The average age for joining the property ladder in Britain has risen to above 30 in every region of the country, as surging house prices mean first-time buyers must save for longer before they can afford their own home.
Halifax, the UK’s biggest mortgage lender, said the national average for a first home purchase had risen to 32 in 2021 from 29 a decade earlier, and was above 30 for every region.
Despite a record year for growth in first-time buyers, with an increase of more than a third compared with 2020, it said rising average house prices meant waiting longer to become a homeowner than in previous generations.
The average age remains highest in London, at 33, although it has only risen by a year in the past decade. Other regions have recorded a sharper increase, including a three-year jump in Wales to 31, and a rise of two years to 30 and 31 in the north-east and north-west of England.
Esther Dijkstra, the mortgage director at Halifax, said the difficulty of raising a deposit, rising property prices and changing lifestyle factors were pushing back the date at which people bought their first home.
“Over time more people have chosen to go on to higher education, go travelling, or move around for work, which are all factors in the increase in first-time buyer age,” she said.
“However, undoubtedly, the biggest drivers are the cost of homes and the need to save a significant deposit to get on the housing ladder. In 2021, the increase in average house price to £264,140, combined with difficulties in raising a deposit, meant that the gap between purchase price and deposit widened in every region in the UK.”
Halifax said the number of people buying their first home rose at a record rate in 2021, soaring by 35% to 409,370 – the biggest jump on records dating back to 2006 – despite surging property prices.
Dijkstra said it was clear the government’s stamp duty holiday had increased the availability of first-rung homes as others moved up the property ladder. First-time buyers benefited from full relief when purchasing a home worth up to £300,000 and a reduced rate up to £500,000.
The figures come as ministers push to support first-time buyers, including through the government’s help-to-buy scheme. The Bank of England is also considering watering down mortgage affordability rules in a development that could help more people on to the property ladder.
Rates of homeownership among young adults have fallen dramatically in recent decades, plunging from a peak of 51% in 1989 to just 25% in 2016, according to the Resolution Foundation. Rates have risen slightly in recent years to 28% in 2019.
Halifax said the price of an average first-time buyer home was less than four times the average income – considered the limit for affordability under rules set by UK financial regulators – in just 15 local authorities.