Is there new hope for first-time buyers?

First-time buyers could easily be forgiven for feeling daunted by the property market today. Property prices remain high while the fallout following last year’s mini budget saw inflation soar and ended years of rock bottom interest rates.

The total value of residential homes in the UK reached a record £8.68 trillion last year, representing a £425 billion increase in property values in 2022, according to Savills.
However, Charles Morley, director of mortgage distribution at Metro Bank, said these concerns need not be set in stone, and pointed to the return of stability providing a light at the end of the tunnel.

Positivity for first-time buyers

Morley said the average house price now stood at £285,476, which, alongside the cost-of-living crisis, did represent a potential challenge to first-time buyers. He added that sourcing systems suggested that last year’s turbulence had led to an increase in brokers searching for criteria such as age at the end of term, interest only and late or missed payments.
“However, we have seen greater stability over the last two months, accompanied by a welcome element of calm, and even dare I say it, some green shoots,” said Morley.
Lenders had worked hard to improve criteria and adjust loan-to-income (LTI), which had helped to stimulate a greater level of positivity across the market.
Morley believed opportunity still existed within the first-time buyer community, and pointed to the return of 95% loan-to-value (LTV) products, as well as Deposit Unlock having 50 builders signed up, including the likes of Persimmon, Taylor Wimpey and Crest Nicholson.
He added that products such as Joint Borrower Sole Proprietor also continued to be an extremely popular option for those looking to take that initial first step onto the housing ladder.
“This area of the market should not be underestimated, nor should its opportunity; activity may currently be constrained but several solutions are already available and the government will want to be seen to support first-time buyers, so I would not write off any further changes in an effort to stimulate this important sector,” Morley said.
The market was tough for first-time buyers, but the industry could help to spread an air of positivity, he countered, as it plotted a path to safer and more secure waters.

Options for first-time buyers

Charlotte Grimshaw, head of mortgages at Suffolk Building Society, said any dip in house prices was a good thing for first-time buyers, though this could also mean increased demand from potential buyers across the spectrum, which could ultimately push prices up again.
“There have been calls, notably from the Building Society Association, for the government to review the Help to Buy ISA and LISA schemes,” Grimshaw said.
She was in agreement with this, and believed it should have been looked at in the Spring Budget as these could provide important support for first-time buyers.
“First-time buyers who are struggling to get on the property ladder due to rising house prices could also consider Shared Ownership, this route helps people get around the need for a large deposit,” Grimshaw added.
Ross Williams, head of mortgage product and pricing at Hodge, said it is believed house prices would fall this year, but added that it was not necessarily going to fix the issue for first-time buyers looking to purchase.
Williams added that rising interest rates alone could see them fail on affordability, even for a starter home.
“Of course, we should not forget it is not just younger buyers who are affected, we have seen increases in the number of first-time buyers over 50, which is telling,” he said.
Williams said specialist lending was becoming increasingly common, and added that those who did not fit the stereotype had far too long been penalised in the mortgage market.
“Options such as interest only and longer mortgage terms can really help with affordability and keeping monthly costs down,” he added.