Buying a home by London travel Zone: house prices, deposits and average age of first-time buyers


No matter staggering property prices, economic and political instabilities and wage stagnation, somehow you just can’t keep a determined first-time buyer down.

The number of people taking a first step on the property ladder reached a 12-year-high last year, with more than 350,000 investing in a home nationwide, according to new data from the Yorkshire Building Society. 

In London, first-timers spent an average of £415,000, while out in the commuter belt the typical cost of a first home was £264,000.

Drilling down into this data, new research from Hamptons International reveals just who these London first-time buyers are, how much they spend and how much their families hand over to help them on to the ladder. 

Table: what first-time buyers are paying

Travel Zone Average age of first-time buyers Average price of first-time buyer home
2* 32 £670,300
3 35 £530,950
4 32 £399,050
5 33 £398,950
Source: Hamptons International. *Insufficient data for Zone 1

Zoning in on the centre

The average age of a buyer in Zone 2 is 32 — and one thing they must all have in common is deep pockets, to be able to afford a home so close to central London.

Prices vary considerably across  Zone 2. At the lower end of the scale, in gritty but regenerating Blackwall E14, an average flat costs £485,000 according to Rightmove. 

On the other side of the capital, in leafy, lovely Maida Vale W9, one of the more expensive Zone 2 options, an average flat costs £719,000. 

Buyers in Zone 2 typically put down a 20 per cent deposit which is almost £100,000 in Blackwall and close to £150,000 in Maida Vale. Many rely on family and friends to gift them 17 per cent of the money. 

There are so few first-time buyers in Zone 1 that the data is unreliable.

From £398,000: flats at Aspen in E14, with a sky lounge offering amazing London views

Vatche Cherchian, regional director of Portico estate agents, says three quarters of Zone 2 first-timers buy with a partner to cut costs. Around half prefer a period conversion or older home and half like the convenience of a modern new build, with the chance of using Help to Buy to cut their entry costs.

“We predict the first-time buyer market will continue to gradually increase and gain momentum for the rest of the year,” adds Cherchian. “The majority have suffered from Brexit uncertainty up until now but their confidence is picking up as we head into 2020.

“Many feel it’s the right time to buy because we are near the bottom end of market prices which will most likely only creep up gradually.”

For buyers after a new Zone 2 bolt hole, one of the big launches of this spring’s selling season — and certainly one of the tallest — is Aspen in east London. 

At 65 storeys it will be the third-tallest residential tower in Canary Wharf when completed in 2023. Residents will have access to a private club with a health spa, plus a business suite and a sky lounge with amazing London views. Prices start at £398,000 (aspen-canarywharf.com). 

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65 storeys: the third-tallest residential tower in Canary Wharf, Aspen will be the centre point of Consort Place, a fresh destination with bars, cafés and restaurants

Commuter community 

Out in the suburbs in Zone 3, the research shows a clear pattern. First-time buyers who want a shorter commute wait longer and lean increasingly heavily on the Bank of Mum and Dad. 

Zone 3 buyers are, on average, 35 years old and around a third of their deposit is gifted to them. 

They cannot afford central London but house prices here are an average £530,950. 

In Zone 4, by contrast, where prices are lower, buyers are typically 32 years old and they raise more than three quarters of their deposit themselves. 

Across the capital the research found that just over half of first-time buyers pick up typical starter flats with one or two bedrooms. 

But a surprisingly high number, 45 per cent, buy homes with three or more bedrooms as they attempt to future-proof themselves against the cost of repeated moves up the ladder when they have a family. 

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City vibe: 1,300 new homes are launching at Marleigh in Cambridge next month

Home sweet home counties

Out in the home counties the youngest first-time buyers are to be found in the boroughs of Runnymede in Surrey, which includes the towns of Chertsey and Egham; adjacent Spelthorne, which includes Staines-upon-Thames, and Oxford, with an average age of 28.

They spend, respectively, an average of £326,000, £312,000 and £361,000, which is far less than their London counterparts.

The oldest first-time buyer commuters, average age 40, are to be found in pricey St Albans, where they spend £388,500 to get on the ladder.

Even with the assistance of their families to raise a deposit, Surrey first-timers are well into their late thirties in Crawley, Horsham and Epsom & Ewell, as they are, too, in Watford in Hertfordshire.

In Epsom, Dale Woods, area manager for Barnard Marcus estate agents, says about six in 10 of the first-time buyers he works with are buying with a partner. 

The majority — 66 per cent — are moving out of Kingston, with the rest from Sutton and south-west London. 

All are seeking more space and better value. Half buy a three- or four-bedroom home for £520,000-£600,000, while the rest buy flats, with a budget typically between £350,000 and £375,000. 

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Help to Buy: Tadworth Gardens has flats and houses, priced from £299,950 (Chris Winter)

Woods reports a busy first-time buyer market as 2020 gets going: “We have seen the number of buyer registrations this month up by 53 per cent on last year and the number of viewings are up by 28 per cent,” he says. “There is greater confidence in the market and money is cheap to borrow.”

Buyers keen on minimising the size of their deposit could use Help to Buy at Tadworth Gardens, on the fringes of Tadworth village between Epsom and Reigate in Surrey. 

Its latest phase, Central Park, launches soon with flats from £299,950 and three-bedroom houses from £499,950. Epsom to Waterloo trains take under 40 minutes (londonsquare.co.uk).

Buyers who want more of a city vibe could head towards Cambridge where Marleigh, the latest development of 1,300 new homes from the Marshall Group and housebuilder Hill, launches next month (marleigh-cambridge.co.uk). 

This good-looking development is set within landscaped grounds, while the world-class centre of the university city is a 20-minute bike ride away.

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More space for less money: the monthly costs for Debora Drago’s Help to Buy flat are less than she used to pay in rent for her bedsit 

Choosing space over greenery

Debora Drago was fed up with throwing away £800 a month to rent a basic bedsit in Ealing, so she moved to less-attractive Hounslow. “Ealing is beautiful but I couldn’t afford to buy there,” she says.

She wanted to stay in west London, however, and decided to take the plunge and buy her first home, selecting a £300,000 one-bedroom flat at Countryside’s The Assembly development in Zone 4 Hounslow (countrysideproperties.com).

In financial terms the move has been a great success. Debora’s monthly costs are now less than her rent used to be, and by using the government Help to Buy scheme her savings covered the five per cent deposit she needed to put down.

Deborah, 34, an operations manager, agrees that Hounslow is not as leafy as her old district and certainly doesn’t have the bars and restaurants. “But I am close to the station and to the shops and I have much more space for less money.”



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