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First-Time Buyers: Retreating or Returning?


First-Time Buyers have been in the news this week with a report from the Council of Mortgage Lenders, (CML), stating that last month saw a 10 month high in the numbers of first timers purchasing, although still down from this time last year.

This was contradicted by a Rightmove report that stated that First-Time numbers were dropping seriously, with only 23% of those looking to buy in the next 12 months being first timers, whilst 7 out of the 11 UK regions now in “first-time buyer blackspot” territory. The exception was of course London, which was still holding up.

Summoned to the BBC on Saturday to try to explain this, my view is that whilst the way the media report these stories sometimes blurs the differences, they are actually measuring different things, with the CML looking at actual loans taken last month and Rightmove looking at those who intend to buy.

So, having just come out of a more active period, which is reflected in the CML stats. for last month, we are now entering a quieter stretch, with the summer lull exacerbated by the financial situation in recent weeks. Therefore, the forward-looking Rightmove stats. are also not so surprising.

In other words, both surveys are correct but you can see how the average consumer is easily confused when faced with contradictory headlines on separate days.

There is some definite good news however, with Halifax indicating that first-time buyer affordability is at its highest since 2003.

On top of this, Moneyfacts has reported that the number of products available at higher Loan-To-Values, (LTV’s) are the highest since the crises began. In February 2009 there were just 3 products available at 95% LTV, now there are 35; whilst the number of 90% LTV products are up from a low of 71 to reach 275, representing a good deal of choice.

The cost of such products have also steadily reduced over the past few months and whilst they may appear expensive at first glance compared to the low Bank of England Base Rate, historically speaking these are still competitive deals.

Whilst affordability and choice seem to be improving the issue is still the number of properties available and the number of lenders who, whilst advertising the higher LTV products, make it difficult to actually obtain them.

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