Some 93% of first-time buyers are still considering buying a property in 2020 despite the impact of the COVID-19 crisis whilst the majority (51%) said they definitely intend to buy this year.
Data from Legal & General Mortgage Club found that around a third (35%) of first-time buyers said that the pandemic has had no impact on their plans to buy.
The average delay in buying for those that have been impacted was seven months whilst buyers in Wales face the shortest delays to their plans of just under six months.
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Those in the East of England and London intend to put their plans on hold by almost eight months. However, some buyers have chosen to move more quickly as a result of the pandemic, with 8% saying they will bring forward their plans.
With a reduction in costs on transport and social activities, almost a third (31%) of first-time buyers said they have been able to save more than £100 each week towards a deposit on top of what they were already saving.
On average, first-time buyers were saving £107 extra every week, with buyers in London (£127), the East of England (£126) and the North East (£118) saving the largest additional amounts. In the capital, some 13% of first-time buyers were even saving more than £250 extra per week.
The data has also revealed that the coronavirus crisis has caused a shift in property requirements amongst first-time buyers. More than one in five (22%) respondents say they now plan to buy in a more rural area.
First-time buyers in the South West were the most likely to now plan to buy in a more rural location (27%), while those in the North East were the least likely (13%).
Kevin Roberts, director, Legal & General Mortgage Club, said: “Homeownership continues to be an aspiration shared by thousands of people across the UK and it is clear from our research that the COVID-19 Crisis has done little to dampen the ambition of the UK’s first-time buyers.
“The mortgage market is already seeing pent-up demand from homebuyers after two months of lockdown. Advisers are busy helping borrowers to find the right mortgage and these findings suggest that this demand is set to continue in 2020 with the majority of prospective homeowners planning to buy this year.
“However, what we are clearly starting to see is a shift in where Britain’s first-time buyers plan to buy. Where the city was once the first choice for many, more are now looking to the suburbs and even rural areas to buy.
“Remote working and enforced time at home have also both influenced first-time buyers to seek out properties with more ‘office’ and outdoor space. This could lead to a rise in demand in previously overlooked areas, which will need to be matched by housing supply.
“For some buyers, the crisis has even improved their chances of buying their first home by making it easier for them to save towards a deposit.
“Less money spent on commuting or social activities as helped them increase the amount the putting away each month, which could help to bring their homeownership ambitions forward, especially as lenders return to high loan-to-value lending.”
In order to help them onto the ladder, some first-time buyers are turning to housing schemes or even family and friends.
More than one in ten (13%) first-time buyers who were not planning to use Help to Buy say they now intend to make use of the scheme, with first-time buyers in Wales most likely to now need the support of the government-backed equity loan.
Another 13% also say they will move ahead with buying a Shared Ownership property, despite previously not intending to, including more than a fifth (22%) of the youngest first-time buyers aged 18-24.
Further data from Legal & General Mortgage Club suggests that mortgage advisers are playing a central role in helping these buyers to find alternative routes.
Findings available through Legal & General Mortgage Club’s SmartrCriteria tool showed that in the first week on June alone, adviser searches for Joint Borrower/Sole Proprietor mortgages were already higher than compared to the whole of May.
Roberts added: “In an interesting twist, COVID-19’s impact hasn’t necessarily been to stop first-time buyers from moving onto the housing ladder, but instead to change the paths many young people are taking into homeownership.
“COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown has restricted the number of mortgages on the market at 90% loan-to-value.
“While we are seeing some lenders return to this market to the benefit of customers with smaller deposits, the number of high loan-to-value products remains well below the options available before the crisis. ,
“Instead, those with smaller deposits are seeking out alternative routes onto the ladder, including Help to Buy and Shared Ownership, or even buying with friends.
“At Legal & General Mortgage Club, our latest search figures show that independent mortgage advisers are playing a critical role for borrowers in this respect, helping them to understand their options, from family support mortgages to Joint Borrower/Sole Proprietor products.”