Sean McMillan: Light at the end of the tunnel for young house buyers

For many of those hitting their late 50s or about to enter retirement, the prospect of a reasonably comfortable life post-work is a realistic one.

Monday, 14th May 2018, 7:00 am
Sean McMillan believes that booming property prices will level off

During their lifetimes, there have been the regular ups and downs in the economy but always a genuine aspiration of hopefully accruing enough wealth to have a decent quality of life.

Over the years prices have risen and they will continue to rise. That’s life. But we assume that our earnings and assets will also grow at a rate that ensures that these things remain affordable. It’s an assumption that was built into life as we knew it. But things have changed and our children are the ones who will, it seems, bear the brunt of this new economic environment.

We’ve all seen the pattern of increasing house prices in recent years and we regularly hear about the issues facing many people when trying to get on the property ladder. This has become particularly acute in Edinburgh and the biggest question for many young people in the Capital is whether they will ever be able to afford their own home.

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As the younger generation move through their post-school life, they will undoubtedly ask: am I going to have enough money to enjoy the future? Can I afford to live well? Will I be able to buy a house?

House prices in the city and surrounding areas are rising at a level which will, if they continue at the current rate, mean that our children and grandchildren may find this goal beyond their grasp

What we are now seeing, particularly in our major cities, is a shortage of housing stock which ultimately means there is a reluctance for homeowners who would like to move up the ladder to put their own home on the market. Consequently, when a smaller property does come on to the market, one that would normally be considered affordable, and ideal for a first-time buyer, the law of supply and demand applies. Competition increases, and prices rise.

Even those who have saved for years, building up a decent deposit, can find that they are regularly priced out, an increasing problem for many in Scotland’s capital city.

However, there are reasons to be positive. Firstly, and possibly most importantly, this is not the first time we have seen a boom in property prices. And that boom has generally been followed by a levelling off.

Governments across the UK have also indicated a willingness to expand the building of new, affordable homes and although this will not happen overnight, it augurs well for the longer term.

Finally, young people are more adaptable than ever in terms of where they work and we know that the jobs market will become a more flexible one over the coming years.

With the current economic and political uncertainty all around us, the next few years may well be a challenging one for young people, but that doesn’t mean they can’t look ahead with some optimism. But financial planning of some sort is key. It may not be fashionable or exciting, and tightening the belt may be a little painful at times, but despite the current challenges facing the next generation, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and they just need to be ready when opportunity knocks.

Sean MacMillan is a property partner at Aberdein Considine