Sell us elderly people's homes to help the property shortage

portrait of smiling seniors...

It doesn't matter where in the country you live, everyone is going property mad; estate agents can't get properties on their websites fast enough before they're snapped up by some young pup eager to get their foot on the ladder.

This discrepancy between buyers and sellers means that the properties that do come on the market are selling for inflated prices, especially in the capital where buyers know they will more than likely have to pay over the asking price in order to secure a new home (and even then it's no guarantee that they won't be outbid).

The scrabble has been heightened by the government's Help to Buy scheme that is tempting those with just 5% deposits into the market by offering to secure 15% of their loan. But the real problem is a distinct lack of new homes.

Chancellor George Osborne can pump as much money into the property market as he likes through Help to Buy but the only result will be a huge bubble if he doesn't match the help with increased property development.

These new properties aren't forthcoming but could there be another solution to the lack of bricks and mortar on the market in the form of the French system.

In France you can purchase an old person's home before they die through the 'en viager' system. You make a large upfront payment to the homeowner – known as a bouquet – then you pay a monthly rent to the owner and when they die you become the new owner of the property.

If your elderly partner in this deal dies after a couple of years, or even a couple of months then you've bagged yourself a bargain but there is also the worry that they live on for decades and you yourself become an old person before you can move in.

It may not be a total solution but it would stop the fuss about old people rattling around in large houses on their own while families can't find properties suitable to house them and their brood. It could also help the asset rich, cash poor elderly to help release some equity from their home instead of wasting away on a measly pension.

Overall I don't know how well 'en viager' would translate from French to British – the French are far more laidback about homeownership and most people are happy to rent, compared to our national mentality of homeownership at all cost.
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