Shifting the focus from first-time buyers to last-time buyers

Shifting the focus from first-time buyers to last-time buyers

Baby boomers now own almost £1trn worth of property in the UK – more than a quarter of the country’s private housing stock – and more of them than ever are struggling to downsize.

Homeowners over the age of 55, also known as last-time buyers, currently make up around 3.1 million households in the UK, which accounts for £938bn but is predicted to reach £1trn this year, according to Legal & General and CBRE research.

While the primary focus in the UK housing market, from the government’s perspective, has been helping struggling first-time buyers onto the housing ladder through stamp duty cuts and the Help to Buy scheme, the new research has revealed that a new focus on last-time buyers could be more beneficial.

The number of older homeowners who would like to downsize has increased from 32% to 39% over the past three years, but almost half (49%) of these have been unable to move as there were no suitable homes available, a figure which has almost doubled since 2015. Meanwhile, 29% that had found suitable properties had been unable to progress because they were too expensive.

Changing the homes that are being built to plug the gap

The homes owned by over-55s are often oversized compared to the needs of this age group, and freeing up such properties would enable more second steppers to upsize into family homes – and in turn serve to open up the bottom end of the market for first-timers.

Phil Bayliss, head of later living at Legal and General, said: “If rightsizers were able to move to a property more aligned to their desired lifestyle and needs, vast swathes of homes would be freed up for growing families and second steppers. This, when matched by the huge health benefits proven to come from age appropriate housing, such as a 50% reduction in GP visits and 40% reduction in NHS spend, means that increasing the number of properties available to these buyers is the most efficient way to help solve the UK’s housing crisis and spiralling NHS costs linked to our ageing population.

“A large section of our housing stock – worth nearly £1trn – is under-occupied and owned by people over the age of 55. It is vital that the over-55s are able to make and act on the choices that are right for them.”

Building the right types of homes in the right locations, by looking at which parts of society are most in need, is something that needs to be considered to both alleviate the housing crisis and fill the gaps in the property market.

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