First-time buyers offered half-price homes under new scheme

First-time buyers in England could be offered half-price homes through a new government scheme to help people get on the property ladder.

A new government scheme offering local first time buyers and key workers a 30% to 50% discount on the purchase of their first home has launched.

Designed to help those struggling to afford a property in their local area, the First Homes initiative kicked off in the Bolsover district of Derbyshire at the end of last week.

Further sites are set to follow over the next few weeks, with an additional 1,500 homes joining the scheme this autumn.

The government has pledged a further 10,000 properties will be added to the First Homes scheme every year.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said: “Thanks to First Homes, we will offer more homes to local people and families, providing a route for first-time buyers to stay in their local areas, rather than being forced out due to rising prices.”

How does the scheme work?

Under the First Homes scheme, a portion of new homes being built will be sold to first-time buyers who meet the eligibility criteria.

They will be sold at a minimum discount of 30% of the open market price, although in some cases that discount could rise to 40% or even 50%.

When the property comes to be sold again, the same discount will be passed on to the next buyer, who must also be purchasing their first property and meet the other eligibility criteria, to ensure the homes will always be available to the local community at below market value.

Prices for the first sale are capped at £250,000, rising to £420,000 in Greater London, after the discount has been applied.

Several national and regional lenders, including big names such as Halifax and Nationwide, have agreed to provide 95% mortgages on properties being purchased under the scheme.

Who is eligible for First Homes?

The scheme is available to first-time buyers in England who are either local or key workers, or in the Armed Forces.

The definition of key workers includes doctors, nurses and teachers, as well as delivery drivers and supermarket staff.

Councils will be able to prioritise homes for key workers who have supported their community through the pandemic, while they can also set their own definition of a key worker to attract people in professions that are considered to be essential to their local area.

Individual local authorities can also set a local connection test for the properties, which may include people who live or work in the area, have family connections to it or need to live there due to special circumstances, such as caring responsibilities.

The scheme is also open to all current members of the Armed Forces, as well as divorced, separated or widowed spouses, and veterans who apply within five years of leaving the forces.

If a property is being purchased by a couple, both individuals must be first-time buyers with a combined annual household income of less than £80,000, rising to £90,000 in Greater London.

At least 50% of the purchase must be funded through a mortgage.

What’s the background?

First Homes is part of the government’s wider pledge to deliver one million new affordable homes by 2024 to help more people get on to the property ladder.

It follows the launch earlier this year of the 95% mortgage guarantee scheme which aims to increase the availability of mortgages for people with just a 5% deposit.

To coincide with the launch of First Homes, the government has also started a new campaign called ‘Own Your Home’ to highlight the support that is available for people getting on to the property ladder.

The campaign consists of a series of broadcast, digital and radio adverts flagging up schemes such as the Help to Buy equity loan, Shared Ownership and Right to Buy.

It is being backed by the Own Your Home website, which acts as a single gateway for aspiring homeowners to get information on the schemes that are available and to help them decide which one is right for their needs.

Top three takeaways

  • First-time buyers in England could be offered half-price homes through a new government scheme to help people get on the property ladder
  • Under the First Homes initiative, local first-time buyers and key workers will be able to purchase a property at a discount of between 30% and 50% of the market price
  • When the property is sold, this discount is passed on to the next buyer

More than half of homeowners live in homes that fail to meet their needs

From pets buried in the garden to the draw of the local coffee shop or pub, our survey lifts the lid on what's stopping people from moving.

Just over half of UK homeowners claim to be stuck in a home that doesn't meet their needs.

The average homeowner says they would need a further £125,000 on top of the current value of their home in order to afford somewhere that's suitable for them.

Our survey of 2,400 homeowners also revealed that people typically stay in their home for more than four years after realising it's no longer right for them.

And when asked what finally prompted them to pluck up the courage to move, 25% of homeowners pointed to an increase in income, while 19% said having children made it vital.

Consumer spokesperson said: “We were blown away to see just how many Brits are living in homes that they don’t feel are right for the needs of themselves and their family.”

Why do homeowners feel their homes no longer meet their needs?

The need for more space was the key reason for why homes were no longer suitable, with 40% of homeowners surveyed citing this as a factor.

Meanwhile 25% said they were stuck in an area in which they did not want to live, and 23% said not having dedicated space in which to work from home was an issue.

The survey comes as many people reassess what they need from a home in light of the pandemic and successive lockdowns.

With working from home for at least part of the week likely to become the norm for many people, the need to have a dedicated space in which to work has increased as a priority, while many people feel they just need more space at home generally.

At the same time, not having to commute into the office every day means areas that are close to work or good transport links no longer hold the same appeal as they once did.

So what is stopping homeowners from moving?

Among those who said they live in a home that was not suitable for them, 39% said being unable to find somewhere that was right for them within their budget was the main factor stopping them from moving.

A quarter of those who did not like their home also said the cost of moving was a barrier preventing them from buying somewhere else.

Emotional ties

While some homeowners are unable to move for financial reasons, others feel tied to their current home for emotional ones.

Around 27% of those surveyed said they had an emotional attachment to their home, while 55% of parents said their children were attached to it.

Among this group, 13% of parents said they could not move from their current home because it would upset their children too much, and 36% said they could not bear to leave the home in which they had brought up their children.

One in five homeowners said they liked their neighbours too much to move, while 8% said they could not leave their property because they had buried pets in their garden.

Lure of the neighbourhood

Meanwhile, for many homeowners, their love of the neighbourhood prevented them from moving. Among these, 26% said their fondness of their local pubs stopped them from relocating, and 21% felt the same way about their local coffee shop.

What could it mean for you?

Our recent research showed that half of homeowners undervalue their property by an average of £46,000.

So if you think you can’t afford to move, it’s worth getting to grips with the current value of your home as you may be in for a nice surprise.

Top 3 takeaways

  • Just over half of UK homeowners claim to be stuck in a home that fails to meet their needs
  • The average person says they would need an additional £125,000 on top of the current value of their home in order to afford somewhere that is suitable for them
  • Homeowners typically stay in their current home for more than four years after realising it is no longer appropriate for them

House prices rise at four times the rate of flats

Hot property alert! The pandemic-led ‘search for space’ and shift to working from home has fuelled buyer demand for houses.

Strong demand from prospective buyers for family homes is causing the price of houses to climb at more than four times the rate of flats.

The average cost of a house rose by 5.2% over the last year, while the value of flats inched ahead by just 1.1% over the same timescale, according to our latest House Price Index.

Buyer appetite for houses, which typically have higher prices than flats, is helping to fuel what is set to be a record-breaking year in the housing market.

More than 1.5 million homes are expected to change hands this year, a staggering 45% more than in 2020. And the total value of homes sold is expected to reach £461bn, up 68% compared with 2019.

Why is this happening?

The ‘search for space’ has been a key feature of the housing market during the pandemic, with successive lockdowns prompting many people to carry out a once-in-a-lifetime reassessment of their homes and lifestyles.

Spending more time at home has led to a desire for more space, both inside and out, particularly for families trying to homeschool and work from home.

And many older homeowners are also reevaluating their housing and lifestyle needs and moving for the first time in many years.

Meanwhile, the stamp duty holiday has provided an added impetus for many people to move more generally. The tax break means buyers pay no tax on the first £500,000 of a property purchase until the end of June, before the threshold drops to £250,000 for a further three months.

This weight of demand has led to houses selling within an average of just 42 days – three weeks quicker than flats.

What’s the background?

Successive lockdowns and the shift in working patterns is having a two-fold impact on the housing market.

On the one hand, it has changed the features people prioritise in their home, as they become more focused on having a larger property with dedicated space in which they can work and get good broadband connections.

At the same time, if workers are freed up from having to travel into the office every day, living close to where they work or in a location with good transport connections becomes less of a priority.

With many companies announcing plans to continue to offer flexible working to employees for at least part of the week, houses are likely to continue to be hot property.

The ‘search for space’ trend still has further to run, according to Head of research. And it’s a sentiment shared by a member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee in a speech recently.

"The easing of lockdowns will continue to cause a natural fall in demand as people are able to see family and enjoy amenities that have been shut for more than a year.

"But new buyer demand will still emerge throughout the second half of the year as office-based workplaces confirm if they will be pursuing more flexible working practices," Gilmore explained.

"Households who have the opportunity to commute less frequently have more options when it comes to choosing where to live, and this could prompt a move.

"Likewise, older households will continue to review how and where they are living, with many more set to move for the first time in years.

"With an increased array of mortgages to choose from, first-time buyers will also remain active in the market."

What could this mean for you?

The mismatch between the levels of buyer demand and homes for sale means that if you have a house to sell, particularly a family home, you are likely to be in a great position to agree a sale quickly.

Things could be trickier if you try to coordinate the sale of your current home with the purchase of a new one, due to the shortage of properties currently on the market.

However, more homes are expected to be put up for sale as further lockdown restrictions ease and the vaccine roll-out continues.

Buyers

With demand from potential buyers outstripping the level of homes for sale, if you’re looking to step onto, or up the housing ladder, you’re likely to face competition.

And it’s likely to be tougher if you’re looking to buy a house, particularly a three-bedroom family home, the most coveted property type.

So get organised to give yourself the best chance of securing the home you want.

Pull together any paperwork you will need for the purchase and try to secure a mortgage offer in principle to put you in a good position to move quickly when you do spot something you like.

If you complete on a property – in other words, legally transfer ownership – before 1 October, you could benefit from the stamp duty holiday too.

Top three takeaways

  • Strong demand for family homes is causing the price of houses to climb at more than four times the rate of flats
  • The average cost of a house rose by 5.2% in the last year, while the value of flats inched ahead by just 1.1%
  • Buyer appetite for houses has contributed to the estimated total value of homes that will change hands this year soaring by 68% compared with 2019

Renters return to city centres as lockdown restrictions ease

The revival comes as offices start to reopen and rental affordability improves, particularly in London where it has hit a 10-year high.

A three-speed rental market is emerging across the country as renters start to return to city centres.

One year on since the housing market reopened, the pandemic-led drop-off in demand for rental homes in city centres is starting to bounce back as lockdown restrictions lift.

Major city centres

Demand for rental homes in central Edinburgh soared by 26% in the month after Easter, while it is 12% higher in central Leeds and 5% higher in central Manchester.

There is a seasonal element to this trend, but the rise in demand in these city centres has outpaced the growth in wider commuter zones over the same timescale.

Rental affordability has also improved in most cities, with rents in Manchester now accounting for 28% of a single earner’s income, down from 30% in March 2019.

The exception to this demand trend is Birmingham, where it has slowed since Easter – after a much stronger period through February and March across the wider city.

London

A similar pattern can be seen in central London, where rental demand is up 7% in the month since Easter.

Rental falls in London bottomed out in February, with overall rents in the capital now down 9.4% in the year to March.

Rents in London are now at their most affordable in 10 years. They account for 42% of a single earner’s income, down from 49% last March, and a peak of 53% in the last months of 2016.

Average rents in the City of London, Kensington and Chelsea, and Westminster, have fallen to their lowest levels in a decade, with Westminster rents running at £2,259 per month - down from £2,617 per month in February last year.

What's the background?

The impact of the pandemic was felt most acutely in city centre rental markets, as people searched in less urban areas for homes with more space, both inside and out.

Central Edinburgh, Leeds, Manchester and London were at the forefront of the rental slowdown, as offices were shut and a hiatus in tourism took hold.

It drove a softening of rents in these city centres, which are still down on the year by 0.7% in Leeds, 1.1% in Manchester, 3.2% in Edinburgh and 9.9% in London.

However, the city centre downturn is starting to reverse as the economy opens up, workers start to return to offices, leisure activities restart, and renters return in search of a rental bargain.

Who could it mean for you?

Landlords

With rental demand building particularly in city centres as lockdown eases and offices start to reopen, if you have a rental property in one of these areas, you could be in a good position to let it.

Tenants

Affordability has improved in most cities, and many renters in the capital are looking to lock in the current affordability for as long as possible. Estate agents have reported an increased number of tenancies for longer than 12 months being agreed in London.

What’s the outlook?

Gráinne Gilmore, head of research at Zoopla, said: “Demand will continue to rise in city centres as offices start to reopen and this, coupled with increased affordability levels in many cases, will start to counter the negative pressure on rents seen over the last 12 months.

“In London, where rents are down 9.4% on the year, a modest reversal in rental declines has begun, but it will be a slow build back to pre-pandemic levels in inner London. The recovery will be uneven and we expect new or recently refurbished properties to attract higher levels of demand in the second half of the year.”

Top three takeaways

  • Rental demand is bouncing back in city centres as lockdown restrictions are lifted and offices start to reopen
  • It's led to a three-speed rental market emerging: major city centres, London, and wider commuter zones and beyond
  • In central London, rents in several boroughs have fallen to their lowest level for a decade, tempting tenants back

Housing market on course for busiest year since global financial crisis

The stamp duty holiday and the pandemic-led 'search for space' are set to lead to the highest level of homes changing hands for 14 years.

The housing market is on course for its busiest year since the global financial crisis as the scramble for properties continues.

More than 1.5 million homes are expected to change hands this year, a staggering 45% more than in 2020, according to our latest House Price Index.

With the number of housing sales each year rarely exceeding 1.2 million over the last decade, this would mark the highest level of housing market activity since 2007.

As well as breaking a recent record, 2021 looks set to be one of the top 10 busiest years since 1959.

Meanwhile, the total value of homes sold in 2021 is expected to reach £461bn – up 46% or £145bn compared with 2020, and 68% compared with 2019.

While this is largely being driven by the sheer volume of homes changing hands, it is also due to more expensive properties selling amid the pandemic-led 'search for space'.

What’s happening to house prices?

House price growth has almost doubled during the past year to stand at 4.1% in April, up from 2.3% in the same month of 2020, as demand from potential buyers continues to outstrip the supply of homes on the market.

House price growth is strongest in areas where affordability is greatest. Wales leads the way at a regional level, with house prices up 6.3% year-on-year, followed by Yorkshire and the Humber at 5.4% and the north west at 5.3% respectively.

At a major city level, Liverpool and Manchester have seen the highest levels of house price growth for the fifth month in a row at 6.9% and 6.8% respectively – twice the level recorded in the more normal markets seen between 2017 and 2019.

However, price growth is slower in southern regions where affordability is more stretched.

London recorded the slowest regional rate of house price growth for the sixth month running at 1.9%, well below 3.5% seen in the south west and east of England.

House prices in the heart of London are almost unchanged year-on-year. And a number of boroughs have actually seen price falls, reflecting the softening of buyer appetite in the capital during the peak of the pandemic.

Property values are 2.5% lower than a year ago in the City of London, while in the City of Westminster they are down 2.2%, and in Kensington and Chelsea, and Hammersmith and Fulham they have dropped by 1.7% and 1.4% respectively.

How busy is the housing market?

The level of buyer interest in homes on the market is currently 29% higher than it was in 2020.

It's fuelled in part by the extension of the stamp duty holiday until the end of September as well as the ongoing 'search for space', with many people carrying out a once-in-a-lifetime reassessment of their homes and lifestyles in the wake of multiple lockdowns.

First-time buyers also now have a wider choice of mortgages available to help them onto the housing ladder.

Unfortunately, the high level of buyer demand is not being matched by the volume of homes for sale, with supply 20.8% lower than last year, putting further upward pressure on prices.

Where are the hottest markets?

Wales, Yorkshire and the Humber, and the north west are the hottest regional housing markets. The time it takes between marketing a property and agreeing a sale in these locations is 10 to 15 days faster than it was in 2017 to 2019. These regions also have the strongest house price growth.

The ‘hottest’ city markets, where homes are being sold more quickly and price growth is strongest, include Wigan, Blackburn and Burnley. A typical property in these markets is selling three weeks faster than in 2017 to 2019, and annual price growth is at least 5.8%.

At the other end of the spectrum, homes in the heart of London – where house prices are almost unchanged on an annual basis – are taking nearly two weeks longer to go under offer.

The property market is also slower than a year earlier in Aldershot, Coventry, Edinburgh, Gloucester and Southampton, bucking the wider trend of faster moving markets. However, annual price growth is on the rise in all these cities.

What this could mean for you

First-time buyers

First-time buyers are continuing to head back to the housing market, boosted by increased mortgage availability, thanks in part to the launch of the government’s new 95% mortgage guarantee scheme.

This rise in activity, combined with the shortage of homes for sale, means you could face stiff competition from other buyers.

You may face less competition if you are looking for a flat although it is still the most popular property type in London.

Homeowners

Strong buyer interest in homes on the market, particularly three-bedroom family homes, means existing homeowners are in poll position if they are looking to sell and move up the housing ladder.

With potential buyers currently significantly outstripping the number of properties on the market, you could achieve both a good price and a quick sale for your existing home.

And you could benefit from the stamp duty holiday when you buy your next home if you start your search now.

On the flip side, you are also likely to encounter strong competition from other buyers when it comes to your next property, particularly if you are looking in one of the ‘hot’ markets in the north west, Yorkshire and the Humber or Wales, or you want a larger family home.

However, more homes are expected to be marketed for sale in the coming months as lockdown restrictions continue to ease and vaccines are rolled out further.

What’s the outlook?

Going forward, the level of buyer demand is expected to ease slightly as lockdown restrictions continue to be lifted and people spend time seeing family and enjoying leisure activities that they have not been able to do for a while.

That said, it is expected to remain strong during the second half of the year, driven in part by office-based workplaces confirming whether or not they will continue to offer flexible working practices.

Head of research says: “Households who have the opportunity to commute less frequently have more options when it comes to choosing where to live, and this could prompt a move.

“Likewise, older households will continue to review how and where they are living, with many more set to move for the first time in years.

“With an increased array of mortgages to choose from, first-time buyers will also remain active in the market.

“At the same time, supply constraints will continue to underpin pricing. The lack of supply is expected to hamper potential sales during this year, yet even so, we expect total transactions this year to rise to 1.5 million, marking one of the busiest years in the UK’s residential market in more than a decade.”

Top three takeaways

  • The housing market is on course for its busiest year since the global financial crisis.
  • More than 1.5 million homes are expected to change hands this year, 45% more than in 2020 and the highest level for 14 years.
  • House price growth has almost doubled during the past year to stand at 4.1%.

How in-demand is your home?

The reopening of schools in March coincided with a surge in house hunting. Find out where buyer interest has soared the most – and discover how sought-after your home could be.

uyer interest in homes on the market has soared by 25% in the two months alone since schools reopened in March.

And our latest research reveals where buyer demand has surged the most in Great Britain as lockdown restrictions ease.

Stockport, Scarborough and Cambridge all top the rankings when it comes to rising demand - a useful gauge of buyers that are active in the housing market.

It comes as housing market momentum saw sales agreed on one in every 50 homes sold between 1 January and 15 April, up from one in every 100 homes a year earlier.

Caught your eye? Find out how sought-after your home could be with our handy map.

One and two-bedroom flats

First-time buyers and empty-nesters appear to be driving demand for one bedroom and two-bedroom flats.

The biggest rise in interest for homes of this size has been seen in Stockport and Pembrokeshire, where demand has jumped by 164% and 122% respectively since early March.

Flats in these locations, as well as other popular areas which have seen a spike in interest such as East Devon and the New Forest, offer suburban and urban living at a relatively low cost.

A number of locations within London’s commuter belt, including Windsor and Maidenhead, Brentwood and Three Rivers, have also seen a strong increase in demand for one and two-bedroom flats.

With average prices of below £250,000 for flats, these locations are likely to appeal to first-time buyers working in the capital.

Two and three-bedroom homes

Two and three-bedroom properties in areas where prices are below their regional average have seen the largest increase in interest from potential buyers.

While homes of this size remain in strong demand across Great Britain, the seaside resort of Scarborough has seen interest from potential buyers skyrocket 142%.

Although house prices in Scarborough are above the regional average, our data shows that they tend to be larger than in other parts of Yorkshire, meaning buyers get more bang for their buck.

Demand for two and three-bedroom homes in picturesque Weymouth and Portland, on the Jurassic Coast in the south west, where average homes cost £235,000, 15% below the regional average, has jumped 115%.

Meanwhile demand has soared by 111% and 108% respectively in Forest Heath in Suffolk and Falkirk in Scotland, both areas where prices are well below the regional average. Falkirk is consistently one of the fastest-moving property markets in Great Britain.

 

Four and five-bedroom homes

Demand for four and five-bedroom homes is being driven by the ongoing search for space, with buyer interest spiking in rural or coastal areas.

Boasting easy access to London and a range of Ofsted-rated Outstanding schools, Cambridge led the way with demand soaring by 182%.

Scenic areas in the south east, such as Hastings, which saw a 92% rise in demand, and Horsham and Surrey Heath, which both recorded a 79% increase, also feature strongly.

What's buyer appetite like in London?

In London, Hounslow topped the list when it comes to demand for one and two-bedroom flats, with buyer appetite climbing by 41%. It’s closely followed by Sutton, Enfield and Greenwich, which all posted a 39% increase.

Buyer demand for two and three-bedroom houses was highest in Harrow at 94%, followed by Bexley at 82% and Merton at 63%, all areas that have been popular with families in recent years.

Meanwhile, Sutton, Richmond upon Thames, and Kensington and Chelsea saw the biggest jump in interest for four and five-bedroom homes, with demand up by 50% or more.

The reopening of schools in early March was a key moment for the housing market, alongside the extension of the stamp duty holiday until the end of September.

But the surge in buyer demand has been fuelled by other factors too.

The pandemic has driven a 'search for space', with many people carrying out a once-in-a-lifetime reassessment of their homes and lifestyles in the wake of multiple lockdowns.

More recently, the launch of the government’s 95% mortgage guarantee scheme has led to more first-time buyers entering the housing market.

However, the level of homes on the market remains tight, with the total number of homes listed for sale so far this year 19% lower than average levels recorded in 2020.

What could all this mean for you?

If you live in one of these in-demand areas, it could be a good time to sell.

Check out My Home for an estimate of how much your property may be worth, to give you an idea of what your budget could be for your next home.

Speak with us to get an expert market valuation and guidance on how to best navigate this busy housing market.


Rental growth outside London hits four and a half-year high

Rents are rising fastest in the north east and the south west amid high levels of tenant demand and a shortage of homes to rent.

Rents outside London are rising at their fastest pace for four-and-a-half years boosted by strong tenant demand as lockdown eases and offices reopen.

The average cost of renting a home in the UK outside London rose by 3% year-on-year in the first three months of 2021 to stand at £780 per month.

Meanwhile, in London, rents were down 9.4% compared with a year earlier.

 

The high levels of demand from tenants, combined with a shortage of rental homes, meant the average property took just 16 days to let.

Rental growth hit a 10-year high in the north east, south west, East Midlands and Wales.

The north east, which is one of the most affordable rental markets in the UK, saw the strongest increase, with rents 5.5% higher in the first three months of the year than they had been a year earlier.

Rents in the region typically account for 22% of tenants’ income, compared with a UK average of 32%.

Rents increased by 5.3% in the south west year-on-year, while it was 4.8% higher in the East Midlands and rose by 3.8% in Wales.

At the other end of the scale, rents dropped by 9.4% in London year-on-year. Average monthly rents are now at the same level as they were in December 2013.

But the rate at which rents in the capital are dropping is easing, as tenant demand rises due to a combination of offices and amenities reopening and dramatically increased affordability.

 

At a city level, those in the north where renting remains more affordable, saw the biggest rent increases.

Newcastle led the way with average rents rising by 5% year-on-year, followed by Sheffield at 4.7%, Glasgow and Liverpool both at 4.1%, and Belfast at 3.8%.

The average cost of renting a home in all of the top five cities that saw the biggest increases was £665 a month or less.

What’s tenant demand like?

Demand for homes to rent was 59% higher in April than it was for the month in the more ‘normal’ markets between 2017 and 2019.

Outside of London, demand was also 32% higher than it had been in the same period of 2020.

As is the case with buyers, tenants are looking for more space, with the number of people searching for a property with access to a garden or with its own outdoor space doubling year-on-year.

This shift is creating additional levels of demand, with an increasing number of people choosing to move, rather than extend their lease.

And what about the supply of rental homes?

The supply of homes to rent in most areas is failing to keep pace with demand.

The number of new rental properties coming onto the market outside London was 5% lower during the first three months of the year than it had been in the same period of last year.

This trend is being driven by several factors.

Firstly, fewer tenants are making the move out of the rental sector and into homeownership, partly due to affordability constraints and partly due to a reluctance to make large investment decisions during the pandemic, putting further pressure on the supply of homes to rent.

At the same time, investment into the private rental market, usually made by buy-to-let landlords, has failed to regain the level seen in 2015, when the 3% stamp duty surcharge was introduced.

In fact, the number of properties purchased with a buy-to-let mortgage was 45% lower in 2020 than it was in 2015. And the number of homes in the private rental market has fallen slightly since 2016 as landlords rationalise their portfolios in the face of tax changes and additional regulation.

What could this mean for you?

Landlords

With strong tenant demand and supply of homes to rent scarce, you could be in a good position to let your property quickly.

And with preferences in the rental market shifting, your property could stand out if it comes with access to outside space.

Tenants

With the number of homes to rent failing to keep pace with demand, you are likely to face stiff competition if you are looking for a new rental property.

The good news for renters seeking more space is that nearly half of properties listed on the rental market currently have a garden or access to a shared garden. Plus, the number of these homes available to rent has risen during the first three months of the year to levels seen last summer.

What’s the outlook?

High levels of tenant demand across the wider UK market combined with constrained supply of homes to rent is expected to lead to further rental growth this year.

Head of research explained: “The increased availability of mortgages for those with lower deposits may result in more people leaving the sector to buy their first home through 2021, but the wider economic uncertainty will limit this trend.

“At the same time, the opening up of the economy and the slow return to ‘business as usual’ as the vaccine rolls out means demand will continue to build over the summer as more people move to rent their first property – although, as ever, this will be dependent on the economy opening up in line with the planned timetable.

“Demand will continue to rise in city centres as offices start to reopen and this, coupled with increased affordability levels in many cases, will start to counter the negative pressure on rents seen over the last 12 months.

“In London, where rents are down 9.4% on the year, a modest reversal in rental declines has begun, but it will be a slow build back to pre-pandemic levels in inner London. The recovery will be uneven and we expect new or recently refurbished properties to attract higher levels of demand in the second half of the year.”


Supply of family homes for sale falls to five-year low

The pandemic has fuelled buyer appetite for more space, leading to a sharp drop in the number of three and four-bedroom houses on the market.

The level of family houses for sale has hit a five-year low as buyer demand for properties offering more space significantly outstrips the supply of homes on the market.

The number of four-bedroom homes for sale has dived by more than 20% year-on-year in all regions of the UK, with Scotland seeing a near-60% fall.

The availability of three-bedroom properties is also down across the board, with northern regions the most affected.

Three-bedroom homes now account for just a quarter of all properties listed for sale, down from more than a third in 2017.

Overall, houses account for 59% of listings, compared with 76% four years earlier.

Why is this happening?

There is a mismatch between the level of homes for sale and buyer appetite across most of the market.

Home buyer appetite is up 27.5% so far this year compared with average levels in 2020.

Meanwhile, the total number of homes listed for sale in the first months of this year is 19% down on the 2020 average, despite the 50-day closure of the housing market in England (and longer in Wales and Scotland) last year.

But the situation is particularly acute for three and four-bedroom houses due to the pandemic-led ‘search for space’.

Family homes remain the most in-demand type of property, but the desire for them is not being matched by new listings, leading to dwindling volume of the properties on estate agents’ books.

 

What’s the background?

All regions have seen at least a 20% fall in the availability of family homes. Scotland has seen the biggest drop in four-bedroom properties, with listings diving by 58%, followed by the south west at 42% and the north west and south west at 42% and 40% respectively.

Northern regions have also seen a sharp fall in the availability of three-bedroom homes, with Scotland, Wales, the north west and the north east most affected, along with the south west.

What could it mean for you?

With buyer demand very strong, if you are thinking of selling a property, particularly a three or four-bedroom house, you could be in pole position to agree a sale.

And with the tight supply of family homes for sale, your property could stand out if you list it now.

Visit My Home to get an estimate of how much your property is worth and contact a local estate agent to get a full valuation.

The good news if you’re a buyer is that the tide is turning when it comes to the supply of homes for sale. Our data suggests that more properties have started coming onto the market since schools restarted.

This trend is expected to continue as lockdown measures are further loosened and sellers feel more confident about opening up their homes for viewings.

You could still take advantage of the stamp duty holiday on homes costing up to £500,000 if you start looking now.

But you are likely to face stiff competition for family homes, so register with us to receive alerts when a property meeting your criteria comes onto the market to help you get ahead.

While properties are moving quickly from being listed to ‘sale agreed’ stage, the time it takes to complete, when ownership legally changes hands, is still taking longer than before the pandemic.

So it’s worth preparing as much as you can in advance to increase your chances of benefitting from the stamp duty holiday.

 

Head of research, said: “The imbalance between supply and demand, which is creating a very tight market for family homes, will start to ease in the near term as homeowners becoming increasingly comfortable opening their homes to viewings, in turn building supply of new stock.

“The scale of buyer demand will also moderate from the peaks seen after Easter as lockdowns end across the country and there is some return to pre-pandemic normality.”

But Gilmore adds that the fundamental imbalance will remain, with the search for space among homeowners set to continue, particularly as some office-based businesses are now confirming their working practices will change for the longer-term.

Top three takeaways

  • The supply of family homes for sale has hit a five-year low
  • The number of four-bedroom homes on the market has dived by more than 20% year-on-year in all regions of the UK, with Scotland seeing a near-60% fall
  • The supply of three-bedroom properties is also down across the board, with northern regions the most affected

Revealed: where buyer appetite for three-bedroom houses has soared the most

Thinking of selling your three-bedroom house? There is likely to be a high level of interest in it, particularly if you live in one of these areas, according to our research.

Buyer demand for three-bedroom houses has doubled in some locations during the past year as the pandemic-induced search for space continues.

Braintree in Essex has seen the biggest surge in buyers looking for one of the properties, with demand soaring by 107% year-on-year, according to our research.

There are also twice as many buyers searching for a three-bedroom house in Monmouthshire in Wales as there were a year ago, while demand is 96% higher in Knowsley in Merseyside, and 90% up in Northampton.

Breckland in Norfolk, East Northamptonshire, Gedling in Northamptonshire, and Northumberland have all also seen an increase of 85% or more in the number of buyers searching for a three-bedroom house.

Selby in North Yorkshire and Sedgemoor in Somerset make it into the top 10 ranking of locations that have seen the biggest growth in buyers looking for a three-bedroom house too. Appetite in these areas has risen by 78% and 77% respectively.

Other areas that made it into the top 20 ranking are Kingston upon Hull, York, Brentwood, North Tyneside, Eastleigh, Stockton-on-Tees, Bromsgrove, Barnsley, Redcar & Cleveland, and Havering in London.

But the growth in demand for these properties has not been matched by an increase in the supply of three-bedroom houses for sale.

All of the top 20 locations that have seen the biggest increase in buyers interested in a three-bedroom house have seen a fall in the number of these properties listed for sale, apart from Stockton-on-Tees, where supply has risen by just 4%.

Selby has seen the biggest drop in the number of three-bedroom homes on the market, with these falling by a third, followed by Braintree at 32% and Knowsley at 27%.

Why is this happening?

Three-bedroom houses are attracting the largest levels of home buyer demand across the country.

While the overall rise is being driven by lockdown-weary people looking for more space, there are a number of trends making individual locations particularly popular.

Many of the places in the top 20 are good commuter locations due to their proximity to regional cities, including Knowsley, Gedling, Selby, North Tyneside and Bromsgrove.

Others, such as Northampton, Monmouthshire and Sedgemore have good connectivity through motorways and railway links.

The more rural locations may also have seen an uptick in demand due to people wanting to move to the country as a result of the pandemic.

Finally, affordability is also likely to be a driver, with the cost of three-bedroom homes in Hull, Barnsley, Knowsley, Breckland and Havering, in London, an average of 20% below the regional average.

Who does it affect?

The surge in demand for three-bedroom houses is good news if you own one of these properties and are thinking of moving. There is likely to be a high level of interest in your home, particularly if you live in one of the areas in our list.

Given the constrained supply of these properties for sale, if you list your home now, it is likely to stand out. You could also be a in a good position to benefit from the extension of the stamp duty holiday on your next home.

You can find out how much your home could be worth on Zoopla, with an instant online estimate based on market data. You can also track your home and other properties you’re interested in so you’re ready to move when the time is right.

If you are looking to purchase a three-bedroom property, our research suggests you are likely to face significant competition from other potential buyers.

So it is important to be organised and be prepared to make an offer quickly if you see a home you like.

What’s the background?

Despite the supply constraints, there has still been a significant increase in the volume of sales of three-bedroom homes.

The number of these properties changing hands has soared by 120% in Stockton-on-Tees, while sales are 84% higher in Sedgemoor and 66% up in Redcar and Cleveland.

Our ranking is based on the locations in Britain where there's been the largest growth in buyer demand for three-bedroom houses in the first three months of the year compared with the average for 2020.

Top three takeaways

  • Demand for three-bedroom houses has doubled in some locations during the past year as the pandemic-induced search for space continues
  • Braintree in Essex has seen the biggest surge in buyers looking for one of the properties, with demand soaring by 107% year-on-year
  • All but one of the top 20 locations that have seen the biggest increase in demand for three-bedroom houses have seen a fall in the number of the properties listed for sale

Value of UK homes sold doubles as pandemic-led search for space continues

One in 50 homes has changed hands since the start of the year, our latest House Price Index shows.

The value of homes changing hands has nearly doubled in the first 15 weeks of this year compared with the same time period in 2020.

One in every 50 homes was sold subject to contract between 1 January and 15 April, up from one in every 100 homes a year earlier, according to our latest House Price Index.

Overall, properties collectively worth £149bn have been transacted during this time period, a level that would not normally be reached until the end of June, as the pandemic-led search for space continues.

Glasgow, Bristol, Nottingham, Stoke-on-Trent and Middlesbrough are the five busiest housing markets.

What's happening to house prices?

Annual house price growth tracked at 4% in March, down from 4.5% in January. While this indicates a slight softening in the pace of growth, it remains nearly double the 2.1% recorded for the same month last year.

 

Northern regions, where affordability is less stretched, continued to see the biggest increases, with Wales leading the way with a rise of 5.9%, followed by Yorkshire and the Humber at 5.3% and the north west at 5.2%.

By contrast, in London, which has the highest average house price for any region, annual growth was just 2%.

Cities in northern regions also logged the biggest price gains, with Manchester and Liverpool retaining the top spot at 6.5% and 6.3% respectively, followed by Leeds, Nottingham, Leicester and Sheffield, which also saw rises of 5% or more.

At the other end of the scale, prices fell by 1.7% in Aberdeen, as the city’s property market continued to be impacted by the fall in the oil price, while Oxford and Cambridge, which have high average house prices, recorded relatively muted growth of 1.6% and 2% respectively.

How busy is the housing market?

Home buyer appetite peaked in the week following Easter, when it was running at double the level seen in the comparatively normal markets of 2017 to 2019.

It is currently 27% higher for the year to date than in 2020 as the stamp duty holiday continues to stoke demand.

There has been a slight slowdown in interest from potential buyers since lockdown was eased on 12 April, as households focus on catching up with friends and family and enjoying leisure amenities that have not been available since January.

 

The intense activity has led to a sharp drop in the number of homes on the market, with supply in the first half of April nearly 30% below the levels recorded for the same time period in 2017 to 2019.

Furthermore, the total number of homes listed for sale so far this year is 19% lower than average levels recorded in 2020, despite the 50-day closure of the housing market in England (and longer in Wales and Scotland) last year when little-to-no homes were put up for sale.

The third lockdown also saw an increased lag time between homeowners looking for a new property and listing their current home for sale, further exacerbating the imbalance between supply and demand.

That said, the tide does appear to be turning, with evidence suggesting listings have started to rise again since schools re-opened six weeks ago.

 

What could this mean for you?

First-time buyers

A rising number of first-time buyers are coming to the market, buoyed by the government’s new mortgage guarantee scheme and the return of mortgages for people with only small deposits.

Aspiring homeowners can also still take advantage of the government’s Help to Buy equity loan for new-build homes – as well as first-time buyer stamp duty relief.

The situation is putting pressure on already constrained levels of properties for sale, although availability is better for flats than it is for family homes.

Even so, competition is likely to be intense, and buyers will need to move fast when they see a home they like.

Homeowners and landlords

As the pandemic-triggered search for space continues, three and four-bedroom houses remain in high demand.

It means that homeowners and landlords who are considering selling a family home are likely to be in a prime position.

But they may face a shortage of choice when looking for a new property to buy.

However, as more homes come onto the market now that schools have re-opened, the choice is set to improve.

And homeowners and landlords preparing to buy a new property now could still be in a position to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday.

What's the outlook?

The imbalance between the supply of homes for sale and buyer demand will start to ease in the near-term as homeowners become increasingly comfortable opening their homes for viewings.

The scale of buyer demand is also expected to moderate as the roadmap out of lockdown continues and there is some return to pre-pandemic normality.

 

head of research, explained: “The fundamental imbalance will remain. Demand will remain strong as the ‘search for space’ among homeowners has further to run, especially as some office-based businesses are now confirming how their working practices will change in the longer-term.

“More flexible working arrangements open up new opportunities for homeowners to move to a further-flung location.

“At the same time, the roll-out of the 95% mortgage guarantee will mean more demand from first-time buyers, fuelling demand without replenishing supply.”

House price growth is also expected to ease as the extreme imbalances between supply and demand start to unwind, while the end of the stamp duty holiday and the paring back of government support over the summer will also act as a drag on the market.

That said, property values will continue to be underpinned by the shortage of homes for sale, with growth likely to be strongest in the more affordable markets in the north and Midlands.