There was an estimated 310,000 first-time buyers last year, according to the annual Halifax First-Time Buyer Review.
Although this represents a marginal decline (-0.5%) from 311,700 in 2014 – the first annual decline in the number of first-time buyers since 2011 – the number has grown by 60% since 2011, from 193,700 to 310,000.
The Halifax explained that the marginal decline in first-time buyers is in line with general residential house purchases, and is partly due to lack of supply.
The average price paid by first-time buyers increased by 10% in 2015, from £172,563 to £190,180, taking the price above the previous peak in 2007 (£174,994) for the first time.
The average deposit paid by a first-time buyer 13% higher than a year ago. The average first-time buyer deposit in 2015 was £32,927; 13% higher than in 2014 (£29,094) and 88% higher than the average deposit in 2007 (£17,499). Higher house prices paid by first-time buyers during the year has resulted in an increase in the average deposit paid. In the South East the average deposit paid rose by 24% in the past year, from £35,582 to £44,024.
The average first-time buyer deposit is highest in Greater London, at £91,409, five-and-half times more than in Northern Ireland (£16,578; the lowest).
The Halifax said that while a mortgage term of 25 years has been the norm for some time, many first-time buyers are increasingly taking out mortgages where payments are spread over a longer period. In 2007 the proportion of first-time buyers taking up a 35-year mortgage stood at 16%. By 2015 this figure had grown to 26%. Over the same period, the share of mortgages with a 20 to 25 year term dropped from 48% to 30%.
Despite higher house prices, the proportion of disposable earnings devoted to mortgage payments by a first-time buyer stood at 32% in Q3 2015. The Halifax said this is a substantial improvement compared with the summer of 2007 when this figure reached a peak of 50%. Record low mortgage rates, coupled with earnings growth, are the key drivers behind this improvement.
Craig McKinlay, mortgages director at Halifax, said: “For the second year in succession, the number of buyers getting on the first rung of the housing ladder has reached 310,000. Although the average price of the typical first-time buyer home has grown by 10% in the past year, the number of buyers taking that first step onto the housing ladder has been supported by favourable economic conditions; namely, record low mortgage rates, rising employment and real pay growth.”
First-time buyers accounted for 46% of all house purchases made with a mortgage in 2015; the same as in 2014. This share has grown from 36% at the start of the housing downturn in 2007.
Based on the average price paid by first-time buyers, most regions have benefited from the Stamp Duty changes in December 2014. The largest saving is made by first-time buyers in London with someone buying at the average first-time buyer price of £367,990 now paying £8,399 in stamp duty fees compared to £11,039 before the change – a difference of £2,640.
Buyers in most of the northern regions, as well as those in Scotland, are making substantial savings of over £1,000. With an average house price below the lower threshold of £125,000, typical first-time buyers in the North, Wales and Northern Ireland still pay no stamp duty.
McKinlay added: “Whilst affordability has improved since 2007, in many parts of the country the ratio of the average house price to earnings is still significantly above the long-term average of 4.0. This is a concern as it could prevent many potential buyers from entering the market.”