After a recent gov report that said it will be ‘difficult’ for young people to get onto the housing market, which only served to confirm what many already knew to be true, Gef reached out to our readers to share their experiences of the difficulties of buying their first home.
We had responses from single people, couples, old and young and while some have managed to buy their home, others have told us rather worrying tales of being priced out of the market, of teachers and nurses being unable to afford to live on our island and of the failure of the gov’s first time buyer scheme. In many instances we have agreed to change the name of people who shared their experience.
Nurses Need Help
A nurse who contacted us, LR, told Gef that her and her husband are considering leaving the island because of the state of the housing market.
‘My husband and I initially bought a house when we first married but sold this to help fund us whilst I commenced nurse training. We moved back with parents to be able to afford this change, we are now in our early 30s and have been saving for years to get a deposit together, we now have a substantial deposit saved which we thought would be more than enough, but are still unable to buy a house big enough for us and our two children.
‘The prices are extortionate, and we have also had vendors pull out of offers we’ve made even after paying for surveys, and then found the houses have been re-marketed; this isn’t fair and both vendors and estate agents should be more highly regulated to prevent these issues for so many young families/people that are struggling just like us. We are strongly considering moving back to the UK where we could purchase a house much more reasonably priced and where cost of living is less.
‘There is certainly a shortage of housing here particularly in the East of the island, and what small amount of properties are available just aren’t worth looking at because they aren’t worth the price. The government really needs to step up and recognise there is a huge problem at the moment, and urgently need to make changes and provide more help (housing schemes) as it’s making this island a very undesirable place to stay.’
A second nurse told us: ‘I’m a frontline nurse on the IOM….a single parent but also, like other frontline nurses that also have working partners, have absolutely no hope of raising the required deposit to buy a property on the island. Do I love the island?…..yes! Do I regret moving here and worry about my future?….yes!’
We Work Hard
Dave told us that he and his wife are unable to use the first time buyers scheme, but are also unable to get onto the housing market.
He said: ‘The first time buyers’ household salary cap for couples is £40,000, no children, two bed houses up to £150,000. Me and my partner are earning good money, so way over the cap. Work hard for the island, get f*ck all back and pushed to look and work elsewhere to get on the ladder.
‘Need to save 30,000 – 35,000 for a 10% deposit. Two bed houses going for 280,000. Bidding wars with uk investors. Gov needs to up the cap for couples for the first time buyers, with the house prices gone up. We can’t get first time buyers, £280-300k would be top end. But we could never get it with the competition. Or buy a sh*t hole that needs 30k doing to it. Paying rent 825. Literally bored of it.’
Teachers Need More
Another woman who contacted us is a teacher who said the gov is not doing enough to support young workers and families to encourage them to stay and live and work on the island.
She said: ‘My partner and I started to look seriously at buying a small house over here. I work as a teacher and he is self-employed. We knew that would be tricky in itself but we thought, with help, we could sort something out. Here are the issues we
1) House prices are incredibly high. The price of the 2-bed flat I’m currently in in Ramsey is on the market 10k higher than my sister’s 3 bed semi-detached house in Cheshire.
2) Houses are being snapped up at a rapid rate. We booked viewings for TT half term and all fell through because a buyer, often, went over the asking price and we can’t afford to do that.
3) Unless you want to live in Douglas… Good luck! No chance of getting anywhere reasonably priced in the east of the island.
4) First time buyers schemes are impossible.
5) After some calculations it became clear that we had a difficult choice to make. We could buy a house together and live frugally for the next 10+ years but that would mean in all honesty not having kids. We desperately want kids and as a 33 year old woman I’ve only got 7+ years left to do that. So we made the decision to keep renting for the foreseeable and be able to start a family. Not an ideal choice as we would love a stable family home and not worry about landlords, but that isn’t a possibility here.
‘It does make me wonder what is going to happen? The government are concerned about the aging population but doesn’t have measures in place to keep the 40 and below people on island. Such a shame really.’
Amongst those who messaged us, there were also those who commented on our post asking to share your experiences. Those comments are filled with similar themes as these emails, of a lack of support from the gov, vendors pulling out of sales at a late stage when a cash offer comes along and people relying on family to help them buy a home.
On the Ladder
While these stories have largely been negative, it must be highlighted that some people have had a good experience of the housing market, even though they admit it can be difficult.
A 50 year old woman who contacted Gef said she and her partner have bought their first home last year. She said: ‘Mortgage was the easy bit. Buying the house was a nightmare but we are in now. We were late starters as we always had accommodation with our job. When we came to the island we were only going to stay 5 years and go back to the UK. 12 years later we loved the island so much we decided to make it our forever home.’
A ‘proud homeowner’ who messaged us this morning outlined the sacrifices he had made to be able to afford a house, but that he was glad he did it.
He said: ‘I used to spend about £10 a month on lunch for work, Sunpat crunchy peanut butter (£3.50) and four loaves of bread (£1.69 each), I did this for four years (I did try mixing it up, jam, microwave meals but end up going back to the peanut butter) and saved up £25,000 deposit to match my partners deposit. I was also earning less than £25,000 a year at the time… the main reason I managed to save is because of my mum. I didn’t go out every weekend or buy expensive cars/bikes and I think because of this she didn’t ask me for rent money as she knew I was wasting my money. Granted it’s hard for those that pay rent, but one thing I noticed is you have to penny pinch for a good few years to save up that deposit.’
As part of our appeal for your experiences, Gef was contacted by Paul Chase, MD of Financial Options of Chase Wealth Solutions & Financial Options. Mr Chase outlined not only the difficulty for young people to be able to afford to buy their own home, but also the problems with the gov’s first time buyer scheme.
‘A lack of property due to the unprecedented property buying frenzy that has occurred since the first lockdown has meant that inevitably prices of property have risen and quite significantly. We have heard of properties that were valuing around £200,000 pre-pandemic being sold at £250,000 and with a queue of people outside waiting to offer over the asking price. So the first problem FTB’s face is not only a shortage of property but also when they find a suitable property it is now way above what they would have paid just a few years ago.
‘During the Credit Crunch of 2008 onwards we saw the banks retract and disappear from lending as much as they had done previously due to increased regulation and lessons learnt but during the latest crisis we have actually seen the banks continue to lend and in most instances now that the immediate economic effects of the pandemic have passed, they are increasing their offerings on the island with two lenders now offering up to 6 times income (depending on deposit and income) and 3 banks offering 95% lending, meaning that our clients need to find 5% of the value of the house they want to buy rather than the traditional 10% or even 15%.
‘Even with the potential of 6 times income we are finding that First Time Buyers are priced out of the market unless they have large incomes. If we take a typical individual that maybe earns £25,000 we can usually go to 5.25 times income (unless they have a significant deposit) which would mean a mortgage of £131,250 and if there are any debts or financial commitments, this figure would be less. Even at 6 times that income (with a decent deposit and clear credit etc) that would be a maximum of £150,000 mortgage. Given that you will really struggle to find a house for less than £200,000 this means that individuals buying are limited to apartments but even they are now out of reach for many people as prices there too have gone up!
‘There is a First Time Buyer Scheme available on the island but it is no longer really fit for purpose (if it ever was):
Government FTB Scheme – Fixed & Choice
‘The main problem is the failure for people to qualify for the FTB Fixed Scheme (Government issued property) and at the same time the Choice scheme (Open market) limits purchase to £165,000 (single person), £175,000 (couple) or £190,000 (single person and child/children or couple with child/children) which is unrealistic. On top of this due to the issues with the scheme and the inevitable lack of take up over the last few years (pre-pandemic) the Government have stopped insisting the Developers include so many FTB Properties in their developments (eg. 9 in the latest Dandara property of 300+ houses), so now there are fewer Fixed Scheme houses to go around.
‘The failure to qualify for the Fixed Scheme is because qualifying persons are “required” to need between 20% and 30% assistance (Shared Equity loan) from the Government which on a purchase price of £150,000 would mean you must need between £30,000 and £45,000 assistance. That means the maximum mortgage you are allowed to be able to achieve (once we take off the 5% deposit requirement) is £150,000 – 5% (£7,500) = £142,500 – £30,000 (minimum required shortfall/shared equity) = £112,500 mortgage being the maximum you are allowed to achieve to fit into the scheme. Most lenders now will offer at least 5 times income (and others go to 5.5 times – there are only 3 lenders offering the FTB Scheme and max lending is 5.5 times) so your income therefore cannot be more than £112,500 / 5 times = £22,500 per annum.
‘If you earn more than that and do not have any other allowable financial commitments (child care, pension contributions etc) then you fall outside of the scheme as you can achieve more mortgage than you officially need. The Government has been quite a bit more lenient when it comes to what mortgage people can achieve over the past few years, but the rules still explain that you have to fit into that category to be able to get a Government built FTB property.
‘The other real negative for people is the discount they receive, so for example that house at £150,000, may in reality now be worth £220,000, so the Government is discounting by £70,000. Which is great and allows people to get a more valuable house for less but then the purchaser owes the Government back 50% of that discount and that is wrapped into the Government’s equity share which forms a % of the total value which needs to be repaid to the Government when the purchaser sells or wants to buy the Government out at any stage (only permissible after 5 years ownership and only in minimum £5,000 lump sums once per year) and the interest on that % owned by the Government kicks in at year 3 at a rate of 1% above base (increasing by 1% each year to a maximum of 5% above base).
‘The Choice scheme is better but again the Government owns a % share of your property as per what they have bought in at in helping you purchase it and again they will charge the increasing rate of interest on their share. So the Government Scheme can help those that fit within the criteria or can find a property for £165,000 (if a single person) or £190,000 (couple with child/children/ individual with child/children) but the Govt properties are limited in number and the Open Market price limits are woefully low. The best way for a FTB with an average level of income to get on the property ladder is to either buy with someone else, so they have two incomes to increase the amount they can borrow or get a significant gift from family unless of course you can use the Govt Scheme but as discussed there are very few properties and a limited criteria that you have to fit within.’