House for sale. First-time buyers are highly sensitive to economic and interest rate cycles.
Photo : Nicholas Rama

PRETORIA - The percentage of total home buyers aged below 40 has deteriorated to 42.94 percent in the 12 months to August this year, from 49.1 percent in the 12 months to March 2012.

John Loos, a household and property sector strategist at FNB Home Loans, said last week that this decline came after the earlier improvement in the percentage of below-40 buyers from 2009 until 2011 when interest rates were cut dramatically at the time and the economy emerged from the 2008/2009 recession.

Loos said the rising average age of home buyers was a longer term structural change, adding that the average age of individual property buyers had began to increase steadily from about 2014.

He said the average age of individual buyers rose to 44.16 years in the 12 months to August after averaging 43.05 years in 2014.

Loos said most first-time buyers emanated from the below-40 age group, but first-time buyer levels remained under pressure compared to several years ago, which reflected the stagnant economy, some interest rate hiking from 2014 until last year and generally weak household sector confidence levels.

“First-time buyers are highly sensitive to economic and interest rate cycles, especially the latter. This we believe is largely because of the high dependence of this younger group of aspirant buyers on credit to buy homes. “The result is that young aspirant home buyers tend to be more cyclical than older repeat home buyers on average, remaining out of the market in large numbers in tougher economic and higher interest rate times, and vice-versa,” he said.

FNB said first-time home buying, as a percentage of total home buying, declined to 18.79 percent in the third quarter of this year from 21.41 percent in the second quarter. There were mild increases in the estimated level of first-time buying, expressed as a percentage of total home buying, in the first and second quarters of this year. Loos attributed the differences in the estimated percentage of first-time home buyers in the major regions to the divergent affordability trends between certain regions in recent years.

This, he said, was caused either by house price growth divergence or economic growth divergence.