The mortgage market remains a mixed bag

06 March 2008 / by Joy Tibbs
Turbulence in the global economy has done nothing to improve conditions for first-time buyers, who were already struggling to get mortgage approvals and buy their first homes.

Since the start of the year, the number thinking of buying their first property has fallen dramatically, according to Abbey Mortgages.

While at the beginning of the year, 14 per cent of non-homeowners were thinking of getting a mortgage and stepping onto the property ladder, just 36 per cent of these are still planning to do so. The remaining 64 per cent have put off buying until the economy appears more stable.

Director of mortgages, Nici Audhlam-Gardiner, says: "We know how difficult it is for first-time buyers to get on the property ladder, and this is exacerbated by current market uncertainty.

"We recommend that homebuyers give serious thought to affordability when purchasing a home and not overstretch themselves."

There may also be some bad news for people who are relying on equity generated from downsizing their home when they retire to significantly boost pension income. According to Standard Life, the majority of people hope to retire on two-thirds of their working earnings; however, it has uncovered various shortfalls when it comes to downsizing expectations.

Senior pensions technical manager, Andrew Tully, says: "Our calculations show that on average, across the UK, downsizing your property will only provide 16 per cent of your retirement income."

The company found that, with the average detached home in the UK valued at £343,058, downsizing to a bungalow in the same region with an average value of £118,260 and allowing for moving costs of £2,248, could generate a retirement income of £100 a week, or 30 per cent of retirement income.

Despite this, moving from a semi-detached house to a flat may only contribute two per cent, based on average property values. While downsizing in the South East and London could lead to significant equity release, the same move in East Anglia and Scotland is likely to be less profitable.

"It is vital people take control of their retirement planning, with the old saying of not having all your eggs in one basket never being more relevant. Property can be a valuable part of retirement saving, but it should not be the only option used."

Meanwhile, high-end properties appear to have sidestepped the credit crunch, with the top five sale properties in the world nominated by Country Life advertised at between £40 million and £75.3 million. These properties include a villa in Anguilla, an estate in Hillandale, New York State, and a period house in Paris.

So, while first-time buyers and those thinking of retiring may find themselves in a tight spot, sustained demand for luxury properties among the world's richest inhabitants suggests economic turmoil has done little to dampen their spirits.

© Fair Investment Company Ltd