Today's first-time buyers are having more luck when it comes to prices and choice of home but not when it comes to mortgages writes Donal Buckley
FIRST-TIME buyers have changed. Unlike their older sisters and brothers, who rushed onto the property ladders and bought with impulsive optimism during the boom, the current crop of first-time buyers are more patient, and are playing it cool and savvy as they know they can afford to wait as prices continue to fall.
They are waiting to pounce when they see the house they really want at the price they can afford in the area of their choice. First-timers are seeking mature areas from which asset-rich, but cash-poor, investors have to move.
They can have the best of both worlds as they can afford to buy houses, rather than flats, which are closer to the action without having to trek long distances to work or family activities. They can skip the bottom rungs of the property ladder. Now, first-timers are more likely to be in their 30s compared to noughties buyers, many of whom were in their 20s and were frightened into buying in case homes later became unaffordable.
Ronan O'Driscoll, a director of Savills, says: "Unlike their noughties counterparts, today's first timers are not interested in over extending themselves and are willing to settle for more modest houses at more modest prices as they have learned the lessons from their friends. They are also looking ahead and allowing for the prospect of interest rate rises."
O'Driscoll has also noticed that as many as half the current first timers are either non-national couples or couples where one of the partners is Irish.
"Location is a key factor and they are negotiating for hard bargains," he adds.
According to Rachel Doyle, mortgage services director at the Professional Insurance Brokers Association (PIBA), the current first-timers are also in a much better position to borrow. Five years ago they would have saved relatively little and borrowed an average of 95pc of the price of a house.
Now, first-timers have been saving more thanks in part to lower rents. They are also applying for mortgages of only about 83pc of the price of the home. Furthermore, with prices down by between 40 and 60pc, the average house price is now only 5.28 times the average industrial wage.
Back at the peak of the market it was practically double this, at 10.39 times the average industrial wage. Which goes to show how much more affordable homes have become in the last five years.
"Consequently they are now borrowing only three or four times their annual salary whereas their noughties neighbours borrowed as much as seven or eight times their salaries," Ms Doyle says.
FTBs now account for about 55pc of mortgage applications as demand from investors and families trading up has fallen back sharply.
Even so, they are finding it easier to get mortgage approval than are the other types of buyers as, when it comes to mortgage approvals, first-timers account for an even larger share of this market.
According to PIBA, these buyers received 73pc of the mortgages approved in the first five months of the year.
Ms Doyle also notices that first-timers are opting to build their own houses in sites they are buying or have received as a gift from their family. As many as 10pc of the mortgages approved for first-timers were for homes they wished to build themselves.
This trend was also reflected in a number of recent auctions where first-timers were among the successful bidders when old cottages on generous sites came up for auction. Such properties had the advantage of having an existing house, which made it easy to secure planning permission for a replacement or revamped house in an attractive area.
They could also enlist the support of unemployed family members to help with the building work, thus saving on costs and giving an honourable dig out to siblings.