This pattern can be partially explained by the ageing populace and a generation of baby boomers who have a less stigmatised mindset about getting divorced. Additionally, however, “silver splitters” have a distinct advantage on the younger generation when it comes to their economic position.
As they have had more time on the property ladder, many older people have built up quite substantial levels of wealth. The Nationwide chain of estate agents for high-end property, Savills, estimate that divorcing husbands and wives in England and Wales, who own homes, hold a net housing wealth (after mortgage debt) of a remarkable £9.9bn. Of this wealth, Savills estimate that 48% of it is held by the over 50s; this is despite the fact that they account for only 28% of divorce.
Savills studied the asking price data from property sales website Rightmove, and discovered that older couples sharing a four-bedroom home could split up and purchase, individually, a two-bedroom house in 92% of local authorities, once the sale of the main house had gone through. Now, if the same factors were used for a younger couple’s ordinarily three-bedroom family home, they would be able to afford a two-bedroom house or one-bedroom house in under 5% of local authorities.
This fascinating investigation by Savills appears to show that a younger divorcing couple, with a more modest home, will have considerably less money to share, as well as having the burden of a bigger mortgage. These couples would, perhaps, welcome the recent soaring house market.
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