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Last Updated: Saturday, 22 January, 2005, 13:35 GMT
First-time buyers face price woe
Detached house in Birmingham
The number of first-time buyers has fallen to a record low
First-time buyers cannot afford to buy a home in 92% of UK towns, a survey from the Halifax bank suggests.

Average-priced homes in 548 out of 597 main UK postal towns were beyond the means of people on average salaries, according to the study.

The problem of affordability is most acute in the south of England, where house prices have outpaced earnings.

Toughest of all is Gerrards Cross in Buckinghamshire, where a home costs 18 times the average income.

Most Affordable Towns
Lochgelly, Scotland
Nelson, Lancashire
Cowdenbeath, Scotland
Aberdare, Wales
Wednesbury, West Midlands
Source: Halifax

At the other end of the scale, Lochgelly in Scotland is the most affordable town, with property costing just three times the average salary.

In England, Nelson in the North West is the most affordable location for first-time buyers, with property costing 3.24 times the average salary.

Difficulties

Halifax defined a town as unaffordable for first-time buyers if the average property price was more than 4.37 times the average salary.
HAVE YOUR SAY
There is stagnation everywhere on the ladder
Tony Humphreys, Prestatyn, UK

Using this method, Halifax found that 95% of towns in the South East, East Anglia and the South West were unaffordable for first-time buyers.

But in Scotland and Northern Ireland, just 19% and 25% of towns respectively were deemed unaffordable.

Least Affordable Towns
Gerrards Cross, South East
Weybridge, South East
Knutsford, North West
Richmond, London
Ascot, South East
Source: Halifax

Halifax chief economist Martin Ellis said that first-time buyer numbers are at their lowest level since 1981.

"Affordability has become a serious issue, making it very difficult for those looking to get onto the housing ladder for the first time."

However, Mr Ellis added that the slowdown in the housing market in recent months offered fresh hope to first-time buyers.

"We expect the situation to improve somewhat as earnings growth outstrips house price growth over the next few years."

They say three factors sell a house: location, location, location. Gerrards Cross has all of them
Michael Day
Integra Property Services (Bucks)

"This will make it easier for first-time buyers, thereby boosting the number from its current historically very low level."

Gerrards Cross estate agent Michael Day, said: "People want to move somewhere a little leafier, which have good schools and transport links.

Mr Day, the managing director of Integra Property Services, said: "They say three factors sell a house: location, location, location. Gerrards Cross has all of them."

But one Scottish mortgage consultant said he was "mystified" as to why Lochgelly was the cheapest town.

James Marman at Delmor Estate Agents, in nearby Cowdenbeath, said about 9,000 people lived in Lochgelly, with three primary schools, one secondary school, a loch and golf course.

He said: "There is a real mixture of people - from first time buyers to people who have moved to the area to retire - and those who have lived there for their entire life."

On average, a three-bedroom terraced house would cost around 75, 000 in Lochgelly, he said.

By contrast a three-bedroom semi-detached house in Gerrards Cross would cost about 470,000, according to Rightmove property website.


BBC NEWS:VIDEO AND AUDIO
Why many are being priced out of the housing market



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