Mortgages  

First-time buyer fortunes improve in February

First-time buyer fortunes improve in February

Sales to first-time buyers reached their highest point in February since September 2014, new data has revealed, however property supply is failing to meet the demand.

According to the National Association of Estate Agents, 30 per cent of house sales in February went to first-time buyers; sales to first-time buyers have not reached higher than 30 per cent since records began in 2009.

Findings in February also showed that demand for property is up, with 366 house hunters registered per NAEA member branch, up from 353 in January.

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With supply marginally down, from 44 houses per branch to 43 in February, there is still a significantly higher demand than supply of housing.

The total number of sales agreed in February remained the same as previous months, with eight house sales going through per NAEA member branch.

Mark Hayward, NAEA’s managing director, said the ease in pressure for those making their first steps on the property ladder could be down to reduced property prices or more accessible funding, especially following December’s stamp duty reforms.

“We will all be waiting with bated breath to see if the first-time buyer figures increase following the new Help to Buy Isa and whether we see real momentum in the market.

“It still remains notoriously hard to get cut-through in the property market, especially for first- time buyers, so any green shoots are encouraging.”

Looking ahead to the general election in May, 46 per cent of NAEA member agents have seen the market cooling in the lead up, with 27 per cent of agents thinking the vote will have the biggest impact on housing this year.

Mr Hayward added demand is still vastly outweighing supply, so it is clear something needs to be done to aid this growing problem.

“It will be interesting to see the outcome of this year’s general election, but whoever wins it is vital that building more affordable homes is top of their agenda.”

A spokesperson for the Council of Mortgage Lenders said that as it does not track house sales, it could not verify NAEA’s data.

However, it did confirm that gross lending in January was £14.8bn - including remortgage and buy-to-let remortgage - and first-time buyers accounted for £2.8bn of that, but of course this does not take into account cash purchases. Of home-owner house purchase, first-time buyers take up 46 per cent, according the CML.

In January, Halifax revealed that the number of first-time buyers grew by an estimated 22 per cent last year, similar to the 23 per cent increase in 2013 and taking the total volume of transactions back to levels last seen in 2007. There were an estimated 326,500 first-time buyers in 2014, up from 268,500 in 2013.

peter.walker@ft.com