I posted this on a thread about baby boomers, but then I thought it might be of interest to some Gen Ys and younger Xs that may not read the thread.
I bought/built a house in late 2002/early 2003, and have paid it off. This is how I did it. As prices have gone up a bit where I am (SE Qld) since then, it might take you another year (or you could just have a small mortgage).
Pretty much anyone with an education/trade could do this. You can't be too risk averse.
I'm 33, classic X-er, spent all my money in my early 20s and racked up the credit card debts. I discovered early on that I am a terrible saver, but am quite good at paying off debt when required.
I went to London, got a job, and lived pretty cheap (plenty of people live cheaper) I worked as an accountant, boring as hell but good money.
I discovered early on that I am a terrible saver, but am quite good at paying off debt when required. So instead of trying to save a deposit (which required self-discipline), I got some credit cards (so easy to do in the UK) and cash advanced GBP30k. (Yes it took a while!) Then I switched to new cards every 6 months and kept balance transferring to new 0% intro deals so I didn't have to pay interest.
With that A$75k I bought a block of land on the NSW far north coast, not on the beach, a not particularly fashionable area. This is what I could afford. I was earning GPB52k/year so I paid off the land in just over 12 months (here doing the same job I would earn about A$70k so that gives you some idea of the better money that can be made in London in some (not all) professions).
After the first year (A$75k paid, land owned), I did the same cash advance thing again. So I had A$75k in cash to start building a house, and I got an Australian mortgage for $75k. My dad did the owner-building thing and we used every mate and mate's mate and cost cutting exercise we could to build a 2 story brick 4 bed 2 bath house for about $145k.
I also bought a tiny flat in London on a 100% UK mortgage, renovated from 6pm to 1am every day for 4 weeks, and sold it for about A$60k profit. I found the buying/selling costs in the UK to be lower than here so doing a turnaround on a cheap property easier to do than here.
I paid off the UK credit cards in the second year, then moved back to Oz in 2005. I didn't like being an accountant (being an X-er - you know we don't like to stick to anything LOL!) so I borrowed A$100k against the house and started a bar - it wasn't rocket science, anyone could do it, but it was long hours and hard work. I sold it after a year for $300k.
So now I have paid off the house and have $100k. (Mind you, I still rent myself as it's cheaper than owning in my chosen suburb LOL!)
I don't relate the above to show how amazingly sensational I am, far from it, I am fairly ordinary (albiet having a uni education).
I relate it to show how easy it is to do. Being a an 'in demand' profession in the UK helps, but there are lots of them - accounting, IT, plumber (pretty much any trade). I know a lot of people working in finance/accounting/business jobs who don't have those quals - there are plenty of jobs in not so nice areas that pay well which the more qualified won't do - in fact my first job was one of these. Science types might struggle same as they do here.
Hope this is useful to someone who thinks a property is out of their reach - it's not.