TIM WALKER is the last of a dying breed - a foreign correspondent.

So you could be forgiven for thinking that as the 33-year-old newspaperman makes his fictional debut, his novel will be set in some exotic, strife-torn, faraway land, telling tales of derring-do among dashing journos, such as his hero, the BBC's John Simpson.

Not so. Walker, who is Los Angeles-based for a London daily, has chosen to report from the home front - in every sense - in Completion, a family saga spanning 30 years and centring on the sale of the Manville family's charming old house in gentrified north London.

Billed as a "state of the nation" book by his publishers, it is a sharply written, shrewdly observed, satirically funny look at the middle-class obsession with property, the dream that has turned into a nightmare for a generation. Although Walker's book is set in London - achingly hip Highbury, to be specific - he points out that whether we live in Westminster or the Western Isles, we all want to own our own homes. "Sure, the latter is going to be significantly cheaper, yet buying a home in the north can be even more difficult for first-time buyers."

And that is precisely why Completion, which was the subject of a bidding war between publishers, is so on the money. Walker's timing is spot on. Only days before we meet, the news pages of all the papers and the rolling TV news channels are dominated by stories about new data tracked by the Office For National Statistics revealing that young "boomerangers" are being forced back to live in the family home because of the lack of jobs and high cost of living. Headlines such as 'Stuck in the nest: 3.3m adults still living with parents as financial woes hit home', as well as the latest, 'Empty homes scandal of UK's billionaire's row', make grim reading.

There is, of course, nothing new under the sun and it was similarly bleak reports in 2010 that piqued Walker's interest in how his generation was being priced out of the property market as house prices went stratospheric. He wrote an in-depth piece for his newspaper, 'No place like home: the generation who can't afford to buy'.

Over tea in London, Walker, who is on a flying visit from Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife, Beatrice, an archive producer for documentary films, says: "The article was prompted by the fact I would never be able to buy a property. Full disclosure! Then I met my wife and we got married in 2012 and the epilogue is that she owns a flat in London, which she bought with the help of her parents, so I do now indirectly own property in London, albeit a small flat, so my prospects have improved in that regard.

"However, it was that sense that my generation - Generation Y, I guess - would never be able to buy a place and there was so much in the air about the Baby Boomers. I was 30, I had a good job as a newspaper feature writer earning a decent living, but there was no sense that I would ever save enough for a deposit on a one-bedroom flat, let alone a house. I think many of my generation felt we would have to wait for our parents to die, as well as the generation before ours, before we could even dream of owning a home in a decent area. It's not the Baby Boomers' fault. My parents certainly are not wealthy but it was clear I could not even get a foot on the bottom rung of the property ladder - it had been kicked away.

"The economic crash made it worse because now you have to raise that deposit, whereas before you would get a negative deposit. So there was that frustration, and I really wanted to write about all of that, as well as the scandalous fact there are about one million homes, many of them second homes, standing empty. I give a rant about this to one of the characters in the book, which I started to write after researching that feature. I wrote the novel in London, then had the surreal experience of proof-reading it in LA."

A graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, where he read English and drama, Walker used his divorced parents' experience with property for the article - and it has clearly informed his novel, too, although it is not remotely autobiographical. Nonetheless, the Walker family home, a lovingly restored semi-detached in affluent, commuter-belt Surrey, for which his parents paid £32,000 in 1980, has just been sold by his mother, Jilly.

"My mum recalls having a TV property-show moment - long before such shows existed - when she and my dad, Chris, first saw the house," he says. "Half of the rooms were a converted Wesleyan chapel. When mum saw the original ecclesiastical windows, she had one of those moments that you see on shows such as Location, Location, Location." It's a moment he gives to graphic designer Pen Manville in Completion, when she and her adman husband, Jerry, view the house that is the novel's central character.

Just as the Walker family did in the 1980s, the fictional Manvilles invite friends over for DIY parties, refitting bathroom and kitchen - re-flooring, re-wiring, re-plumbing, re-plastering, re-roofing. While Jerry refurbishes, climaxing with a spectacular loft conversion, Pen writes a bestselling series of cute children's books, The House On The Hill, based on the lives of their children Conrad and Isobel.

Eventually, Pen divorces faithless Jerry, who accumulates more wives, more divorces and a small daughter, ending up with a midlife crisis in a sterile King's Cross penthouse. Pen remarries - not very satisfactorily - and moves to France where she creates a garden, enjoying alfresco sexual encounters with the Mellors-like handyman. Isobel fails to cope with motherhood in air-conditioned Dubai, becoming addicted to creating a virtual farm online, while Conrad lives in a squalid flat-share lusting after vintage bicycles and the unattainable Flo.

Finally, the decision is made to sell the house on the hill but it has some unwelcome tenants - and the (building) plot thickens.

It is, says Walker, surprising how many novels and plays centre on a house, from Austen to Waugh. "Pride And Prejudice, for instance. Elizabeth Bennet only accepts Darcy after seeing Pemberley! Then there is Northanger Abbey and Ian McEwan's Atonement and Brideshead Revisited." As we drain our cups, we list others - Sarah Waters's The Little Stranger, Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains Of The Day, Dickens's Bleak House, Chekov's The Cherry Orchard... "And as for the movies..." adds Walker.

After shelving his original ambition to become a film director, he reckons that being a journalist is the best job in the world. "It was 9/11 that really sparked my interest in news," he explains. The foreign correspondent may well be an endangered species, but meantime Walker gets to travel across America and to write about it. "Last month I was in Denver buying drugs. (He was covering the first sales of recreational marijuana in Colorado.) No, I didn't inhale!" he says.

His next big assignment is the Oscars ceremony, although he hopes he will still be around to cover the race to another house, the White House. "I want to still be in LA for the next American Presidential election, because I would get to follow the Republican candidate, which would be amazing."

In LA, Walker and his wife rent an apartment, which is also their office. "We spend a lot of time together," he says, looking blissfully happy. "In the States there is more of a rental economy. You have a lot more control over the property. Our place is very Art Deco - rather like this," he says gazing around the lobby of the hotel where we talk. "Oh look!" he exclaims, "We have wall lights just like those."

Their LA rental also has atmosphere in spades. Indeed, in Sam Spades, since he tells me - novelist's imagination in full flight - that he now lives in just the sort of place were you might stumble across the dead body of a beautiful dame in some film noir. Not the sort of Dashiell Hammett scenario you would find in London's latest property hot spot - Tooting.

"Yeah, Tooting is apparently the new Shoreditch," he reports, referring to the hipster East End of London. Some of his friends are opening a cocktail bar in Tooting. But that is the property market for you, the upwardly mobile arrivistes, the shock troops of gentrification, are moving to Zone 3 - "to places like Tooting where they would not even have gone in daylight 10 years ago."

Completion by Tim Walker is published by William Heinemann, priced £14.99