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Share of UK homes bought by first-time buyers expected to drop

Kalyeena Makortoff
·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Paul Springett/Alamy</span>
Photograph: Paul Springett/Alamy

The share of homes purchased by first-time buyers in the UK looks likely to drop for the first time in five years, as major banks pull low-deposit mortgages off the market in response to the Covid-19 crisis.

Forecasts released by property portal Zoopla show that, despite a surge in demand earlier this year, first-time buyers will make up around 33.9% of home purchases in the UK for 2020, down from a 10-year high of 34.9% in 2019.

If forecasts prove correct, that will mark the first decline in house sales to first-time buyers since 2015.

The report said their ability to buy a property has been affected by the economic downturn caused by Covid-19, which has resulted in a reduced availability of higher loan-to-value mortgages.

In 2019, 90%-plus mortgages accounted for around a fifth of all home loans in the UK. But since lockdown, major mortgage lenders have started to withdraw from 90%-plus lending, fearful of falling house prices and arrears. This has left a handful of lenders like HSBC shouldering much of the demand.

Earlier this month, HSBC announced it was “temporarily reserving” mortgages worth more than 85% of the value of a home to customers switching interest rates so that it could process the backlog of low-deposit mortgage applications, including from first-time buyers.

Existing homeowners looking to buy a new house are in a stronger position, and Zoopla now estimates that they will account for a larger proportion of home purchases than first-time buyers for the whole of 2020, at around 35%. It would be the first time that existing homeowners account for the largest proportion of home sales since 2017.

That trend may last into 2021, with first-time buyers expected to account for 32.2% of new home sales, versus 35.9% by existing homeowners.

Many homeowners are currently looking for more spacious housing to accommodate a shift to home working during the pandemic.

Zoopla’s research and insight director, Richard Donnell, said: “A change in the mix of buyers is supporting market conditions, with sustained demand from equity-rich existing owners seeking more space and a change in location.

“In contrast, first-time buyer demand is weakening. FTBs have been a driving force of housing sales over the last decade. They remain a key buyer group, but lower availability of higher loan-to-value mortgages and increased movement by existing homeowners means a shift in the mix of home buyers into 2021.”