Published: 10 April 2013 | Author: Bernard Clarke
Today, we present the initial findings from consumer research that we commissioned YouGov plc to undertake in the weeks immediately preceding and following the March 2013 Budget. They provide a rich context for the housing measures announced by the chancellor, George Osborne, and some timely insights with respect to his Help to Buy initiatives.
While home-ownership is still the long-term tenure of choice for most British adults, respondents identified a number of barriers to buying and moving. While mortgages feature, other issues were more widely seen as hurdles, which suggests that improving the state of the housing market may not be straightforward.
Ten year aspirations
Our latest consumer research findings are based on a poll conducted by YouGov plc 2013, with a total sample size of 8,183 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between March 13 and 15, when 4,045 people were surveyed, and March 25 to 27, when a further 4,138 were questioned. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults, aged 18 and over.
The findings suggest that 79% of British adults would like to be home-owners in 10 years’ time. While from any objective standpoint this remains a very high figure, it is down slightly from 81% a year ago, and actually one of the lowest levels we have recorded over the past 30 years.
We would nevertheless characterise the desire for home-ownership as resilient, when viewed against the backdrop of protracted economic difficulties and a sharp decline in actual ownership rates.
We have used market research surveys to track tenure aspirations since the mid-1970s. Although these market research results may not be exactly comparable over time, because of changes to sample sizes and methodologies, the use of different research companies and slight alterations in question wordings, we believe they help to highlight and contextualise key trends in tenure aspirations over time. A routine question about people see as their ideal longer-term tenure provides a useful metric for monitoring deep-seated sentiment towards home-ownership.
Chart One illustrates how home-ownership preferences have moved over the past 30 years, alongside actual home-ownership rates.
Chart One: Home-ownership preferences in 10 years' time and actual rates, %
Who wants to be a home-owner?
Behind the latest headline measure, there appears to be an interesting divergence in aspiration trends across the different age groups.
All age groups continue to show a strong preference for home-ownership in the longer term, but there has been an appreciable drop amongst younger age groups over the past few years.
By contrast, those of retirement age appear to value home-ownership more highly than ever before.
Chart Two: Home-ownership preferences in 10 years' time, by age group, %
When it comes to people’s views on preferred tenure, these seem to depend on the type of tenure that people already have.
The aspirational nature of home-ownership is well illustrated by the finding that, for the majority of respondents, the longer-term choice settles between home-ownership and sticking with their current form of tenure (where this is different).
Table One: Preferred tenure in 10 years' time, by current tenure
|Preferred tenure in 10 years' time|
|Current tenure||Home-owner||Private renting||Living with relatives or friends||Social housing|
|Living with relatives or friends||70%||7%||9%||2%|
The majority of private sector tenants (64%) and those sharing with parents, other relatives or friends (70%) aspire to become home-owners in the longer term, although both percentages are lower than a year ago (at 76% and 78% respectively).
Who would like to buy a new home?
In order to help differentiate individuals whose aspirations to be home-owners were longer-term in nature rather than more immediate - and also to gauge the level of pent-up demand to transact more generally - we asked respondents whether they would ideally like to buy a new home in the next two to three years.
Chart Three: Whether people would ideally like to buy in next 2-3 years, by current tenure
Overall, about 44% of respondents would ideally like to buy a new home during the next two to three years.
Those renting privately or sharing with parents, other relatives or friends, and 25-34 year olds - strongly overlapping groups - show the strongest appetite to buy.
So what is stopping would-be home-buyers?
Factors that inhibit buying a new home
While many of those surveyed would ideally like to buy a new home, inevitably many factors combine together to affect the chances of this happening.
When asked whether they actually expect to be in a position to buy a new home within the next two to three years, a little over a third (36%) of the 44% who would ideally like to move think that it is likely that they will do so. This means that about 16% of all respondents would like to buy during the next two to three years and believe that it is likely to happen (6% see it as very likely to happen and 10% as fairly likely).
Existing home-owners are more confident about buying a new home than those renting privately or sharing with relatives or friends, yet these in turn feel much better placed than those currently in social housing. Three in 10 (30%) of home-owners feel it is likely that they will be able to buy in the next two to three years, compared to 21% of private renters, 20% of those living with friends or relatives, or 8% of social renters.
Those aged 25-34 are more confident about buying a new home than other age groups, although most of the difference is in those seeing this as fairly likely (24%) rather than very likely (10%). Some of this greater confidence may reflect the peer expectations that go with this age cohort being a dominant group for first-time buyers.
Respondents selected a wide range of factors that they consider are currently making it more difficult to buy a home. The more frequently cited ones are shown in Chart Four.
Chart Four: Key factors making it harder to buy a new home, % of respondents
The rankings touch on a range of issues, including the wider economic situation, incomes and living standards, as well as limited suitable properties being offered for sale and high transaction costs.
Mortgage-related factors are specifically cited by a minority of respondents, but they appear to rank some way below other factors. It is feasible, though, that a perceived limited availability of low-deposit mortgages would be a counterpart to insufficient savings and high house prices.
We also asked individuals what would significantly improve their chances of buying a new home in the next two to three years.
Chart Five: Key factors improving chances of buying a new home, % of respondents
Unsurprisingly, many of these remedial factors are the flip-side to those factors identified as constraints.
So, for example, respondents may see that getting a windfall would address a lack of savings, getting a pay rise and/or house prices falling would help to bridge the gap between house prices and earnings, and lower stamp duty would help to mitigate transaction costs.
As before, mortgage-specific factors - lenders offering more low-deposit mortgages and lower mortgage rates – are present, but feature less prominently than other factors. (For the purposes of our consumer research, low-deposit mortgages were defined as those needing only a 5% deposit.)
What difference would more low-deposit mortgages make?
Our research suggests that there is significant support, across all tenures and age groups, for the government to make it easier for people needing a large deposit to get a mortgage. The proportion of respondents agreeing that this should be a policy goal (59%) outnumbered those opposing (14%) by more than four to one.
When asked directly, a majority of those surveyed (60%) also feel that it is unfair that borrowers who are only able to put down a small deposit have to pay a higher mortgage rate.
While we did not ask respondents to indicate what the perceived nature of the unfairness is, this finding suggests that the public may see both the availability of low-deposit mortgages and their relative pricing as important issues.
In anticipation of the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme announced in the Budget, we specifically asked what difference it would make if lenders were to offer more low-deposit mortgages.
While few respondents thought that this would make things worse, our research provides strong evidence that this may not be a panacea.
Nearly half of all respondents (46%) thought it would make no difference to their chances of buying a new home in the next two to three years. Presumably, for such individuals, many of the key factors shown in Chart Four, and a diverse range of other sundry factors, would continue to limit their scope to buy.
A third of respondents (34%) were more positive, and thought that more low-deposit mortgages would help them, although most of these (more than 60%) only thought it would make things slightly better.
Understandably, those individuals who saw insufficient savings as constraining their chances of buying a new home were the most positive about more low-deposit mortgages, with nearly half of them (47%) believing that it would improve their chances of buying.
Interestingly, respondents who already thought that they would be able to buy were more optimistic about the likely impact than those currently unable, with 41% of those able to buy in the next two to three years saying more low-deposit mortgages would improve their chances of buying, compared to 33% of those unable to buy. So this may imply that the benefit is most apparent to those who were nearest to buying in any event.
Chart Six: Perceived impact of more low-deposit mortgages on chances of buying a new home, % of respondents
We also asked a question about attitudes to shared equity – without being aware of the government’s plans to recast FirstBuy as a much wider shared equity scheme.
While our findings may not be able to be strictly read across to this new policy initiative, our research suggests that a shared equity approach will have some, albeit fairly limited, appeal.
According to our research, only about 1% of respondents currently live in properties that are subject to shared ownership or shared equity schemes.
When asked how willing they would be to give up a share in the subsequent gain in the value of their property if it meant they could get a mortgage sooner, a significant majority of respondents (68%) appear unwilling to cede a share of equity to others. Amongst those who are not already home-owners, up to a fifth indicate some willingness to consider a shared equity arrangement, but relatively few - only 1-2% - would be very willing in principle to explore this.
Home-ownership clearly remains a very strong aspiration among the British. The recent reduction in appetite is almost certainly tied to the economic and financial difficulties that the UK and many other countries are experiencing.
From this perspective, the Chancellor’s Budget measures to support home-ownership appear politically well-judged.
However, individuals face a very diverse range of circumstances, which may be inhibiting their ability to buy their first home or move within the owner-occupied sector. While the pricing and availability of mortgages are widely cited as relevant factors, they do not head up people’s list of concerns in aggregate. Many other factors, relating to such issues as the wider economy, the state of the housing market and personal financial circumstances also loom large.
This suggests that no single policy action – even one with the £130 billion firepower of the mortgage guarantee scheme – is likely to remove all the obstacles identified as blocking those who wish to buy a home.