What worries first-time homebuyers the most?

Research shows shift in buyer needs following the pandemic.

The rising cost-of-living and access to a mortgage are the biggest concerns for first-time homebuyers, but having a garden at home is still the top priority for them.

New research from Newcastle Building Society revealed that 44% of those looking to buy a home in the next 18 months were worried about getting a mortgage. In the South East, where property prices are amongst the highest, 56% expressed concern about getting a mortgage.

Four in 10 (40%) said the rising cost of living was a worry, increasing to 51% of those still living with family.

Meanwhile, the same survey also found that the top priority for aspiring first-time buyers is a garden (61%), followed by a safe neighbourhood (55%).

The lender says this reflects a shift in first-time buyer needs following the pandemic, including the move to continue remote or hybrid working.

Natural light (31%) is now more sought-after than good transport links (26%), while closeness to friends and family (34%) is driving more buying decisions than being in the catchment area of a good school (22%).

The survey also asked aspiring first-time buyers for their top reasons for buying a home. Nearly half (48%) said they wanted the security of owning their own home, while 43% said renting felt like a waste of money.

Half of respondents in the South East said a priority was getting a foot on the property ladder, compared to just 30% in the West Midlands. 

Ben Nicholson, a 24-year-old accountant, said having a nice garden was one of their top priorities when they looked for their first home.

“We were really keen for a south-facing garden and somewhere not too overlooked that would be a nice space to entertain and socialise with friends and family,” he said.

He and partner Rosanna Duarte (both pictured) moved into their first home together in early 2022, after taking a First Homes mortgage with Newcastle Building Society. They bought their three-bedroom home in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.

Having originally considered the Help to Buy scheme, they became among the first people to buy a home through the government’s new First Homes scheme, which offers a discount of up to 50% on new build properties. Newcastle Building Society is one of the first lenders to support the innovative scheme as part of its drive to help first-time and low-deposit borrowers across the UK.

“We were definitely worried about the rising cost-of-living – especially because we’d never really had to pay bills before, but with fixed mortgage repayments for the next five years we’ve got a bit more certainty and we’re just being sensible with energy use to make sure we’re as efficient as possible,” 22-year-old NHS physiotherapy assistant Duarte said.

Stuart Miller, chief customer officer at Newcastle Building Society, said it is no surprise that after more than two years of dealing with the pandemic, first-time buyers are prioritising a garden more than anything else.

He found it interesting that homebuyers consider having a good broadband connection more important than being close to work.

“The ongoing cost-of-living rises are clearly top of mind for first-time buyers, especially for those who’ve been living at home and not had to deal with bills. To provide greater certainty around their household budget, we’re seeing more and more people looking to fix mortgage repayments for the long term – up to 10 years in some cases,” Miller said.

The research for Newcastle Building Society’s Home Happiness Index 2022 was carried out online by Opinion Matters between February 23 and March 01, 2022, among a panel resulting in 1,066 respondents wanting or planning to buy their first property in the next 18 months. It aimed to explore first-time buyers’ hopes and fears since the pandemic.

Written by: Houseladder