Toby Keel November 25, 2022
A new piece of research looks at the best places for first-time buyers to get on the property ladder — but it needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, warns Toby Keel.
Two things happen when an eye-catching piece of research comes across my desk. The first is simple enough: is this new, interesting or insightful?
The second is: what have they fudged this time?
If the message falls at the first hurdle it’s simple enough to ignore, but those which make it to stage two tend to be a bit more fun. And that’s where we are with an email that came into my inbox this week courtesy of a money.co.uk survey looking at the best areas for first-time buyers.
Now, first-time buyers — or FTBs — are always interesting in terms of the property market, since they face by far the toughest job. Even getting the deposit together is brutal: the £30,000 deposit you’d ideally want for a £300,000 house (i.e. roughly the national average) equates to a year’s take-home pay for somebody earning £50,000 a year. Not that £50k would be enough to make this imaginary £300k deal happen: on a £50k salary almost all lenders would cap your borrowing at under £240,000. No wonder the average age of a first-time buyer surpassed 30 earlier this year.
Against that backdrop it’s no surprise to read that ‘89% of first-time buyers have to compromise on their first home’, according to money.co.uk’s analysis. The only puzzling thing is who the 11% are who didn’t have to compromise; presumably it’s a mixture of crypto-millionaires and those with very low expectations? As for the compromises themselves, the list is fairly much as you’d expect: FTBs accept having to do work on their houses, put up with a long commute and move into smaller-than-ideal homes further away than they’d like from friends and family.
That list, though, led the research to a good idea: where are the places in the country where first-time buyers are least likely to have to compromise? A list of criteria were put together and Chorley, in Lancashire, came out on top. Second was Selby, in North Yorkshire; and third was Rushmoor, the Hampshire district which includes places such as Aldershot and Farnborough, the town which Country Life called home from 2016 to 2020.
Recommended videos for you All well and good: these are places with relatively inexpensive housing stock (average prices are just £178,048 in Chorley — which will buy a three-bed semi like this) and generally low crime rates. But then we scanned the remainder of the criteria, and it’s, frankly bizarre: flood risk, for example, and railway stations per 10,0000 people. On that basis, it’s a surprise that the Highland village of Beauly — which has Britain’s tiniest station, serving a population of 1,400 — isn’t right at the top of the tree.
As ever with these things, though, they’re interesting in the sense that they make you think about what is and isn’t important. Maybe there really are buyers out there who put equal weight on flood risk as they do crime rate; and perhaps others are dead-set on avoiding overcrowded trains above all else.
The full table: 10 places where first-time buyers are least likely to have to compromise Rank
Average first-time buyer house price
Crime rate per 100,000 people
Median energy efficiency score
Properties at >1% risk of floods
Life Satisfaction Score
Train stations per 10,000 people
First-time buyer score /10
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