Spare some sympathy for the last-time buyer

Many people in retirement are stuck in unsuitable housing. Picture: John Devlin
Many people in retirement are stuck in unsuitable housing. Picture: John Devlin
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A great deal of focus is placed on the plight of first-time buyers, who have struggled with lending restrictions since the banking crisis.

In contrast, homeowners who bought their first property years before 2008 are seen to have benefitted from long-term house price rises and are assumed to be sitting pretty in a secure nest egg which will provide for their old age.

But three separate sets of research out this week highlight the problems of these so-called last-time buyers. There are an estimated 11.4 million homeowners in the UK aged 55 or above.

According to the annual Homeowner survey conducted by YouGov for HomeOwners Alliance and BLP Insurance, only 6 per cent of homeowners age 55 or older have moved in the two past years while 19 per cent have considered moving but not done so.

Lack of suitable housing was a key reason behind staying put.

Paula Higgins, chief executive of HomeOwners Alliance, said: “The recent Brexit decision means we are now in the midst of uncertain times and new housing is likely to be a victim.

“Government needs to focus efforts on negotiating a European exit but they must not drop the ball in delivering new housing that meets the needs of last-time buyers.”

Kim Vernau, chief executive of BLP Insurance, said: “The issues highlighted by this survey that face last-time buyers are as acute as those issues encountered by first time buyers.

“If we wish to provide the required quality of housing that addresses these concerns we desperately need an appropriate mix of well-designed homes to help address the current housing shortage.” A survey by equity release specialist Bower Retirement Services found that more than one in three of their older customers are still paying off mortgages highlighting the growing need for retirement lending solutions.

Its study found 36 per cent of over-55s seen by advisers are still paying home loans and advisers are seeing a surge of inquiries from customers with interest-only loans.

They are also reporting an increase in customers who have considered downsizing but did not go ahead with key reasons including not being able to find a suitable home.

Andrea Rozario, chief corporate officer at Bower said: “Significant numbers of people aged over 55 are paying off mortgages but do not have the range of options they need.”

One potential problem for clients is their home not being worth what they thought – around 18 per cent of advisers say clients found their house was valued lower than they had expected.

Meanwhile many are spending their money on the younger generations.

More than half of grandparents in the UK are giving money to families, costing them on average £571 a year according to figures from Homewise.

Mark Neal, managing director at Homewise, said: “Our research reveals the extent to which grandparents in the UK are being relied upon for money and time by children and grandchildren.

“Helping family is important to many but it is worrying if they are suffering as a result.

“Far too many people in retirement are stuck in unsuitable housing and having to scrimp and save.”

Perhaps the older generation is not so enviable after all.