"The rapid growth in first-time buyer activity is a recovery from a lower position, rather than a substantial improvement in market conditions."
First-time buyer activity rose to from 28% to 36% of market activity in February, as buy-to-let purchases fell below 10% for the first time in five years, according to data from Connells Survey & Valuation.
First-time buyers now account for a third of activity in the property market – the highest proportion since July 2011.
In contrast to the resurgent market for first-time buyers, the buy-to-let purchase market fell to a new low in February. Continuing the decline seen in recent months, buy-to-let purchases almost halved in February compared to the previous year. February 2016 did see an upswing in activity ahead of the stamp duty surcharge, but buy-to-let purchases now represent just 8% of market activity – the lowest level for February in over five years.
However, the increase does not mean the Government has succeeded in boosting the prospects of first-time buyers long-term, says Connells Survey & Valuation. The surge from 28% last February to 36% this February is only marginally higher than the 10 year average.
Over the course of the last decade first-time buyers have been responsible, on average, for 35% of the market. And the 36% of valuations that first-time buyers represented in February 2017 pales into insignificance compared to the 41% peak in February 2010.
John Bagshaw, corporate services director of Connells Survey & Valuation, said: “The stamp duty surcharge has succeeded in helping first-time buyers at the expense of landlords. But this may well be temporary. Less competition for today’s first-time buyers comes at the expense of tomorrow’s. Most people rent as they save for a deposit, but the steady investment into the rental market is running dry. With limited new homes being built for the PRS, rents will soon start to rise. This will devour tenants’ disposable income which would otherwise have been saved for a deposit. The problem will be exacerbated next month as mortgage tax relief is removed, forcing more landlords to exit the market or ramp up rents.
“The rapid growth in first-time buyer activity is a recovery from a lower position, rather than a substantial improvement in market conditions. It’s important to not just look at the snapshot numbers but take into account the long-term trends. It’s still incredibly difficult to get on the property ladder. Most aspiring home owners will tell you about the Herculean challenges they face to save for a deposit. Despite all the Help to Buy programmes, first-time buyer activity is only 1% higher than it has been, on average, over the last decade.
“We may be in the eye of the storm in Britain’s housing market – a brief period of calm before the turbulence begins again. The base rate can’t stay on the floor forever. With Brexit approaching, economic conditions may get tougher. First-time buyers may need to board the ladder now before it’s hoisted up again.”