Survey shows high prices and hefty deposits means two-thirds of would-be first-time buyers are unlikely to buy a home in the next five years
Two-thirds of potential first-time buyers have no realistic prospect of owning their own home in the next five years and lack the long-term saving mentality they need to get onto the housing ladder, according to a report on home ownership by one of the UK’s biggest mortgage lenders.
Owning a home has been a priority for most Britons since the 1950s when living standards began to rise, but the Halifax says that the high cost of property, strict lending rules and unwillingness of non-homeowners to save a deposit have fundamentally changed the attitudes of younger people towards home ownership.
In a survey of 8,000 people aged between 20 and 45, only 5% of those described by the Halifax as “Generation Rent” (those with no realistic prospect of getting on the housing ladder) are making spending sacrifices to save towards their first home. The remaining 95% have no spare cash, no interest in saving or are trying but failing to save.
Almost half the people questioned predicted that Britain would become a nation of renters within the next generation.
The report says that such a development would have far reaching consequences for the economy and living standards in Britain. As much of Britain’s wealth is tied up in housing, an increase in the rental sector could widen the wealth gap between homeowners and non-owners. It would also have an impact on retirement living standards, as less people would have the money in their homes to support their retirement and long-term care.
A rise in renters would also lead to a more transient population – although good in terms of labour mobility, the phenomenon would not encourage the building of strong communities.
However, the most immediate impact would inevitably be on the housing market. The report says: “In order for the market to remain sustainable, homeowners need to be able to move up the housing ladder. Without first-time buyers, there could be a standstill in the market as many people living in their first homes would not be able to move up the ladder without a first-time buyer purchasing their home.”
London is the most difficult area for aspiring homeowners to buy in, thanks to the combination of the highest property prices in Britain and increasing rental costs, reducing the amount that can be saved towards a deposit.
According to recent analysis by Findaproperty.com, first-time buyers who have no financial assistance from their parents will rent in the capital for an average of 31 years (from the age of 21, based on figures from the National Housing Federation) before buying their own home, spending £308,558 on rent. The average price of a home in London for first-time buyers is £257,249.
The average time spent renting in England is 16 years, taking the average age of the financially unassisted first-time buyer to 37. The National Housing Federation predicts this could soon rise to 43 as more people struggle to raise deposits.
Sarrah Laspa, a 29-year-old who has lived in London for seven years, regards rent as “wasted money” and would love to buy her own home, but has no disposable income left at the end of every month with which to save a deposit. She lives in Borough, a central area of south London, which is within walking distance of her legal publishing job and spends half her monthly income on rent.
“I could live further out, but then I would have to pay for public transport which would negate the benefits of cheaper housing,” she said. “And being single, it would be pointless living in the middle of nowhere.”
While the main barriers to home ownership are financial, the study found that many non-homeowners are deterred by fear of the mortgage application process, with 84% believing that banks do not want to lend to first-time buyers. Many worry that if their application for a mortgage is rejected by one bank, this would stay on their credit record and hinder further attempts to borrow.
Stephen Noakes, commercial director of mortgages at the Halifax, says the bank will publish more information about the criteria used to assess applications and explain that failed applications do not have a long-term negative impact. Home ownership rates have remained virtually static at 70% since the 1990’s, but the number of first-time buyers has slumped in the last few years as property prices increased and lenders began to demand much bigger deposits. According to figures produced by the Council of Mortgage Lenders, 36,200 first-time buyers bought a home in the first quarter of this year compared to 43,600 in the first three months of 2010. But both figures are dwarfed by the 167,400 people who became homeowners at the peak of the market in the third quarter of 2001.
The size of deposit required to buy a first home has soared. In 2000, a first-time buyer needed an average deposit of £9,865 or 14% of the property price, but this grew to an average of £28,770 or 21% of the property price by last year.
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