It's always going to be a challenge to take that first step on the housing ladder, but happily, it seems that more first-time buyers are able to take the plunge – and thanks to the expected reduction in interest from landlords, it looks as though things could get even better in the months to come.
New figures from the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) show that sales to first-time buyers (FTBs) rose in March, with 28% of total sales being made to this sector of the market. This is an increase of four percentage points from February, and it's expected to rise further: 39% of estate agents surveyed expect the buy-to-let (BTL) stamp duty reforms to increase availability for FTBs as landlords back away from the market, further boosting sales for the group.
Indeed, 36% of estate agents believe that sales to FTBs will continue to pick up as there'll be less competition for properties, with landlords potentially being dissuaded from buying in order to avoid the extra 3% stamp duty charge. Given that many BTL investments are homes typically suited to first-time buyers, this has got to be good news for the sector.
Supply is already increasing, with the figures showing that the number of houses available for sale soared by 54% in March, up from 35 available properties per branch to 54. At the same time, demand dipped notably, with an average of 417 house hunters registered per member branch, down from the 12-year high of 463 in February, perhaps as landlords are already leaving the market.
In even better news for those struggling to not be priced out, estate agents also reported a decrease in the number of properties selling for more than the asking price, with just 7% seeing this happen in March, down from 11% in February.
Mark Hayward, managing director of NAEA, commented on the findings: "In the last few months FTBs have had to compete with landlords for the same properties, and those landlords have really pushed hard to complete ahead of the rise in stamp duty. Now, in theory, things should get easier for FTBs – as we have seen with a slight increase in sales this month – as those seeking to buy to let will tail off."
However, he points out that FTBs may not notice a huge difference in the long term "as prices remain high and housing is in short supply", but it's hoped that the Government will stick to its promise of increasing the number of homes being built. This will hopefully bring the balance of supply and demand into closer alignment, but for the time being, any boost in FTB sales will surely come as welcome news – and if you find the right mortgage, you may find that first step becomes even easier!
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