Renters ‘may be put off buying by over-strict mortgage regulation’

Posted on Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Mortgage industry research on affordability estimates that the cumulative shortfall in first-time buyer numbers since the financial crisis reached 3.1m by the end of 2023. 

Despite strong affordability during the ultra-low interest rate years from 2013 to 2022, first-time buyer numbers failed to pick up to the level previous trends would have suggested.

The research - by the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association - reveals that, over the last 40 years, two periods have provided excellent affordability, with mortgage repayments taking up less than 30% of a first-time buyer’s income: 1993 to 2003 and 2013 to 2022. In the first period, first-time buyer numbers averaged 500,000 a year. In the second, the figure was just 330,000.

One possible explanation for the muted resurgence in first-time buyer numbers in 2013-2022, despite excellent affordability, is the wide-ranging regulation that was put in place in response to the financial crisis, notably higher capital requirements on high Loan To Value lending and the Bank of England rule restricting lending at or above 4.5 times income to no more than 15% of lenders’ advances (if they lender more than £100m a year).

The impact of tougher regulation has been compounded since interest rates started rising, with first-time buyer numbers dropping sharply from 405,000 in 2021 to 257,000 last year.

The research also reveals that it is now more expensive to buy than to rent in every region of the UK except the North West, Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

This is a dramatic turnaround since IMLA’s last analysis of affordability, which was published in September 2021, when it was cheaper to buy than to rent in all regions. The change has occurred despite a sizeable rise in rents. Between September 2021 and April 2024, rents rose by 22% nationally and 24% in London.

Kate Davies, executive director of IMLA, comments: “Homeownership brings a range of invaluable benefits to individuals and their families, not just in terms of the accumulated wealth it confers but the peace of mind afforded by security of tenure. It can also benefit wider society, helping to build settled communities.

“Falling first-time buyer numbers means rising demand in the private rented sector, pushing up the cost of rents and increasing the challenge facing tenants, including growing numbers of older people forced to rent into retirement. This in turn puts greater pressure on the social rented sector, already bursting at the seams.

“IMLA believes that government can help future first-time buyers by examining the regulatory barriers to ownership. We believe that it would be beneficial for consumers if government were to establish a framework for regulators where the interests of future first-time buyers are explicitly recognized, with affordability regulations reassessed accordingly.” 

Via @LandlordToday