With recent figures suggesting that around 68 million people live in the UK currently, and with a wide variety of ages, lifestyles and personality types, there’s no one place we’d all call home. From the recent university graduate wanting to explore an urban city for new experiences and opportunities, to the new young family taking their first steps into suburbia, we’ve all got different priorities.

When we looked into the UK’s ideal places to live, we revealed that different generations across the nation have varying ideas of what that dream property looks like, in terms of location, features and what’s on offer in the surrounding areas.

Looking at four generations in the country today: baby boomers (born between 1946 – 1964), Gen X (1965-1980), millennials (1981-1996) and Gen Z (1997 – 2012), we dug deep to see what trends or preferences were apparent across the age ranges, on where the nation’s dream home is, and what sort of property we like to call home. We conducted this research to pinpoint the dream locations of UK residents, and what we found was as varied as you might expect.

The research showed that London remains a favourite location nationwide. The capital takes top spot, with 11.7% of voters being magnetised to the buzz of the bright city lights.

Next up was a contrast, as historical York (8.4%) in second place, with Viking fanatics and fans of medieval architecture at home in the quaint Yorkshire city. Close behind, in third place, is the Roman city of Bath, which took 8.3% of votes, which also boasts some of the most impressive Georgian architecture in the country. Torquay (8.3%) and Brighton (8%) are next in fourth and fifth place respectively, proving that the Great British seaside still acts as a major draw for UK residents.

Dream locations to live in for Brits

The UK’s favourite cities differ depending on generation. With baby boomers, we saw the dream of London living halve to 7.2%, with those born between 1946 and 1964 opting for picturesque seaside destinations and countryside locations. When it came to cities for this generation, it was York that took preference as the number one location, putting historical centres above modern urban environments.

Baby boomers

More than one in 10 (10.1%) baby boomers surveyed chose York as their preferred location, with Torquay coming in second place with 10% of the vote, and Newquay in third with 9.1%. In contrast to the trend of coastal destinations, Bath (7.2%) and London (7.2%) scored highly in fourth and fifth place. Next up for those born between 1946 and 1964, we have Brighton (5.8%) and Edinburgh (5.7%), showing us that a taste for city living is something many Brits of all generations enjoy. Next up was Canterbury (5.7%), followed by Cambridge (4.9%) then Falmouth (4.1%) in 10th.

Gen X

Gen X, born between 1966 and 1980, are torn between Torquay (12.2%) and London (11.7%), signalling that perhaps those born more towards the early end of the spectrum are dreaming of tranquillity by the sea. A good percentage of Gen Xers, however, are still drawn to the excitement of London, whether they’re just getting started on their fast-paced years starting a new career in the city, or are eyeing up a leafy London suburb to be closer to work. After the capital, Gen X voted for Newquay in third place (10.2%), then Brighton (9.7%), followed by Bath in fifth place (9.1%). York came in sixth place (8.8%), then in seventh it was Edinburgh (8.2%), followed by Cambridge (7.10%), Bristol (5.1%) and Canterbury (5.1%), making up their top 10.

A map of the UK highlighting dream locations to live by generation

Millennials

For dream locations to live in, millennials thought of London mostly (13.5%), followed by Edinburgh (9.9%), Bath (9.2%) and Brighton (8.6%). Next, popular Bristol and Birmingham secured spots with 7.7% of the vote. York took seventh place with 7.5%, followed by Belfast in eighth (7.1%), Cambridge in ninth (7.1%) and Cardiff in 10th with 6.9 percent.

Gen Z

Nearly a fifth (18.9%) of Gen Z chose London as their dream city to live in, putting the youngest generation containing adults firmly in the ‘city’ camp. Birmingham came second with 10.6%, followed by Brighton in third with 10.2%. Next, in fourth place, was Manchester (8.7%), followed by Bristol in fifth place (8.4%). Bath (8%) and Cambridge (8%) were next in line for Gen Z, followed finally by Edinburgh (7.6%), Glasgow (6.9%) and Coventry (6.5%). From Gen Z’s insatiable appetite for bright lights and big cities, we can see that career opportunities and a faster-paced life generally drive younger people towards city centres.

What we look for inside a house and out

When choosing a location, there are obvious draws to each type of location and landscape. Those opting for a more urban area living have endless culture at their fingertips, shopping convenience and fine dining nearby. On the other side of the spectrum, those drawn to the countryside have scope for long walks, countryside pubs and vast expanses of nature, such as woodland and lakes. The former may opt for a modern apartment or period townhouse, while the latter may want a detached house with a large garden, even acres of land. But how did it break down across the nation.

A graphic to show the top 10 location priorities for UK residents

Over a third (34.8%) of Brits surveyed said their dream home would be by the sea, while 31.9 per cent said they wanted a location with lots of history. Third on the list is culture, with 30.7 per cent of Brits keen on this factor. Outside of the top three, we have 30.3% of voters stating that being quaint and picturesque was a priority for their dream home in fourth place, while in fifth place, 23.2% said they were keen on the countryside.

A graphic to show location priorities by generation (baby boomer to Gen Z)

Top 10 most desirable property features

Of course, location is only half the battle, because once you’ve decided where you’d love to live, what kind of house will you live in? A large, detached house with a double driveway? A period property with high ceilings, an original fireplace and ornate finishings? What about Georgian sash windows? Or is it strictly open plan style you desire? We asked the nation, and found that, quite pragmatically the driveway was the number one desired property feature, with nearly two-thirds (63.9%) of the nation opting for a place to park their car. Similar logic was given to the second most popular choice, a garage, with 56.5% of the vote.

In third place, having a large garden was deemed important to 54.3% of the nation, and 51.6% said they’d like to look out from large windows. Up next in fifth place was having an attic, which 44.1% of surveyed Brits said they’d want. Combining original period trimmings with modern, spacious adjustments looks to be the dream cross-section of the nation.

Demand for a new-build property was popular with Gen Z (38.9%), but not so much with baby boomers (20.7%). A big garden was desirable across generations, but strongest for those aged 35-44 (65.4%), possibly due to it being the peak age for young children living at home. Empty nesters on the other hand, aged 55+, put the least importance on having a big garden, with just 42.2% saying it was important to them.

A graphic to show most popular property features by generation

Viewing the finance of properties through the generations

Another side to the property coin is the finance aspect of it all. It may be easy to declare your dream home, but to put that dream into a reality, how much savings would you need? Of course, savings needed can vary by person’s appetite for renovations, property condition and amount of gifted money, but the results showed the anticipated funds needed.

Residents of the hip seaside destination Brighton felt, on average, they would require the most savings to move into their dream home, saying they would need £83,000. Next were the residents of Leeds (£72,000), followed by Newcastle in third place with (£68,019). Cardiff followed in fourth place with £67,901 and Manchester in fifth with £67,660.

A graphic to show the amount of savings needed to buy your dream home in various UK locations

We also looked at how much money the UK thought it would take to turn their current home into their dream home. Baby boomers again came out as the highest spenders, at £41,840. Going down the generations was a decrease in money needed, with Gen X saying they’d need £40,487, millennials needing £37,802, and Gen Z needing £34,448. 

When it came to the top 10 cities based on how much money they think they would need to spend to turn their current home into their dream home, Brighton also topped the list, saying they would need £63,071 for the transformation. Residents of London were next, with £45,070 being the figure they’d need, followed by those from Bristol (£45,061) in third place.

A graphic to show the amount of savings needed to upgrade your current home to your dream home in various UK locations

Perceptions of property prices across the UK

As a nation the midlands city of Birmingham was given a major nod of approval as the location that is the best value place to live, coming out on top with 4.9% of the vote. This was followed by Brighton with 4.7%, then Bristol in third place with 4.5%. Next up in fourth place was Bath with 4%, followed by Belfast in fifth place with 3.7%.

In what is perhaps a common thought across generations, a huge 41.6% of Brits said they thought London was the most expensive location to buy, followed by Cambridge in second place (5%), then Bath (4.3%) in third. Brighton (3.4%) and Edinburgh (3.2%) rounded off the top five most expensive places to live in the British public’s opinion.

We asked what the country thought the cheapest places to buy property were, and we found that people rated valuable Birmingham (6.9%) in first place, followed by Hull (5.5%) in second. Armagh (5.3%), Belfast (5.2%) and Bangor (4.6%) followed in third, fourth and fifth place respectively.

A graphic to show perceptions of property prices in different places around the UK

Savings, where do they come from?

Nobody likes to talk money, so when we found out exactly where the nation had got – or were expecting to get – their savings for their new house from, we were intrigued.

Most people said that they were going to raise funds in the form of loans and mortgages, with £24,590 coming from the bank. Next up was money or property raised from inheritance (£18,010), followed by money saved from wages or salaries, with the average person saving £17,394 from their income.

Following this came the country’s pension pots, with £15,142 on average coming from retirement funds. Then funds saved from lockdown (£11,100), and financial assistance from extended family, such as uncles, aunts, and cousins (£11,006). A sizeable £10,961 was raised by the average Brit from not having to commute and working from home. Financial assistance from grandparents made up £10,318 of the average person’s homebuyer funds, whilst money gifted from children was, on average, £9,583.

Parents gifting their children money towards their new home has also affected different generations, with baby boomers telling us they’d been gifted £7,592 by their parents, Gen X has been given £11,463, and millennials had been provided with £15,398. Gen Z on the other hand, received £15,082 towards their new home from their parents as a gift.

Looking at how much they’d been gifted by grandparents towards their new home, baby boomers said they’d received, on average, £4,755, while Gen X said the figure was £9,568, millennials said £12,422 and Gen Z said £14,704.

For those with perhaps less savings towards a property, shared ownership schemes are another route onto the property ladder. Nearly a third (29.7%) of Brits said they would be able to afford a first-time property or a family home through a shared ownership scheme. Looking at Gen Z, 24% said they could afford a first-time home through shared ownership, and 37% of millennials did too. For a family home shared ownership property, 25.8% of Gen Z could afford one, whilst 34.4% of millennials could.

More than a quarter (28.5%) said they would be able to afford a retirement property through a shared ownership scheme. Generation-wise, when looking at shared ownership retirement properties, 28.8% of baby boomers said they could afford one and 25.2% of Gen X said they could.

Less pressure to buy property from society

Looking at the average age people bought their first home, the overall findings showed that Brits were taking their first steps on the property ladder at 29.5 years.

Broken down, the ages for buying their first homes were as follows: baby boomers were aged 28.7, Gen X were 30.6, millennials were 30.5 and Gen Z were 28.2*. When asked what they thought were the ideal ages, baby boomers said 31 years old, Gen X said 34.3, millennials said 33.9 and Gen Z said 29.4. These findings back up the often-touted fact that Gen Z is emerging as a money-savvy generation. According to Business Insider, 38% of Gen Zer's said they opened an investment account during the pandemic, and Today’s Conveyancer referenced a survey from Halifax that found 27% of the younger generation believe they’ll be homeowners by age 25. Across the board, most homeowners, regardless of age, tended to say they thought the ideal age to buy a new home was older than they were when they bought one. The largest gap in years was for the Gen X, who were not only the oldest when they bought a house, but then predicted it would be ideal to buy a first home almost four years later, at age 34.3 years. This is perhaps one of the most interesting pieces of data, as it looks like generations upon generations may have rented a home long before buying one, and possibly even wish they hadn’t bought one so soon.

Our data also revealed that we as a nation like the same things but ultimately like to do it in different ways. We each live different lives, and at different times in our life, we want different aspects in a dream home. Life happens, and we remain flexible, moving and changing when the time’s right. Just look at London, it was ultimately going to be popular with many, due to its sprawling and varied boroughs, plentiful history and endless culture. On the other hand, older generations looking to move towards the sea for retirement was also something we had expected to see.

But what about the unexpected statistics? Such as Gen X not purchasing property until after age 30? Or Brighton topping the list of ‘most savings needed’ to buy your dream home in? What we can safely say, is that we live in a diverse and varied country, where people are free to be who they are and enjoy their years living and visiting the places they chose to, no matter what their generation. For every conservative millennial that wishes to move away from the city and start a family, there will be a baby boomer who wants to retire and buy or rent an apartment in the city.

*28.2 is the age that Gen Z expected to purchase their first home by

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Methodology

The McCarthy Stone survey was commissioned through Censuswide and surveyed 2,000 UK adults in January 2022.

The nationwide survey aimed to uncover trends around property across the main generations living in the country at present. The questions asked respondents to share the dream locations to live in the UK, the property features they are searching for with their next move, and also what their main priorities when choosing a location.

Findings from the survey also gave insight into respondents’ perceptions of the current property market and their personal financial situations when they next move and also their dream home, to determine current generational trends around property.

These results have been split between gender, city, age and relationship status to reflect the general population.

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