Rite of passage threatened by dire economic times – though Holyrood may be able to help

Buying one’s first home is becoming an increasingly endangered rite of passage, according to a report that makes for depressing Boxing Day reading for those wanting to climb the property ladder.

Even in a country such as Scotland, which has relied more than most on the rented sector, owning one’s own home should be a relatively straightforward process, attainable through a bit of honest toil. But the sad truth is that it has become a daunting, almost unachievable, challenge in these fraught economic times.

The fact that the number of first-time buyers has reached a 35-year low in Scotland is not just bad news for those looking to join the home-owning classes. There is the obvious knock-on effect for those who aspire to move up the ladder.

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As the Bank of Scotland report suggests, there would appear to be plenty of affordable properties on the market. But with the most recent figures showing that Scottish youth unemployment has soared to beyond 100,000 there are a lot of unfortunate people for whom property ownership is a distant dream.

High unemployment and low incomes mean that too few people are in a position to buy their first property.

Meanwhile, those who want to sell their first homes in order to buy something that is a little bit more substantial find that there are few people with the wherewithall to buy their properties.

It is a vicious cycle that is proving difficult to break.

Next year the situation is unlikely to be helped with the end of George Osborne’s stamp duty holiday for first timers buying a property under £250,000.

In the meantime, the irresponsible lending that contributed to the current mess means that banks are far more discriminating about who they give mortgages to.

The Scottish Government has announced a shared equity scheme to help first timers. The scheme gives first-time buyers help in that it provides money in return for holding a security over the proportion which it funded. When the time comes to sell, the Scottish Government will receive the value at the time of sale of the percentage equity that is state-funded.

Only time will tell if it will succeed in making life easier for Scotland’s aspiring property owners.