Last-Time Buyers: The Forgotten Housing Crisis
First-time buyers are central to the vast majority of discussions about the UK housing crisis, owing to a lack of affordable housing and the huge difficulties they face to take their first steps onto the property ladder. Much emphasis is placed on the need to build new homes for them to ease the dissonance between supply and demand, although research shows another promising solution; the so-called ‘last-time buyers’.
Last-time buyers are those of an older generation looking to move once and for all, usually to a smaller and more manageable property. They are mostly retired and struggling to keep up with the continuing demands of looking after a family home – research by Legal & General found that they hold more than one trillion in property wealth in the UK alone.
63% of those aged 55+ own their homes outright, which often means that the majority of their wealth is tied up in property. Making the decision to move to a new house not only frees up funds that can be used to enhance their golden years, but it also frees up properties for the abundance of first-time buyers struggling to find a family home.
However, a lack of properties suited to last-time buyers presents yet another stumbling block for the UK housing market. 26% of those aged 55+ reportedly considered downsizing in the past 5 years, yet only half of those went ahead with the move. So, why did half choose to stay in their current home despite having concerns over the size, cost and suitability of it?
Unsurprisingly, the answer is commonly that last-time buyers are unable to find the right property. Whilst for some this means a dedicated retirement community, for most it simply means a smaller house in an area close to their family and friends. It’s a relatively small ask, but one that virtually no-one is listening to.
Although last-time buyers are almost never mentioned in housing strategies, a greater focus on their needs would make a significant impact on availability and liquidity within the UK property market, not to mention a decreased reliance on strained resources such as care homes and hospitals.