First-time buyer compromises

Owning your own home is a long-term ambition for most people, but it’s not usually an easy task. To get that first foot on the residential property ladder, there are often compromises that have to be made.

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First-time buyer compromises

Everyone has an idea of what their dream first home would look like, but the truth is that most first-time buyers have to make some sacrifices.

Whether that’s living a little further away from transport links, or perhaps in an area with a history of flooding, there are a number of factors that can bring prices down.

We surveyed first-time buyers to find out what little sacrifices they had to make when buying their first home, and also analysed which parts of the country you’re least likely to have to compromise in.

If you’re looking to buy your first home, be sure to compare first-time buyer mortgages to ensure you get the best deal.

What are the most common first-time buyer compromises?

Table to show which compromises first-time buyers make when purchasing a first home

There are a number of compromises that a first-time buyer might make, with only 1 in 10 (11.2%) of respondents saying that they didn’t have to make any compromises at all.

The most common compromise was purchasing a home that is in need of renovation, with 37.9% clearly happy to put in some extra work after moving in.

Not too far behind, the second most common compromise first-time buyers make is moving away from family, with 36.5% of respondents choosing to relocate further from loved ones. However, while over a third said they had moved away from family (or would do so), a quarter said they had to compromise by moving away from friends. 

The third most common compromise was a longer commute, with 36.2% having to travel further to get to work. 

There was a split between men and women when it comes to the compromise they were most likely to make. While women are more likely to move into a home that needs renovation, a higher number of men would move somewhere further from their work. Those who are younger were the most likely to be happy to move away from family, with 46.6% of 18 to 24-year-olds saying that they would do so.

On the other hand, the only group to say their main sacrifice was accepting a longer commute was the 45 to 55s (41.49%). However, there was a big difference when it comes to compromising on living in a desirable area. Around a fifth of 18 to 24-year-olds said they were happy to do so, compared to just 9.38% of people aged 55 and over.

 How long do people expect to stay in their first homes?

Table to show how long first-time buyers stay in their first home

While everyone wants their first home to be perfect, chances are that you won’t be living there forever. In fact, just 6.1% of people stated that they expected to stay in their first home forever.

People were most likely to say that they saw themselves staying in their first home for about four to five years, with just over a third (34.7%) of respondents stating this.

This was fairly consistent among genders and age groups. However, those aged 45 to 54 (29.79%) and 55 and over (34.38%) stayed in their first homes slightly longer (6 to 10 years).

Of those who expected to stay for just a year to 3 years, the majority were aged between 18 and 24. In fact, the number of 18 to 24s expecting to stay for this long was over three times as much as 55 and overs (30.1% compared to 6.25%)

What prevents people from buying their dream homes?

Table to show how far people are buying their first home from their ideal location

When asked what things prevented them from buying a home in their ideal area, there was one clear reason that stood out.

Three-quarters of people said that they had been forced to look elsewhere due to house prices being too expensive in their preferred area. This highlights just how difficult it is to get onto the property ladder and the fact that finances really are the main barrier for first-time buyers. 

The second most common reason for people looking to buy in a different area is wanting a fresh start, with just under a fifth (19.8%) responding with this.

Is compromise worth it?

Bar chart showing that 92.33% of people found compromising on the area to buy their home worthwhile

This question had a very conclusive answer, with over 92% of people saying that compromising was worth it to ensure that they secured a home.

This further highlights just how many people are being forced to make sacrifices when buying a home.

However, it also suggests that those who have to make compromises don’t regret their decisions in doing so.

How far away are people willing to move?

Table to show how far people are buying their first home from their ideal location

It’s not always possible to live in your ideal location, but just how far away are people willing to move?

Just 8.7% of people said that they managed to buy a house in their ideal location, showing just how hard it is to secure your dream home.

Of those who weren’t so lucky, the survey suggests that the majority don’t have much room for flexibility, at least when it comes to location.

38.3% of people said 10 miles was the maximum distance that they would be willing to relocate.

Perhaps understandably, the youngest age group were most likely to show some flexibility on distance, with slightly more 18-24-year-olds willing to move up to 20 miles.

What sacrifices do people make to be able to afford a home?

Table to show the type of compromises people are making to afford a deposit for their first home

Compromise doesn’t just come in terms of choosing where to live, but also when it comes to making sure that you can afford a deposit. Of those surveyed, only 8.7% said that they didn’t have to make any compromises when saving for a deposit.

There are all kinds of ways that people may choose to cut back on their spending to be able to afford a house. The most common compromise respondents made is not going on holiday, which over half of those surveyed (56.2%) said that they compromised on. This is closely followed by sacrificing takeaways and meals out (52.8%) and purchasing new clothes (47.4%).

Women were far more likely to choose to cut back on buying new clothes compared to men, at 51.83% compared to 40.75%. In fact, women were more likely to compromise than men on every factor, except for “other experiences”. Men were also more likely than women to say that they didn’t make any compromises at all when saving for a deposit.

25 to 34-year-olds were the only age group who prioritised cutting back on takeaways and meals out as their biggest sacrifice, rather than holidays. Younger people seemingly prioritise buying new clothes too, with 45.63% of 18 to 24s doing so compared to 25% of those 55 and over.

Where do first-time buyers have to compromise the least?

Chorley, North West ranks as location where first-time buyers have to make the least compromises

Here’s a look at some of the most affordable places in the country for first-time buyers, compared by a range of ‘compromises’.

Areas with a lower score indicate that you’d have to make more sacrifices to enjoy a lower purchase price and vice versa in high-scoring areas.

1. Chorley, North West (£178,048) - 8.32 out of 10

The affordable area where you’d have to make the fewest compromises on location is Chorley, in Lancashire.

The average purchase price here is just £178,048, but locals rate their life satisfaction as 7.9 out of 10, the second-highest of the authorities studied here.

The area also scores highly when it comes to the number of properties at risk of flooding (0.7%) and its crime rate (65 per 100,000 people).

However, there is one area where locals seemingly compromise in Mid Devon, with the area having a comparatively low energy efficiency score of 65.

2. Selby, Yorkshire & the Humber (£214,407) - 7.77 out of 10

Another northern town comes in second, with homes in Selby, North Yorkshire costing just £214,407 but scoring 7.77 out of 10 here.

Selby is one of the best connected out of these areas, with 0.8 train stations per 100,000 people, with seven stations for a population of 91,697.

Located south of York, on the River Ouse, Selby also has one of the lowest crime rates at 53 per 100,000 people.

3. Rushmoor, South East (£285,377) - 7.73 out of 10

Two areas are tied for third place, the first of which is Rushmoor, in Hampshire. Consisting of the towns of Aldershot and Farnborough, Rushmoor scores well for all factors, especially its life satisfaction (7.62 out of 10) and flood risk (0.8%).

Known for its links to the military, the area is also within easy reach of the chalk uplands of the North Downs.

4. Mid Devon, South West (£238,917) - 7.73 out of 10

Also scoring 7.73 in third is another southern area, Mid Devon. Mid Devon scored highly in the majority of factors, especially its crime rate (40 per 100,000 people) and train stations (0.96 per 100,000 people).

5. Dartford, South East (£327,456) - 7.72 out of 10

If you work in London but can’t afford the sky-high property prices, one of the places you may consider moving to is Dartford. 

But those who live in the Kent Downs don’t have to compromise as much as you may think. In particular, homes in Dartford have the best energy efficiency of all of these areas.

6. Bolsover, East Midlands £153,270) - 7.65 out of 10

Homes in the market town of Bolsover are certainly on the more affordable side, averaging around £153,000. The area also has a life satisfaction score of 7.75 out of 10 and virtually none of its homes are at risk of flooding.

7. Wychavon, West Midlands (£261,058) - 7.56 out of 10

Another Midlands area comes in seventh in our ranking, this time in the west of the region. Wychavon is located in Worcestershire, with its main towns being Droitwich Spa, Evesham and Pershore.

 As well as a low flooding risk, Wychavon benefits from a high life satisfaction score (7.60) and 0.46 train stations per 100,000 people.

8. Basingstoke and Deane, South East (£274,878) - 7.31 out of 10

In eighth place is Basingstoke and Deane, in Hampshire, with a score of 7.31 out of 10. The area has one of the highest energy efficiency ratings of the local authorities on this list, at 69.

It also has a high life satisfaction score of 7.52 out of 10 and is a safe place to live too, with just 66 crimes per 100,000 people.

9. Cheshire East, North West (£220,609) - 7.29 out of 10

The second-highest rated area in the North is Cheshire East. The largest town in the area is Crewe, with others such as Macclesfield, Congleton and Sandbach.

Notable sites of interest in the area include the historic Tatton Park estate and Quarry Bank Mill, a reminder of the area’s links to the industrial revolution.

10. Eastleigh, South East (£282,672) - 7.14 out of 10

Completing the top ten is the Hampshire town of Eastleigh, located between Southampton and Winchester.

The town is one of the highest-scoring local authorities when it comes to the energy efficiency of its homes, with a score of 69.

Table showing the top 20 locations in the UK where buyers are least likely to compromise on their ideal home


How much deposit for a first-time buyer mortgage deal?

To secure a first-time buyer mortgage deal, you need a deposit of at least 5% of the value of the property that you’re buying.

These 5% mortgages have been made easier to secure too, due to the Government’s mortgage guarantee scheme.

However, while 5% is generally considered to be the minimum deposit that you can put down, the reality is that you’ll likely need to put down more. The bigger your deposit, the smaller the amount that you’ll need to borrow.

Not only does a bigger deposit mean you’ll have lower mortgage payments, but also that you’ll have access to a wider range of mortgage deals.

Who qualifies as a first-time buyer?

The most obvious person that would qualify as a first-time buyer is a single person buying their first residential property.

If you’re looking at first-time buyer mortgages with someone else, then both of you will have to be buying your first home to qualify.

If you’ve owned commercial property before but never a house, then you’ll still qualify as a first-time buyer too. If you’ve inherited residential property, however, you will not be seen as a first time buyer, even though you didn’t technically buy the property.

How much can I borrow as a first-time buyer?

As a first-time buyer, the amount that you’ll be able to borrow depends largely on your income.

Lenders will usually lend a first-time buyer around 3.5 - 4 times their annual income, although some will allow you to borrow more than this, depending on your wider circumstances.

To get an estimate of how much you will be able to borrow with a first-time buyer mortgage, try out our mortgage calculator.

Methodology and sources

All survey data was sourced from a survey of 1,000 people in the UK who have bought their first property recently or are looking to become a first-time buyer in the near future via Pollfish on September 26th, 2022.

To find the most affordable areas for first-time buyers, the average house price for first-time buyers in each local authority was taken from HM Land Registry’s UK House Price Index.

The average weekly earnings in each local authority were also taken from the Office for National Statistics’ earnings and hours worked, place of residence by local authority: ASHE Table 8.

These two figures were then used to calculate the house price-to-earnings ratio for each local authority.

Each authority that fell below the average house price-to-earnings ratio was then analysed on the following factors, and given a normalised score out of 10 for each, with an overall average of these scores being taken.

Crime rate

Sourced from the Office for National Statistics’ recorded crime data by Community Safety Partnership area. These rates are shown at Community Safety Partnership Level, which in some cases, isn't the same as Local Authority. Where CSP and local authorities do not align, figures were either merged if possible or removed.

Flood risk

The percentage of properties deemed to be at >1% risk of flooding by the National Audit Office’s Flood Risk Tool. Any local authorities that have now merged (since this data was from 2020) were either combined if possible or removed.

Energy ratings 

The Energy Performance rating according to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government’s live tables on Energy Performance of Buildings Certificates.

Personal well-being score 

A life satisfaction rating out of 10 according to the Office for National Statistics’ annual personal well-being estimates.

Train stations

The number of train stations per 100,000 people in each local authority according to the Office of Rail and Road’s estimates of station usage.

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