'Signs of revival' in first-time buyers' market

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The Independent Online

First-time buyers are beginning to return to the property market following steep house price falls, figures showed today.

Mortgage website mform.co.uk said people buying their first home now accounted for 40 per cent of all mortgage applications made through its service, compared with less than 10 per cent in October last year.

The group said the increase in applications by first-time buyers came amid a rise in total applications from all groups, including people remortgaging and those moving home.

The figures support anecdotal evidence suggesting that house price falls of 16 per cent last year, combined with recent steep interest rate cuts are beginning to tempt first-time buyers back into the market.

But those hoping to buy their first home still need to save a significant deposit due to the ongoing shortage of competitively priced mortgages for people borrowing a high proportion of their home's value.

There are currently only three mortgage lenders offering home loans to people borrowing up to 95 per cent of their property's value, charging rates of around 7 per cent, and in one case a £2,499 application fee.

But there has been a slight increase in the number of deals available to people borrowing between 75 per cent and 90 per cent of their home's value, with 21 lenders currently offering these deals, up from 18 two weeks ago.

Francis Ghiloni, marketing and business development director at mform.co.uk, said: "Falling house prices are providing a boost for first-time buyers and there are signs they are coming back into the market.

"In October it looked like first-time buyers were about to disappear but since then we've seen real signs of a revival and a general rise in applications.

"However, rates above 80 per cent loan to value remain high and fees add considerably to the burden. With forecasts that house prices will continue to fall, lenders remain nervous but are perhaps just a bit less nervous than they were."

Meanwhile, 38 per cent of people saving towards a deposit for their first home said they planned to set aside more money this year, increasing the amount they saved by an average of £203 a month, according to Abbey.

A further 40 per cent of people who have not yet started saving for a deposit, plan to begin doing so this year, saving around £1,223 a month.

The average first-time buyer said they aimed to build up a £20,000 deposit, although the target sum ranged from £13,636 in the Midlands to £26,875 in London.

But despite the large sums of money potential buyers plan to save, in most regions it will not be enough to put down the 20 per cent deposit on a typical first-time buyer property that they need in order to obtain a competitive mortgage rate.

The target deposit of £26,875 that those in London are trying to save represents just 9 per cent of the average price of a flat or terraced house, while a deposit of £13,636 in the Midlands would be just 13 per cent of these property types.

However, people in the northern regions of England who reached their target of saving £18,707 would be able to put down 24 per cent of the typical price of a terraced home.

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