The average price tag on a first-time buyer home hit a record high of £224,963 in April after edging up by 0.2% month-on-month, according to a property website.
Rightmove, which released the findings, defined typical first-time buyer homes as those with a maximum of two bedrooms, including houses and flats.
It said that agreed sales in the first-time buyer sector in March had been running around 4% higher than those seen four years earlier, in March 2019, while sales of homes higher up the housing chain were still lagging behind levels seen four years ago.
Rising rents may be encouraging some first-time buyers to make the jump onto the property ladder, despite higher mortgage rates generally having pushed up borrowing costs. There have been signs of some lenders cutting mortgage rates though in recent months.
Tim Bannister, Rightmove’s director of property science, said: “The first-time-buyer sector typically accounts for over a third of all sales, which are often the start of chains, so these positive sales agreed figures are good for the health of the whole market.
“The current multi-speed market is highlighted by sales of larger homes continuing to lag behind, with some sellers in the upper sectors likely needing to show a greater degree of pricing restraint to attract buyers in this much more price-sensitive market.
“More competition amongst lenders in the smaller deposit, higher loan-to-value ranges is positive news for those would-be first-time buyers who have saved up their deposit and can still afford to move.
“However, it remains a challenging environment to get onto the ladder, with new record average asking prices and higher borrowing costs to budget for than a year ago.”
Looking at all property types across Britain, the average price of a home coming to market increased by 0.2% or £890 in April, which was lower than the typical uplift of 1.2% seen at this time of year.
The average price tag on a home generally in April was £366,247.
Rightmove said the “unseasonal pricing restraint” is a sign that many new sellers are taking note of the economic headwinds and the transitioning of the housing market to a slower pace and more normal activity levels, last seen in the pre-pandemic market of 2019.
Mr Bannister said: “Buyers may have struggled to find a home that suited their needs in the stock-constrained market of recent years and will now find more choice available.
“However, those who have now decided to make a move should not wait around too long to make an inquiry if they see the right home for sale, as not only is the number of sales agreed now back to pre-pandemic levels, but homes are also on average selling 12 days more quickly than at this time in 2019.”
Rightmove’s report also quoted the views of estate agents.
Karl Tatler, managing director at Wirral-based Karl Tatler Estate Agents, said: “The beginning of the spring market has been a real turning point, after a difficult start to the year and following the turbulence of the last three months of 2022.
“Listing figures are comparable with last year, while viewing figures are down only slightly, which given the exceptional market of last year is quite remarkable.
“Our big focus currently, is helping our clients to understand the market conditions, which are changing so quickly.
“Available stock has now ‘normalised’, providing an increased choice of properties for buyers and our new and existing clients are having to respond by listing their homes at more competitive prices to stand out from the crowd.
“The great news is that both buyers and sellers appear to have adapted and accepted the current economic and property market conditions.
“There are now more attractive fixed-rate mortgages available, providing buyers with more confidence, and there has been a noticeable increase in sales activity.”
Ben Rose, director at Lancashire-based Ben Rose Estate Agents, said: “We’re seeing locally that the number of new instructions and sales agreed is the highest it has been for several months, and while this is not the very high level they were during the pandemic years, they are high compared to before the pandemic.”