First-time buyers forced out of NI market

Solicitors in Northern Ireland are far more likely to see people for remortgaging than they are to have new clients, as the number of first-time buyers in the province is at its lowest for 26 years, latest statistics show.

According to the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML), while property prices in Northern Ireland have trebled over the last ten years, the number of first-time buyers has dropped from 18,300 to 8,000 over the past five years, due to affordability pressures.

The average price of a property in Northern Ireland will now set a buyer back £210,349, which is more than the current overall UK average of £205,797.

The chairman of CML Northern Ireland, Derek Wilson, is now urging the Northern Ireland Assembly to build more affordable homes to help first-time buyers.

Mr Wilson, said: "Over the past year house prices in Northern Ireland have outstripped the rate of increase in other areas of the UK. It is no surprise that with house price inflation reaching 23.4 per cent in 2006 we now have the lowest number of first-time buyers entering the market since 1980.

"The CML urges the Northern Ireland Assembly to address affordability constraints by implementing some of the reforms proposed in Sir John Semple's report on affordable housing.

"This includes increasing the supply of affordable housing and examining whether a shared equity scheme, like HomeBuy, could play a part in helping more first-time buyers on to the property ladder.

"Mortgage lenders already offer a range of innovative products to help people buy their first home, but they cannot solve the affordability issue on their own," Mr Wilson concluded.

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