs were almost impossible.

Before WWII, new houses sold for approximately £750, with London achieving higher prices even then of roughly £850, which when you convert to today’s rate, equates to just £50,000.

During wartime, around half a million residential properties were destroyed by the German bombings. Land development was therefore crucial in the following years, with new towns created on the green-belt surrounding London, such as Hemel Hempstead, Harlow and Crawley. These new communities and new builds across the country were essential in re-homing the near half a million families who had lost their homes.

The first pre-fab homes (which were the most common given the lack of resources and urgent need), were built just weeks after VE Day. Each property needed just 40 man hours (often by prisoners of war), to supply with hot water, heating, new kitchens and a bathroom – an impressive feat by any standards! Although these were due to be temporary solutions to the instant housing crisis, many still stand today and whilst not luxury, were a significant improvement on the squalor conditions of wartime living.

As the country began to recover from the war, council-house building peaked in the Conservative government of the 1950’s, where the end of rationing and an emerging economy allowed for 250,000 new local authority homes to be built per year. The reliance on council-housing was largely due to the average wage in comparison to property price. The average cost of a house was roughly £2,000, but with the average worker taking just £10 a week, purchasing was no mean feat.

This Friday, whilst the celebrations certainly will not be as intended, we look forward to joining the country in remembering. With musical tributes and speeches, including an address from the Queen and a re-airing of Winston Churchill’s speech, there are plenty of ways to celebrate from the safety of your own home. However you choose to celebrate, enjoy the day and we look forward to seeing you all again soon.

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