Zoopla reveals the alarming amount first-time buyers now need to earn to get on the property ladder

Will first-time buyers be forced to rent forever?

Are you a first time buyer hoping to get a foot on the property ladder this year? You might need to start job hunting, too, if these new findings are anything to go by. Property experts Zoopla reveal first-time buyers now need to earn an average income of £54,400 to buy a home of their own.

We're not talking living beyond our means in an enormous mansion, either, folks. We're talking average-priced homes in UK cities.

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The average salary amount required has grown by 9 per cent since 2016. This sum is now over £4,500 more than that was needed three years ago.

First-time buyer's report 2019

city with cemetery mountain

(Image credit: Future PLC/Brent Darby)

Zoopla focused on first-time buyer affordability, as this group accounted for the largest number of homes purchased in 2018. The cost of getting on the ladder has increased, despite weaker city house price growth. This weak price growth means affordability has improved in the three most expensive cities – London, Oxford and Cambridge.

Average annual incomes are now range from £26,137 in Liverpool to £84,000 in London. The study found the average deposit currently required for first-time buyers, to purchase in one of these cities, is currently £38,418.

Liverpool has identified as the most first-time buyer friendly city in the UK, in terms of annual income – requiring the lowest income of £26,000. This has encouraged house price growth, up 5 per cent year-on-year.

Overall, house prices in UK cities have increased by 1.8 per cent over the 12 months, from May 2018 to May 2019.

table with calendar and pen

(Image credit: Alun Callender)

'First time buyers are an important group, accounting for more than one in three sales,' says Richard Donnell, Research and Insight Director at Zoopla. ''While the average household income to buy a typical home across UK cities has grown 9 per cent since 2016, weaker price growth and recent price falls have led to a 5 per cent reduction in the income to buy across the most expensive cities.'

There's bad news if you live  in the Midlands. Leicester has seen the largest increase in the income required to purchase since 2016, at 20 per cent. This is followed closely by Birmingham and Manchester, both seeing house price growth totalling 18 per cent over the last three years.

Aberdeen shows the largest percentage decrease in annual income required to buy, of all UK cities. Expert say this could be a result of sudden price decreases in the city following the crash in oil prices since 2015.

house with brick wall and white window

(Image credit: Future PLC/Rachael Smith)

Another interesting fact revealed by the survey is that deposit levels have increased since the global financial crisis – so we're definitely getting better at saving! Average first time buyer deposits ranges from £119,000 in London to £18,449 in Liverpool. No doubt, more of us are choosing to live with Mum and Dad while saving up for our own place.

These stats are based on 15 per cent deposits in regional cities and 25 per cent in London, Oxford and Cambridge. Assuming the borrower can only get a mortgage of four times their income, it means buyers in highest value cities must either buy a cheaper property or find a larger deposit.

'It will come as a modest relief for would-be buyers although the income to purchase still remains relatively high,' Richard adds. 'While it is a factor behind weaker house price growth it supports underlying demand for rental homes.'

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'Affordability remains attractive in many regional cities, where house prices have not registered the gains seen in south eastern England. Liverpool has the lowest income required to buy, yet has the highest rate of price growth at 5 per cent. We expect prices to continue to increase in cities where housing is in reach of those on average incomes.'

The results are based on the May Zoopla UK Cities House Price Index.


Tamara was Ideal Home's Digital Editor before joining the Woman & Home team in 2022. She has spent the last 15 years working with the style teams at Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, both now at Future PLC. It’s with these award wining interiors teams that she's honed her skills and passion for shopping, styling and writing. Tamara is always ahead of the curve when it comes to interiors trends – and is great at seeking out designer dupes on the high street.