First-time buyer numbers show major regional variations
The private rental market houses a significant number of people who would like to get on the property ladder but have not yet been able to do so. However, there is no national uniform picture; indeed the latest data has shown that the geographical variations between different parts of the UK are growing.
In some regions, the ability of people to get out of renting - or living in the parental home - and into purchasing a property has grown significantly, whereas elsewhere the barriers seem as large as ever.
The latest data from UK Finance has emphasised this contrast. It has examined the differences in mortgage lending among its members in London, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland - with markedly different pictures emerging.
For instance, there has been a surge in first-time buyer purchases in Northern Ireland, where there were 2,700 mortgage completions in the fourth quarter of 2017, up 17.4 per cent on the same period 12 months earlier. The amount borrowed was up 22.7 per cent year-on-year. The average age of first-time buyers was 30, which compares favourably to the average for England of 33 revealed in the English Housing Survey.
Northern Ireland benefits from greater affordability than other regions of Britain. The reverse, of course, is true for London. The UK Finance survey appears to indicate this issue is continuing to weigh heavily on those trying to make a purchase; the 10,700 first-time buyer mortgages in the final quarter of 2017 was virtually unchanged from a year earlier.
The organisation also posted its Scottish and Welsh figures for the fourth quarter, which came in between the opposite ends of the scale represented by Ulster and the capital.
In Wales, first-time buyer mortgages were up 14.3 per cent, not as high as across the Irish Sea, but still a likely reflection of greater affordability in a part of Britain where house prices tend to be lower.
Scotland saw a more modest increase in first-time buyer numbers of 3.5 per cent.