The property ladder

Buying a house can be an overwhelming process, especially for a first-time buyer. With the rise in mortgage borrowing costs, it likely seems harder than ever to get on the property ladder.

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The property ladder banner image showing a picture of a miniature house on top of coins.

Once you are on the property ladder, it can also be a struggle to move up the rungs. If you are looking to move house in the near future, make sure that you speak to a whole-of-market mortgage broker who can compare mortgages for first time buyers to get the best deal for your circumstances.

Whilst everyone’s situation may be unique, It can be useful to have a rough idea of the average homeowner’s property timeline. That’s why our first time buyer mortgage experts surveyed 2,000 British homeowners to determine the time it takes to move from step to step on the property ladder.

First-time buyers

First-time buyer statistics graphic showing facts regarding the first rung of the property ladder.

According to government statistics, the average age of a first-time buyer in the UK is 30. 

Despite rising house prices, Brits are still keen to own property, as the mean first-time buyer age is now two years younger than in 2002-2003.

According to the survey, just under half (43%) of people have currently bought just one house to live in throughout their lifetime. However, this does not account for possible future property purchases. In fact, over a third (37%) of survey respondents who have owned more than one property in their life, lived in their first home for just three to five years.

For young people, their first property purchase is unlikely to be their forever home. Almost two-thirds (63%) of 18 to 24-year-olds live in their first property for just one to two years. Government data suggests almost two-thirds (65%) of all homeowners are currently living in a home which was not their first house purchase – an increase of 12% since 1991.

Second steppers

Graphic showing statistics based on the second step of the property ladder

Two-thirds (67%) of 18-24-year-olds upsized when making their most recent house purchase. With over 97% of respondents of this age group having purchased just two houses or less, it’s common for young homeowners to upsize when purchasing their second property.

The survey shows that for over half (52%) of the survey respondents, their current house is worth more than their previous property and for almost a third (33%) of home buyers, their current home is worth around 10%+ more than their previous home.

Just under a third (30%) of homeowners stay in their second property for three to five years, according to the survey.

Third steppers

Graphic showing statistics based on the third step of the property ladder

For some, a growing family or desire to upsize or relocate means moving up to the third rung of the ladder.

Just one in 10 (10%) of 25-34-year-olds have bought three homes or more, compared to over a third (35%) of 45-54-year-olds and over two-fifths (45%) of 55-64-year-olds. With the short duration that young homeowners spend in their first homes, young people will likely have owned more than one home before settling in their ‘forever’ property.

A third (34%) of survey respondents reported living in their third property for between three and five years.

The final steps on the property ladder

Graphic showing statistics based on the final steps of the property ladder

According to the survey, almost two-fifths (39%) of those over 65s have bought four or more homes to live in throughout their life. Almost two-thirds (61%) of those over 65s are in their 'forever' homes and do not intend to move again.

Someone’s final house purchase might be a downsize compared to previous residences. Two in five (40%) over 65s have downsized when making their most recent home purchase, according to the survey. While many move down in size for retirement, many also move up in value. For almost two-fifths (39%) of those over 65s, their current home is worth 10%+ more than their previous property.

While almost three-quarters (74%) of retirees at the end of their property journey live in four houses or fewer during their lifetime, around a quarter (26%) of Brits reach at least the fifth and sixth steps of the property ladder.

Of all age groups, those aged over 65 are most likely to have lived in five or more properties.

Over a quarter (28%) of over 65s who have lived in a fifth property, lived there for between three and five years. The same is true for retirees who have lived in a sixth property – over a quarter (26%) stayed there for three to five years.

Having lived in five or more properties throughout your life is not only achievable for those in retirement. Around 17% of those aged 55-64 and 6% of those aged 45-54 have lived in five or more properties.

Forever homes

Graphic showing statistics based on the final steps of the property ladder

Finding your forever home can be the ultimate property milestone, but the survey shows many are yet to settle in the perfect house. Under a quarter (23%) of survey respondents are in their 'forever home'. 

Age certainly has an impact, with over half (61%) of over 65s are in their forever homes compared to 7% of 18-24-year-olds and 4% of 25-34-year-olds.

Over half (57%) of those over 65, who are at the end of their property ladder, have bought more than three homes to live in during their lifetime.

Settling in a forever home seems to be one of the top priorities for British homeowners, with 15% aiming to move into their forever homes next.

Why do people move up the property ladder?

showing the reasons people move up the property ladder

Getting onto the property ladder can seem like the end goal for some, however, many move up or down once they get a foot on the ladder.

It can be common to purchase a property that doesn’t meet all of your desires in order to be able to afford to get on the property ladder. Selling your first house to buy a different property can help you leverage the market and use your profits to buy a more suitable residence. It can also be common for couples to purchase a smaller home for their first house purchase, and later upsize when starting a family.

Size increases are among the most common reasons to move up the ladder. According to the survey, over half (57%) of homeowners upsized when buying their current property, compared to their previous one. The survey found that 20% of all respondents will downsize when purchasing their next full-time residence.

Although many homeowners aim to advance up the property ladder after purchasing their first home, it isn’t uncommon for people to settle in their first-owned residence forever. In fact, the survey found that 43% of homeowners have purchased just one home, while 23% do not expect to move house in the future.


How to help your child get on the property ladder

For those who have already entered the property market, you might be looking for ways to help your children get onto the property ladder. It can be harder to own your first property now than in the past, and you may choose to gift your children money in order to boost their deposit. 

You could also act as a guarantor on their mortgage, making you liable for repayments if they can’t make them for any reason. Alternatively, you can use your savings as a deposit for the mortgage or to offset their mortgage, which reduces their interest payments. It’s worth seeking expert advice to decide which route is best for you and your child.

How to get on the property ladder

It is no secret that many Brits want to become homeowners, but it can be challenging to enter the property market today.

Making sure your finances are in order is the first step to getting on the property ladder. Check your credit rating (and take steps to improve it if you need to) as lenders will look at this when deciding whether to accept your application. They will also look at your outgoings so it can be worth reviewing your spending habits and making efforts to reduce these before applying. 

Reducing your spending habits will also help you save more, helping you to get a bigger deposit for getting on the ladder.

How to move up the property ladder

Once you are on the property ladder you might be wondering how to progress. After all, the survey found the most common duration to live at each property is between three and five years.

When moving up the property ladder it is essential to consider additional costs like stamp duty which can drive prices up. With most considering purchasing a new property that is of a higher value than their current one, it could be easier to reach the second step of the property ladder by relocating to a more affordable area. You could also remortgage your first property and rent it out as a buy-to-let to save up and climb the second step of the ladder.

Methodology and sources surveyed 2,000 homeowners from the United Kingdom to determine the average time between buying a first home, and everything in between, up to selling and downsizing in later life.

We also used information sourced from Finder, the English Housing Survey data on new households and recent movers and English Housing Survey data on owner-occupiers, recent first-time buyers and second homes to reveal the average age of first-time buyers and the average time spent in a house. We will also use data from the Office for National Statistics House Price Index on the average UK house price.

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