Our recent research into First Time Buyers caused quite a stir and although it generated plenty of daunting headlines for would-be-buyers of a home, I wanted to clarify the reasons for us commissioning the data in the first place.
Firstly, we are not phased by shining a light on our industry's failings and we are also not afraid to stare down the often brutal truths that home-owners or potential buyers and sellers face. We want to lift the kimono on our world and sometimes, as The 21st Century Story For First Time Buyers in London infographic illustrates, you might not always like what you see.
The affordable areas of London's landscape are patently shrinking and that is something we need to, if not embrace, then provide suitable options for the people who face issues like the aforementioned in today's market.
A cursory look at Monday morning's property headlines highlights how pertinent First Time Buyers are in our world. They have often been cited as the lifeblood of the housing market and yet they are being aligned with an alleged wider malaise of a looming housing crisis. They have also become an unavoidable buzzword used in political circles to curry favour:
First Time Buyers front page news:
‘London house prices: Alarm on home loans as prices surge’ Evening Standard
‘First-time buyers promised council tax cut by Tories’ BBC
'UK first time buyers now buy almost half of all homes with a mortgage' Property Wire
'First-time buyer house prices leap £12,541 in just one year' Daily Mirror
‘Deposit costs put squeeze on first-time buyers’ Introducer TODAY
‘Help-to-buy helps lock out first-time buyers’ The Guardian
The data we unearthed, courtesy of leading property experts DataLoft, revealed there has never been a harder time to buy your first property in the last 15 years. Some of the information is stark; with a budget of £250,000 you can now only afford 13% of all flats sold in Hackney, whereas 15 years ago you could afford 85%.
We can not escape these harsh realities in the current climate but there are plenty of options out there to assist a demographic I sincerely hope is not running scared from the capital. For a start, First Time Buyer products have reached their highest level since 2007. The Financial Times reported on Monday that the number of 90 and 95 percent loan-to-value mortgages now totals 723 products; the competition to engage with First Time Buyers is at an eight-year high which should be viewed positively.
Additionally the Government, for all their faults, is seemingly beginning to act on some of their election rhetoric. The new Starter Homes Initiative will help young first-time buyers under the age of 40 purchase a home with a minimum 20% discount off the market price. There is a definite, albeit, gradual movement from the powers that be to alleviate the burden. Deals for small deposit holders are available and although banks will inevitably still favour those who pose a perceived lesser risk, initiatives are there to assist them if you look hard enough. I'm delighted that lenders are slowly recognising the importance of First Time Buyers and long may this continue.
I am 32-years-old which is now the average age of a First Time Buyer in London. I feel very fortunate to have been able to take my own first tentative steps on to the property ladder. It remains one of life's great milestones and it should be one made more accessible by those with the powers to do so. I sincerely hope the industry and government, collectively and individually, begin to realise just how important this demographic is.
On a final note, and one to support the opening paragraph about not being scared to shine a light on my industry's failings, I wanted to highlight something we have been doing to try and raise industry standards. Every week the team at SellMyHome.co.uk and RentMyHome.co.uk head out across the country to ask Britain the One Question Survey; an unedited look in the mirror at what the British public think of Estate Agents. Find out what Great Britain thinks abut Estate Agents here. Remember, there is #anotherway.
Photo Credit: Main image by Alan Cleaver.