Those people hoping to get on to the UK housing ladder are facing record asking prices, as calm returns to the sector after last autumn’s mini-budget spooked the markets.
Rightmove, the property portal, reports that the average asking price of properties popular with first-time buyers – those with one or two bedrooms – has hit a record price of £224,963 in the last month. That is 2% higher than a year ago, even though higher mortgage rates have made homes less affordable.
The first-time buyer section of the market appears to be outpacing the rest, with sales now 4% higher than in March 2019, while the “second-stepper sector” remains 4% behind, and top-of-the-ladder property sales 3% lower than four years ago.
Tim Bannister, Rightmove’s director of property science innovation, said the increased activity in the first-time-buyer sector was “good for the health of the whole market”, as they are often the start of chains between buyers and sellers.
“However, it remains a challenging environment to get on to the ladder, with new record average asking prices and higher borrowing costs to budget for than a year ago,” Bannister added.
Overall, the number of sales agreed is 18% behind last year, as activity returned to “a more normal level”.
Across the market, asking prices are up by only 0.2% this month, to an average of £366,247, which is a “notably” smaller increase than the average increase of 1.2% for this time of year, Rightmove reports.
Tom Bill, the head of UK residential research at Knight Frank, said the steep drop in property sales that followed the shock of the mini-budget has “bottomed out”.
Bill added: “The mortgage market has stabilised and buyers increasingly accept they are in a new lending landscape after 14 years of ultra-low rates.”
Many buyers are succeeding in negotiating down sellers rather than stumping up asking prices.
The London lettings and estate agent Benham and Reeves reports that the gap between the mortgage approved price of a buyer (£271,098) and the asking price expectations of a seller (£363,416) has increased to 34.1% across the UK.
That is the largest gap seen since the third quarter of 2020, showing a mismatch between seller expectation and the reality of current market conditions, Benham and Reeves said.
Last week the Office for National Statistics reported that the average price of a house sold in the UK had dropped by £5,000 since November, to £288,000 in February.