Mortgaged to the hilt? Not us, say Scots first-time buyers avoid

The typical Scottish first-time buyer spent 11.1 per cent of their income on mortgage interest payments in the last quarter of 2011 – lower than anywhere else in the UK, new figures have revealed.

Those looking to buy their first home north of the Border typically borrowed 79 per cent of the property’s value in the final quarter of the year, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders in Scotland – compared to 80 per cent for the UK as a whole.

However, the UK fared better overall than Scotland over the period as the total number of loans taken out for house purchase north of the Border in the final quarter dropped by 8 per cent to 11,700 – compared to a five per cent drop in Britain as a whole.

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“Scotland, as well as the rest of the UK, continues to see a constrained mortgage market,” said Jim Dunn, chair of CML Scotland.

“However, it is encouraging to see positive signs, such as better affordability for first-time buyers and a decrease in average deposits for home movers, emerging.”

He added: “2012 will still be a challenging year, but we hope to see the slight easing of constraints continuing throughout the year.”

Others said the economic climate had encouraged first-time buyers to become more cautious and realistic about the price of property they could afford – putting them on a stable financial footing.

“First-time buyers are not only being supported by lower house prices, but, more fundamentally, are not over-stretching themselves,” said Mark Dyason of independent mortgage broker Edinburgh Mortgage Advice.

“In the current economic climate, the new generation is being as cautious as the old, which is no bad thing.

“Many people are continuing to sit on their hands, scared of what might happen if they change their circumstances.”

The figures showed that the number of people taking out their first mortgages in the final quarter fell 4 per cent to 4,500 – down from 4,700 in the previous three months – but rose by 7 per cent from the final four months of 2010.

First-time buyers in Scotland borrowed £410 million in the last quarter – a decrease from £440m in the third quarter but an increase from £370m a year earlier.

Mr Dyason added that the end of the two-year stamp duty “holiday” next month – which will see a 1 per cent stamp duty rate reinstated for homes between £125,000 and £250,000 – had boosted sales in the current quarter.

“The final quarter of 2011 may have been flat, but the Scottish mortgage market has seen a boost since the New Year due to the stamp duty holiday,” he said.

Meanwhile, letting agent David Alexander of DJ Alexander, which has offices in Edinburgh and Glasgow, warned that the already squeezed mortgage market was likely to see demand rise even further due to the end of the stamp duty holiday.

“For many young single people or couples, the return of stamp duty of sales over £125,000 will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and makes them decide to rent – or continue to rent if already doing so – whether or not their preferred option is to have a place of their own,” he said.