70% of first-time UK home buyers were forced to rethink plans in 2020

Lucy Harley-McKeown
·3-min read
STOKE-ON-TRENT - JUNE 16: Various property signs are seen outside a block of terraced houses advertising homes for sale, let or sold on June 16, 2020 in Stoke-on-Trent. The British government have relaxed coronavirus lockdown laws significantly from Monday June 15, allowing zoos, safari parks and non-essential shops to open to visitors. Places of worship will allow individual prayers and protective facemasks become mandatory on London Transport. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)
Abandoned plans were most common among people who intended to buy their first home: seven in 10 (69%) of these first-home hopefuls say they needed to rethink their property-buying plans during 2020. Photo: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Seven in 10 would-be first-time buyers in the UK housing market had to rethink their plans in 2020.

That’s according the latest “How We Live” study of 6,000 UK adults by Aviva.

The study found that nearly one in three of those surveyed intended to buy a home in the past year, but only one in 10 residents (9%) actually carried out their proposals successfully,

Meanwhile 20% of UK adults – equivalent to around 11 million people – had to halt their plans.

The issue was particularly apparent amongst younger residents, with almost a third of under-25s (29%) and two fifths (39%) of those aged 25-34 seeing their home-buying plans thwarted in 2020.

Correspondingly, abandoned plans were most common among people who intended to buy their first home: seven in 10 (69%) of these first-home hopefuls say they needed to rethink their property-buying plans during 2020.

These frustrated buyers are in stark contrast to the 4% of the population - equivalent to around 2 million people — who hadn’t planned to buy a home at the start of the year, but found themselves doing so in 2020. This activity is again skewed towards younger generations, with under-25s twice as likely to have made a move (8%) compared to the percentage across all age groups.

While the stamp duty holiday had some impact on behaviours, with 13% of ‘sudden movers’ saying they moved to take advantage of the break, it was by no means the only motivator.

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Aside from stamp duty, more than a quarter (27%) of people who moved home suddenly in 2020 needed to find somewhere bigger or more suitable for home-working arrangements.

Lockdown took its toll for 16% of people in this sub-set who needed to move due to a relationship breakdown. More happily, one in 10 in this group started to live with a partner during lockdown and decided to make this arrangement permanent.

Gareth Hemming, MD personal lines at Aviva, said: “The stamp duty break has brought welcome opportunities to people who were in a position to make a property purchase and there’s been much talk of the booming housing market.

“However, there’s also a hidden story of people who were hoping to move in 2020 but had to put their plans on hold because of the many uncertainties. The How We Live study suggests there are far more people in this camp than those who have been able to benefit from the stamp duty holiday.”

In the vast majority (94%) of cases, the people who paused their property-buying plans in 2020, still intend to purchase a home in the future.

However, they are prepared for a considerable wait, anticipating their purchase will be delayed by around 16 months on average. One prospective buyer in 10 (9%) expects their plan to be postponed by at least three years, including 3% who envisage a delay of at least five years.

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