Quarter of house buyers are first-timers

 According to figures from the National Associate of Estate Agents, 23% of house sales in January were to first time buyers, up from 21% in December 2011.  Numbers of first time buyers are now their highest since May 2011. 

 HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) statistics showed that 64,000 homes were sold in the UK in January 2012, the highest figure for the first month of the year since 2008 when 79,000 transactions were recorded.

The increase in sales to first time buyers co-incides with the end of the two-year government amnesty on stamp duty which raises the threshold for first-time buyers from £125,000 to £250,000 in March 2012.

The NAEA described the amnesty as a "key factor" for those trying to get on the property ladder and urged the Government to extend it.

HSBC recently examined first-time buyer loans taken out since the start of the stamp duty holiday in March 2010 and the end of 2011 and found that around half were for a home which would normally have been liable for the duty.

NAEA president Wendy Evans-Scott said: "First-time buyers seem to be making the most of the stamp duty holiday before it comes to an end in March.  The NAEA and other property specialists campaigned hard for the Government to introduce the tax exemption to support first-time buyers, and these latest figures suggest that stamp duty is a key factor for those on tight budgets purchasing their first home.

"We are deeply disappointed that ministers have axed this support for a crucial part of the housing market which has benefited so many house-hunters in getting on to the property ladder."

The NAEA's report also showed that the number of house hunters registering decreased slightly, with 260 per branch in January compared with 294 in December.

But overall sales increased, with an average of six per branch compared with five per branch in December. However, supply levels dipped to their lowest level in 19 months with an average of 60 properties available per branch.

The NAEA said reluctant sellers had raised concerns about the economic outlook, difficulty obtaining a mortgage and scepticism about getting a good deal as a result.

Ms Evans-Scott said: "Our latest figures show just how fragile the housing market can be; therefore any efforts to prevent unsustainable property bubbles and unwanted house price deflation are to be welcomed.

"At the same time the Government also needs to take into consideration that requiring aspiring buyers to have even larger deposits than are currently demanded risks excluding even more young people from the market."

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