Until the bubble burst, putting your hard earned cash into bricks and mortar was considered the right thing to do. Banks were eager to lend, politicians encouraged home ownership, and only a tiny fraction, just over four percent of properties were ever sold at a loss. And more than that, for millions of families, investing in a home was the way to build stability and security for the future, to have something to hand on to the next generation.
Since the property bubble burst that has changed. And the cost of the housing crash is laid bare tonight in exclusive analysis for ITV News. It reveals that more than a hundred thousand families have lost a total of three billion pounds. Analysis by the Castle Trust of every housing transaction in England and Wales shows that those who bought in the good times and have subsequently sold have taken a huge hit to their bank balances, an average of £24,000 each if they bought and sold between 2007 and 2012.
And contrary to the traditional expectation that putting cash into property was a money spinner, in that five years, more than four in ten homes were sold at a loss, an incredible ten times as many than before things went so badly wrong.
So what? It is not exactly a secret that property prices have taken a hammering. Over half of properties did still sell at a profit. And for those who were able to stay put, values may eventually recover. In Greater London prices are lifting again, although in many parts of the country they are still dire and on the slide.
But this is painful evidence of the scale of the damage the bursting of the property bubble has done to many thousands of families. Buying a home is the biggest financial investment most of us will ever make. For it to go wrong can have enormous consequences, removing security and hampering the future so many tried to build.
For Ruth and Dave Hall it has meant losing their home, and she says it has been "like a bereavement". They bought their home in Lincolnshire for £169,000 in 2008. It is now being sold for just £137,000. She told me she believes they should never have been lent that money in the first place, the house wasn't worth it, and they couldn't afford it. Holding back tears Ruth told me how they had fallen into arrears and in a thirteen minute court hearing, for which they didn't have the cash for a lawyer, they were given 28 days to get out of their family home.
Ruth insists "I don t want people to feel sorry for me", and is now trying to stay positive for the sake of her two boys. She is proud of them for coping with having to move into a smaller rented bungalow into which the family's furniture is all crammed. With their credit references shot from losing the house they are now waiting on the council list for a permanent home. But she told me "I was misled by what was happening ...now we have lost our security and our stability....I sometimes feel that I have let my boys down". More than anything else she is the kind of person who, by buying a home, were trying to do the right thing. It is almost impossible to hear her story and not conclude that something went very wrong.
You can look at what has happened in your area here.
Watch our special report on the ITV News at 10 tonight.