First time buyers often still need to scrape together £50,000 deposits

Official figures recently revealed that first time buyers in areas around the country are reputedly still having to find a crippling £50,000 deposit in order to jump on to the property ladder. In addition, newcomers need to be earning an average of over £40,000 a year for the requisite mortgage. This relative to the £4,500 deposit needed fifteen years ago and the corresponding salary figure of just £18,000 a year.

The statistics, compiled by the Department for Communities and Local Government, have triggered more worry over the troubled first-time market and come at a time not long after this controversial statement reputedly from Nationwide’s Matthew Wyles:
“As a lender, we would rather lend 75% loan-to-value on a buy-to-let mortgage to an experienced buy-to-let investor, than to a first-time-buyer at 95% LTV”.

In other words, even the building societies, whose stated function was once to enable those on low incomes to buy their own homes, are not consciously focusing their support on the first time buyers that need the most help, instead directing their attentions towards the wealthy landlords who can afford a 40% deposit. When you consider the level of student debt becoming de rigueur in these times, it is growing increasingly apparent that many young couples will have to wait until their late thirties before they can fling themselves, at long last, on to the bottom rungs of the British property ladder.

Westcountry MP Alison Seabeck, Labour’s housing spokesman, said:
“I worry that here in the South West, stuck between high rents, tight credit and low savings, there is a vicious cycle keeping younger people from achieving their aspiration of somewhere to call their own.”

It is a problem the seriousness of which originates not just in its effects on dejected buyers, but on the economy as a whole. A stable housing market requires people on the lower rungs of the ladder to be able to buy so that those above can transfer to larger, family size homes. With more people renting to keep a roof over their heads; reductions in home ownership are inevitable, depleting a major driver of the economy. Tenants will spend as little as possible to keep costs down, renters won’t invest in new decorations and utilities in a flat they see as temporary and all the while the economy at large suffers.

Some experts are imploring the government to assert influence over the part owned high street banks to ensure that lending increases to first time buyers. Some call for quotas to make doubly sure. But action has recently been established to provide some assistance in the form of Grant Shapps’ FirstBuy scheme. Through FirstBuy, the Government and housebuilders together will offer a 20% equity loan, which alongside a 5% deposit from the buyer will enable them to take out a 75% mortgage on the rest of the property. Loans are repayable on resale, with the Government’s share available for reinvestment in affordable housing.

The majority of mutuals (building societies) are still determinedly stoic in the face of negative equity, falling credit standards and a severe shortage of funds and do still lend to first time buyers. Many believe that the market should receive greater support from the banking sector (both private and “government” owned) to compliment the limited efforts now being made directly by the Government.

Whatever happens, it is sure that the boosting of the first time buyer market will greatly assist the fragile economy as a whole and help an already burdened younger generation.

29th June 2011