First-time buyers 'at near twenty year low'

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The Independent Online

The number of first-time buyers in the UK remained at near 20-year lows over the past 12 months and the latest stamp duty boost is unlikely to help them get on the property ladder, according to research today.

GfK's Financial Research Survey suggests 347,000 people took out a mortgage for the first time in the year to February 2010.

This is up slightly on the 331,374 seen the year before - which marked the first reading below 350,000 since the survey began in 1993.

But the number of first-time buyers has failed to lift significantly despite last year's stamp duty holiday on properties costing up to £175,000.

The figure also compares with a high of more than 700,000 in 2004/5 and an annual average of 561,000, while it is 100,000 fewer than the lows seen in the recession of the early 1990s, said GfK.

The group added that onerous deposit requirements would mean the Government's recent move to offer stamp duty relief to all first-time buyers on properties up to £250,000 would not provide much support.

Banks are demanding far higher deposits since the credit crunch struck, meaning that first-time buyers must often save tens of thousands of pounds before they can get a foot on the ladder.

This, coupled with rising house prices, has seen the average age of a first-time buyer rise to 32 compared to 31 in 1991, said GfK.

"Lack of deposit capital is at the root of this problem, as fewer than one in six hold sufficient funds to make the necessary down-payment," said GfK.

"This shortfall makes it unlikely that the increased stamp duty allowance will have any effect on young people's prospects for home ownership."

But as first-time buyer numbers are in decline, GfK has found that an increasing proportion of first-time mortgages are being granted to the over-50s as baby-boomers buy up properties for their children, who are 'locked out' of the housing market.

Many over 50s are also buying properties for themselves as retirement investments, putting further pressure on the housing market and affordability for first-time buyers.

Ben Steer financial director at GfK said: "Increased prudence on the part of lenders has priced many out of the housing market - the challenge for these financial providers is to create products which will assist young people, without creating the conditions that sparked the crisis in the first place."

GfK's Financial Research Survey polls 60,000 Britons each year, since launch in February 1993.

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