Comment: Has it ever been easy for Herts-based first-time buyers?

Getting on the property ladder in St Albans or Harpenden has never been simple. Picture: Getty Image

Getting on the property ladder in St Albans or Harpenden has never been simple. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto, - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getting on the property ladder in St Albans or Harpenden was tricky enough before COVID-19, but since lockdown it’s got a whole lot more complicated.

First-time buyers looking to buy in our famously pricey part of Herts now also have to cope with lenders shelving their 5 and 10 per cent deposit deals, leaving some wannabe borrowers wondering if they’re ever going to be able to afford their own home.

Henry Jordan of Nationwide Building Society described the outlook for the mortgage market and house prices as “uncertain”, adding: “We need to ensure our members can afford their repayments, while doing what we can to protect them from falling into negative equity.”

But has it ever been easy? Writer Richard Burton looked back on his days as a young reporter in this week’s feature, and recalled struggling to buy in times of high interest rates and ever-increasing asking prices.

Currently, banks and building societies are predicting a sharp fall in property prices, with Lloyds anticipating a 30 per cent drop over three years, while Nationwide is expecting a more modest 14 per cent fall.

For now at least, things feel very different locally. A friend has just offered the asking price on a property after missing out on another that went for £10,000 over.

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Agents tell me that multiple offers are regularly being received on family homes around the £1 million mark – a price point that’s long seen a shortage of supply, particularly when a good school catchment is added to the mix.

So are St Albans and Harpenden safe from a coronavirus-induced housing crash? Nowhere can ever be 100 per cent resilient to something like this, but the signs are hopeful that our area will be among the most COVID-proof.

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Regardless, some first-time buyers may find themselves resorting to what Richard did, and buying out of the area. A frustrating state of affairs, but in the case of our Harpenden-based correspondent at least, only a temporary one.

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