First-time buyers desert the market

Total first-time buyer transactions dropped to 60,900 in the first quarter of 2015 from 79,900 in the fourth quarter of 2014.

This marks the lowest quarterly total since the first quarter of 2013.

Adrian Gill, director of Your Move and Reeds Rains, played down the impact of the general election on falling first-time buyer numbers, instead focusing on the ‘serious and longer-term problem’ of a lack of housing supply.

He said: “Cheaper mortgages and a steadier property market should be boosting first-time buyers. Enthusiasm for the idea of homeownership is as strong as ever and it’s a great time to get on the ladder according to these headline fundamentals.

“Yet for many thousands of would-be new buyers there is still a very real difficulty in matching their personal finances to a home they can afford.

“First-time buyer numbers have flat-lined for two years because a lack of new homes is catching up with the property market.

“It’s not the election itself that matters most – it’s the next five years and the decades after that which will count.”

The average mortgage rate reached a 5-year low of 3.64% in March, while the average LTV was 83.5% – its highest level since April 2014.

In the first quarter of 2015 first-time buyer prices rose to £152,681, up from £149,836 in the fourth quarter of 2014.

Gill added: “Wages are now beating inflation, and that’s boosting household finances in a way not seen for half a decade. On the ground, there is a little more optimism in the air.

“But property prices are still rising faster. A wider slowdown in the property purchase market has helped to give a little breathing room for first-time buyers – and low mortgage rates are keeping monthly payments more affordable.

“However, as long as prices keep rising faster than wages the fundamentals will keep being squeezed, and buying a home will need ever more artificial support.

“Mortgage schemes like Help to Buy are welcome but will always be a temporary solution. To carry on that success, the UK’s next generation of homeowners needs faster economic progress plus far more new homes every year, so that wages can start to rise faster than property prices.”

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