The real cost of homes

April 2019

This was a mashup of data from the house price index and ONS annual survey of hours and earnings.

House prices are often reported with dull line charts or on maps so I wanted to try something different. I also wanted to avoid showing raw prices and instead show our ability to pay for a home.

The result is this heatmap:

The style turned out to be a surprise hit, perhaps because it packs so many stories into a single visualisation:

  • We can see the north/south divide
  • It shows the decrease in affordability over time
  • You can make out a brief improvement (ironically) after the 2008 recession

The scale is chosen to align with bank mortgage lending limits. These are currently around 4x gross annual earnings, so the colours start to turn amber at 5x when the average wage isn't enough to buy a home.

Beyond this point you'll need two earners or generous parents to own an average home in the UK.

Making this visualisation

Tools: Tableau to generate the heatmap. I also used Adobe Photoshop for post production and generating an engaging animation for social media.