Research article

Changing fortunes for buyers

In the year to the end of June 2017, there were 1.2 million transactions in the UK housing market, half a million fewer than 10 years ago. This reduction in number is one of the legacies of the credit crunch, but how is it shaping the property market? We examine what it means for four buyer types using past, present and predicted transaction data

First-time buyers

First-time buyers

Much is made of the plight of first-time buyers. Receiving significant support from the Bank of Mum and Dad and, to a lesser but still important degree, the Help to Buy scheme, they ended the 12 months to the end of June within 5% of their pre-crunch level.

The potential for further significant growth in this number, however, is limited in an age of mortgage regulation where deposits are likely to remain high. But the constraints which this imposes vary across the country, and the extremes seen in London are unrepresentative of the majority of the rest of the UK. In the South East, the constraints are less acute, but still significant. In this region, the average household income of first-time buyers exceeds £50,000, and the average mortgage stands at more than four times that figure. Meanwhile, the average deposit is a considerable £48,000. Who is able to buy is restricted by their ability to raise that kind of sum for a deposit, along with the need to have a substantial household income. There seems little capacity to stretch loan-to-income multiples much further than they already stand and, as a result, that is likely to limit growth in first-time buyers in this part of the country.

By contrast, in the North West, the average income of a first-time buyer is just over £35,000, and the average mortgage is 3.24 times that sum. The average deposit – though certainly not to be sniffed at – is considerably less, at £19,000. And, while there are still undoubted constraints to be found in this area of the UK, they are not nearly as great as those experienced by their South East counterparts.

Mortgaged home movers

Mortgaged home movers

The number of mortgaged home movers is only marginally higher than first-time buyers. Transactions have risen by less than 10% in the past five years, far less than the 29% across the housing market as whole.

In part, this activity reflects falling levels of home ownership. It also reflects a lack of earnings growth and rising levels of consumer credit that impinge on the ability to obtain a larger mortgage.

But, perhaps more crucially, it points to households moving up the housing ladder less often. This reflects the longer time it takes to build up equity to make the next move – not just with house price growth, but paying down existing mortgage debt.

A period of low house price growth will do little to help people build up sufficient housing wealth to be confident of moving up the ladder, although this should ease over the five years of our forecast period.

In London, the cost of buying a house with an extra bedroom – and the ability to get a mortgage to do so – is likely to drive demand into the commuter zone, where upsizers get more for their money.

Mortgaged buy-to-let investors

Mortgaged buy-to-let investors

Buy-to-let investors have had the triple hit of extra stamp duty, restricted tax relief on their interest payments, and mortgage regulation. This has led to a large fall in purchases of investment property by those using a mortgage.

The stamp duty surcharge has raised far more revenue for the Treasury than was envisaged, largely through the volume of cash investors. Changes seem unlikely. Meanwhile, the effect of restricted tax relief is probably yet to show its hand, given the benign interest rate environment and its staggered introduction. Mortgage regulation has had a more immediate impact since its introduction for small private landlords in January 2017 and was applied to portfolio landlords in October.

It seems likely we’ll see mortgaged buy-to-let numbers fall further, with investors looking to cheaper, higher-yielding properties to make the sums add up – often outside London and the South.

Cash buyers

Cash buyers

The number of cash buyers has become much more dominant in the market – they now account for some 34% of all house purchases, and 45% of all sums spent on house purchase. Amongst this group, investors, second-home buyers and those buying a home for other family members, now have to contend with the 3% stamp duty surcharge. All are likely to be slightly more cautious in weaker market conditions, given the additional ‘dead-money’ they will have to pay.

Cash investors, in particular, are likely to become a little more cost conscious, particularly as returns from alternative investments begin to rise in a higher interest rate environment.

Second-home buyers, who are essentially making a discretionary purchase, are likely to be more fickle, particularly compared to those looking to buy a home for a family member, where the need is likely to result in a greater urgency to purchase.

That, in turn, leaves downsizers, who we believe are likely to increase in number as they seek to release capital – either to help get their children or grandchildren on the housing ladder, or to further supplement their pensions and savings for retirement. For developers, the key will be to build suitable retirement housing to help facilitate those moves.

Table 2

TABLE 2Change for all Our forecast for buyer demographics

Source: kamaco Research

Help to Buy

Across the board, it remains to be seen exactly what will happen when Help to Buy comes to an end in 2021. The scheme is currently supporting 40,000 new house purchases a year across England, which has been underpinned by the announcement of another £10 billion of funding. Being of such importance to the housebuilding industry, we expect that it will be extended in some form.

But, concerns over the extent to which it is fuelling housebuilder profits, and its effectiveness at getting people on the housing ladder, means it may be reduced in scope. One possibility may be that it becomes more targeted.

Currently, the average person using the scheme is buying a property worth £270,000, and has a yearly household income of £53,000.

First-time buyers make up 81% of Help to Buy loans; 36% are putting down a deposit of more than 5%.

The average Help to Buy

Other articles within this publication

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Key contacts

Simon Smith

Simon Smith

Senior Director
Research & Consultancy

Two Exchange Square

+852 2842 4573


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