60% of the house purchase loans taken out in Northern Ireland in the first quarter of 2012 were to first-time buyers, according to the latest figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders in Northern Ireland.
This was up from 58% in the final quarter of last year and the highest proportion since 2001.
Despite the increase in first-time buyers’ share of the market, there is little evidence that the Stamp Duty concession boosted their numbers in Northern Ireland.
The majority – 75% in the first quarter of 2012 of first-time buyers in Northern Ireland purchase property under £125,000 – the lower threshold for the Stamp Duty concession to take effect.
First-time buyers in Northern Ireland borrowed on average £73,350 in the first quarter of the year, down 9% – £80,495, from a year earlier and down 40% – £122,000, from the peak in the third quarter of 2007. They typically borrowed 83% of their property’s value in the first quarter, down from 84% in the last quarter but up compared to an average of 81% a year previous.
The proportion of income consumed by the mortgage interest payments of first-time buyers in Northern Ireland increased in the first quarter, from an average of 12.7% in the final quarter of 2011 to 12.9% in the three months to March 2012.
This was lower than the average in Northern Ireland a year ago and significantly lower than the peak of nearly 22% seen in 2008. 1,200 loans, worth £100m, were taken out by first-time buyers in the three months to March, 14% down, 17% by value from the last quarter of 2011 but 33% up 25% by value from the first quarter of 2011.
For home movers, the number of loans advanced was unchanged compared to the same time last year, but fell compared to the last quarter of 2011. 800 loans – worth £90m were taken out by home-movers, compared to 1,000 loans – worth £120m in the final quarter of last year and 800 loans – worth £90m in the first three months of 2011.
Overall in the quarter, 2,000 house purchase loans were taken out in Northern Ireland, down from 2,400 in the last quarter of 2011, but up from 1,700 in the three months to March last year.
By value, £190m was advanced, down from £230m in the previous quarter but up from £170m in the first three months of 2011.
Remortgage lending fell in the first quarter in Northern Ireland, compared to both the previous quarter and this time last year. £140m was advanced for remortgage in the first quarter, down from £150m in the same period last year, and £160m in the last three months of 2011.
Derek Wilson, chair of the CML in Northern Ireland, says: “Reduced property prices and lower deposit requirements mean that first-time buyers in Northern Ireland are finding it easier to get a foot on the ladder.
“Although we saw an increased proportion entering the market in the first three months of the year, the low property volumes seen in Northern Ireland make percentage changes more pronounced. We will be watching future trends closely since evidence from the UK suggests that a period of decreased lending tends to follow the end of stamp duty concessions. However, the impact in Northern Ireland may be lessened by the lower property prices we are now seeing in the first-time buyer sector.
“Against a backdrop of economic uncertainty and the assembly’s housing strategy consultation this spring, we look forward to working cooperatively with all players in the housing market to develop housing solutions that work for all.”