First time buyers are supporting the UK housing market

Half of all property purchase valuations in July in the UK were made on behalf of first time buyers, some 6% higher than the five year average, according to the latest research.

The findings from the Connells Survey & Valuation monthly report suggest that the significant upswing in first time buyer borrowing seen by UK Finance in June has continued through the summer.

First time buyers took out 36,000 loans in June, up 22% month on month and 6% year on year, reaching its highest level since November 2006.

‘Demand from first time buyers is supporting the housing market at the moment. People are eager to get on the property ladder, with record high employment and competitive mortgage rates. But this doesn’t mean it’s an easy task to get a foothold in the market. Economic conditions are still tough,’ said John Bagshaw, corporate services director of Connells Survey & Valuation.

‘The increasing cost of living and house price inflation are making it harder to save for a deposit. House prices are around eight times higher than earnings and they’re rising twice as fast. With the value of a typical property rising £10,000 in a year, first time buyers still need help. Perhaps they could be given an exemption from stamp duty,’ he added.

While the importance of first time buyers to the market is increasing, buy to let activity has declined with fewer new landlords entering the market. The report says that Government policies, including the stamp duty surcharge and reduction in buy to let mortgage relief, have reduced the incentive to invest in the rental market.

‘People are still investing in the buy to let sector, but they’re typically existing landlords looking to expand their portfolio and increase profits to offset increasing tax bills. But the stamp duty surcharge, combined with the reduction in buy to let mortgage tax relief is potentially dissuading new small scale, amateur landlords from entering the market,’ Bagshaw explained.

‘This should be a concern for the Government, as fewer landlords will mean less competition in the lettings market. As housing policy is no longer entirely focused on increasing homeownership with the Government accepting the need for a healthy rental sector, they should think again about policies which hold it back. Of course, a serious step-up in house building would help everyone in the market,’ he pointed out.

As purchasing property falls back to 62% of activity in the mortgage valuations market, remortgaging has risen to 36% in July, the research shows and remortgaging is 10% higher than the five year average for July. The report says this suggests that the lower mortgage rates coming to the market as a result of lender competition are helping those looking to refinance more than those purchasing property.

According to Bagshaw, the growth in remortgaging suggests consumers looking to refinance are benefiting from lender competition. ‘A large number of those remortgaging are going onto long-term, fixed-rate mortgages to lock in to attractive deals,’ he said.

‘Many feel there could be an economic storm on the horizon as we leave the European Union, and there also are concerns over a base rate rise. In the purchase market, the shortage of housing stock means people are finding it harder to see their next move,’ he added.

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