Nationwide research reveals first-time buyers account for almost 40% of house purchase transactions.
However, only about 20% of homeowners are in the 20-24 age group, compared to around 30% 10 years ago.
The lenders says deposits and income multiple constraints are a bigger hurdle for first-time buyers than debt servicing costs and that less than 10% of 22 to 29 year olds can overcome lending income multiple constraints.
Young teachers, nurses and policemen are specifically mentioned as groups that cannot afford to buy alone especially in London.
Fionnuala Earley, group economist at Nationwide, says: First-time buyers are often heralded as the main driver of the housing market.
Injecting brand new demand, they add liquidity and help to support house prices.
The proportion of first-time buyers in the market has been falling over time, but given the rapid rise in house prices, the resilience of this group is perhaps a little surprising.
Remarkably, first-time buyers still account for almost 40% of all house purchase transactions in the UK.
The answer to this puzzle lies in the types of homebuyer that fall into the first-time buyer category.
No longer can we think of first-time buyers as the fresh-faced young person, or couple, getting their very first foot on the housing ladder after saving hard for a deposit.
Rather the category includes a significant proportion of buyers returning to the market, perhaps after a spell in rented accommodation or moving from dissolving households.
These buyers differ from the stereotypical picture of a first-time buyer as they tend to be older and thus on higher incomes.
More importantly however, such buyers often have access to deposits funded from past increases in house prices that ease them back into the market.
In 2005 returners may have accounted for up to 20% of all first-time buyers.
The implication is that there are fewer younger first time buyers.
Indeed, the proportion of young people who are home-owners has fallen significantly over time.
In 1994 34% of adults aged 20-24 were home owners. 10 years later this proportion had fallen to only 20%.
So it seems that affordability may have hit the true fresh-faced, first-time buyer more than the top level figures suggest.