To begin with, it looked at the increase in price of each character’s property from the time they joined their respective soaps to the present day. Then the firm examined the occupation and average earnings for each character before comparing it to the salary needed to obtain the average mortgage at 4.5 times the home’s current value (less a 10% deposit).
While Ian Beale might appear to own half of Albert Square, the entrepreneur – who appeared in the very first episode of EastEnders in 1985 and is the only character to have appeared continuously since – would struggle to own a property in prime East London if he bought today.
In 1985, a property in the square would have cost an average of just £65,000. Houses prices since then have increased by a staggering 1,042%, which means that Beale – even in spite of his up-and-down professional and personal life (which has included bankruptcy, numerous failed marriages, bereavement and a brief period of homelessness) – is sitting on £745,000 worth of bricks and mortar.
Nevertheless, with the average small business owner only taking home on average £29,000 a year, the longest-serving character in the BBC’s flagship soap would be well shy of the £148,609 minimum income required to secure a mortgage if he was to buy the same property today.
Elsewhere, Eric Pollard will have witnessed the price of his detached home in Arncliffe grow by more than 2,000% since joining Emmerdale way back in 1986. If he was looking to purchase in the Yorkshire dales now, though, the average income of a B&B owner simply wouldn’t cut the mustard. Pollard would be almost £63,000 short of the £91,937 income required to secure a mortgage on a detached house.
Casualty favourite Charlie Fairhead, meanwhile, has been offering sage advice to patients since 1986, during which time the average price of a semi-detached home in Bristol has risen by 982% from £43,845 to £474,225. Despite his steadfast commitment to the NHS, his modern-day wage of £26,252 would see him priced out of the market by more than £68,000. His annual income would have to hit £94,845 in order to be accepted for a mortgage.
The mortgage affordability gap is less of an issue for Ken Barlow (who has been treading the cobbles of Weatherfield since 1960), Jac Naylor (a surgeon at Holby City since 2005) and Hywel Llywelyn (a local radio DJ in Welsh language soap Pobol y Cwm since 1990), but all of these soap favourites would still be priced out of their respective local markets if they tried to buy today.
It’s a similar story for Hollyoaks veteran Tony Hutchinson, who has been appearing in the Chester soap since its first episode in 1995. His semi-detached home has gone up in value by 694% in that time, and his occupation of restaurant owner wouldn’t bring in enough income to cover the £47,684 needed for a mortgage.
While many of the characters above have been in their respective soaps for a very long time, only Ken Barlow can hold a candle to Christine Barford of The Archers in terms of longevity. She first appeared in the show in 1953, when a detached home in Cutnall Green would have cost just over £2,000. Astonishingly, the price change since then has been more than 21,000%. A stable owner before she retired, her salary of around £54,000 would leave her short by about £44,000 of the £98,992 she’d need to be granted a mortgage.
Only Jimmi Clay, in fact – who has been starring in Birmingham-based daytime soap Doctors since 2005 – would be able to comfortably buy in his local area. His GP’s salary of £70,000 would easily cover the £45,647 needed for a mortgage.
“Unfortunately for our best-loved soap stars, the cost of getting on the ladder today would see many of them resigned to the rental sector,” Alistair McKee, managing director of One 77 Mortgages, said.
“Luckily for them, they took that first step when prices weren’t as high and as a result have benefited from some very healthy price growth across the board.”
He added: “Of course, this research is just a bit of fun and in many cases mortgage affordability would be bolstered by a partner or spouses’ income, but it does raise a more serious issue. Regardless of property type, profession and location, there is a huge disparity between the price of UK property and the wages on offer and it highlights the struggle facing many aspirational buyers today when trying to secure a mortgage.”