Australians No Longer See Their Homes as a Castle; Property Appeal Is Declining

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Australians have gradually begun to change their perspectives on wealth

Years of expensive homes and low housing affordability leave fewer people believing that owning a property is critical for economic security.

Since the mid-1960s, home ownership peaked at its highest level due to couples marrying and having children earlier and shorter life expectancies contributing to security and wealth. We have seen a steady decrease of 10 percentage points in ownership rates over the years, down to 63 per cent today. 

The dream of owning a home has increasingly become out of reach for many young people due to exorbitant prices. Thus, numerous individuals have been searching for alternative ways to gain wealth.

Australians are now embracing a new definition of wealth, which involves being financially independent to follow their dreams and provide for those close to them – rather than just striving for home ownership like past generations.

In stark contrast to John O’Grady’s renowned novel, They’re a Weird Mob, released during the 1950s, which emphasised migrants targeting homeownership as their primary aspiration, that has changed drastically.

Homeownership has become so deeply ingrained in the national conscience that it is even featured heavily in popular culture, like with Michael Caton’s portrayal of Darryl Kerrigan in the late 20th-century film The Castle – showcasing his fight to protect and keep his family home.

Recent research by Salt for AMP showed that homes are still the primary wealth asset among many Australians. Nevertheless, with more individuals believing “wealthy” means having the financial flexibility to live their desired lifestyle, there is a growing trend towards liquid forms of prosperity such as savings accounts, stocks, and managed investments.

A 2020 Retirement Income Review underlined the significance of home ownership, as it revealed that more than 60% of single renter households endure income poverty while merely 12% of those who own their homes experience such poverty.

With the rise of late marriages and parenthood, more divorces, and extended life expectancies, Australians have been gifted with significantly more solo time, which has led to a greater emphasis on certain factors when thinking about wealth, Salt states.

What has not changed is the value of health, of personal relationships, of family, of the ideal of provisioning for children, of helping grandchildren,” Salt says.

In Australia, the goal of owning a home has shifted to include other ambitions. These can range from where and how we work, who our partners are, or even what lifestyle we lead. According to experts, these choices have transformed significantly since the 1960s.

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