Scottish first-time buyer review 2021

22 January 2022

  • Clackmannanshire is the UK’s most affordable area for first-time buyers
  • 9 of the UK’s 10 most affordable locations are in Scotland
  • Average Scottish FTB paid £166,919 for their home in 2021

Clackmannanshire is both Scotland and the UK’s most affordable area for first-time buyers (FTBs), according to new analysis from Bank of Scotland. The review also identified that the average Scottish FTB in 2021 was 31 years old, paid £166,919, and put down a deposit of £37,038 (22%).

First-time buyer numbers up

Since 2009 the number of people getting on the housing ladder in Scotland has more than doubled. Having fallen in 2020, the number of people buying a first home jumped by almost a quarter in 2021 – rising 24% to 35,627.

Price growth outstrips deposit growth

The average first home in Scotland now costs £166,919, up 8% on 12 months ago, while the average deposit grew by 4% to £37,038. The UK average FTB home was £264,140 - up 3%.

The research also looked at the age of buyers entering the market. In 2011 the average age was 29 for both Scotland and the UK. Since then, FTBs have got older and the average has diverged slightly, with it now standing at 31 in Scotland, compared to 32 for the UK.

Affordability better than most

Compared to the rest of the UK, affordability for first-time buyers in Scotland is relatively good. Nine of the ten most affordable areas to buy a first home are in Scotland, with only Allerdale in North West England preventing a clean sweep of Scottish local authorities (LAs). In Scotland’s least affordable location, the City of Edinburgh, homes are more than twice as affordable as the UK’s least affordable, Brent in London, where the average FTB home costs 12.3 times the average income, and below the UK average of 6.3x.

However, based on a benchmark of no more than 4x income for a house price to be considered ‘affordable’, 17 of 29 local authorities in Scotland are now ‘unaffordable’, up from just seven in 2011. (See Table 3)

The growth of house prices has outstripped the growth of wages in all but three local authorities in Scotland over the last 10 years (also the only three in the UK): Moray and Clackmannanshire saw marginal improvements in their price to earnings ratio (P/E ratio), while in East Ayrshire there was no change. In all other Scottish local authorities, first-time buyer affordability fell, with Argyll and Bute seeing the biggest deterioration. 

Graham Blair, Mortgages Director, Bank of Scotland, said: “2021 was a busy year for housing transactions in Scotland, and despite prices growing faster than wages, that surge of sales was seen not just in those moving home but also those getting their foot on the housing ladder.

“While working from home and the ‘race for space’ was key for many, particularly movers, it’s clear that the Stamp Duty holiday increased the availability of first-rung homes as others moved up the ladder.

“Affordability for first-time buyers may be comparatively good in Scotland but it is falling, and fewer places than ever are seen as being within the reach of those getting on the housing ladder.”