Thursday 19 April 2018

Average age of first-time buyers now 34 as bank's rules bite

The average age of a person buying their first home in Ireland has risen to 34 – five years older than what it was a decade ago. Stock Image
The average age of a person buying their first home in Ireland has risen to 34 – five years older than what it was a decade ago. Stock Image
Mark Keenan

Mark Keenan

First-time buyers are older than ever before and are now hitting their mid-30s before they are able to climb onto the property ladder.

The average age of a person buying their first home in Ireland has risen to 34 - which is five years older than what it was a decade ago, when most first-time buyers were in their twenties.

The data comes from a survey by the Real Estate Alliance (REA), a nationwide network of 55 estate agencies. It predicts that home ownership may soon be a pipe dream for young people.

In 2006, the average first-time buyer was 29. This was at the height of the boom, when property prices were, on average, one third higher than they are now.

But despite a fall in prices, the average age hit 30 in 2010 and has been rising rapidly since then. The REA blames the mortgage lending regime, including strict Central Bank rules, as well as high rents.

"The biggest factor influencing the market this year has been the Central Bank deposit rules, which have created a two-tier system, ruling out home ownership for many young people due to over-restrictive guidelines," said REA chairman Michael O'Connor.

"The introduction of the Central Bank's lending requirements, combined with higher rents, has made it difficult for young people to save deposits, especially in Dublin.

"House ownership is now off the table for many couples earning average salaries, with their only hope of purchase now coming from an injection of outside help, usually from close relatives.

"From a Dublin perspective, the rules don't make sense, with the combination of the deposit rates and the multiplier falling far short of our average three-bed semi price in Dublin city and county of €334,000."

Under the lending rules, first-time buyers usually need a deposit of 10pc of the first €220,000 cost of a home and 20pc of the remainder.

Mortgages are mostly limited to 3.5 times gross income for all borrowers. It means someone earning €40,000 can borrow €140,000 - not enough to acquire even a small apartment in the capital.

The data also suggests that most Irish families are now being started in rented accommodation.

The most recent perinatal report by the HSE says that Irish women have their first children at an average age of 30 - four years younger than the current average purchasing age.

Another factor causing problems for first time buyers is that second time buyers are simply not moving because they can't trade up. This has seriously decreased the pool of available starter homes.

Mr O'Connor added: "A definite two-tier system has emerged over the past year nationwide, with €160,000 emerging as the breaking point for interest from buyers in that age group - ruling out most properties in Dublin.

"While we welcomed the introduction of guidelines from the Central Bank, we feel that they are not reflecting the reality of the market.

"For example, the mortgage multiplier is 4.5 times income in the UK and this is something that we need to revisit under current rules."

The REA survey also revealed an increasing number of non-Irish nationals who have been putting down roots after living and working here, many for more than a decade.

"In areas such as Carlow, REA agents are reporting that 30pc of first-time buyers are now from Eastern Europe, a percentage that has grown rapidly over the past two years," said Mr O'Connor.

Irish Independent

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