Last year we heard from the National Association of Estate Agents that sales to first-time buyers were at a six-year high which, when coupled with the news that mortgage loans to first-time buyers had increased by 20% year or year, could suggest that things are looking up for those trying to get on to the property ladder.
There is little doubt that buy-to-let landlords are out of favour with the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
David Cox, managing director of the Association of Residential Letting Agents, described the planned Stamp Duty surcharge on buy-to-let properties and other second homes, announced in the Autumn Statement, as catastrophic for the private rental sector.
This, coupled with a cap on tax relief, makes investment in property less appealing.
While I am convinced that this will not deter professional landlords, it will make one-off investors rethink, therefore giving greater choice to first-time buyers and allowing more people the opportunity to own their first home.
This is positive news for the market in that a first-time buyer often moves on after a short period of time, maybe five years, whilst a landlord can take that property out of circulation for 25 years or more.
Financially, there are also a number of initiatives to support first time buyers to enter the market such as Help to Buy and Help to Buy London which target first time buyers in the new build sector. Mortgage products are particularly attractive with some requiring as little as a 5% deposit for a five year fixed term.
And then there’s the recently launched Help to Buy ISA where saving £12,000 earns an extra £3,000 contribution from the Government, creating £15,000 to use towards a deposit. This scheme not only provides the help it’s designed to do, but also brings back a culture of saving.
It will be fascinating to see if at the end of 2016 our sector has once again become reliant on the life blood that is first-time buyers.
These factors all indicate a potential light at the end of the tunnel for some, but there has to be a note of caution that we should all heed.
The first-time buying generation only knows low interest rates. In fact a 25-year-old would have been the tender age of 16 when interest rates were as high as 5.5%! Let’s hope we don’t make the same mistakes of the past.