The average age of the first time buyer in Ireland has risen by four years to 33 over the past decade, with a leading estate agency group predicting that this figure may rise sharply over the next few years.

In 2005 the average first time buyer in Ireland was approximately 29 years old, but, according to Real Estate Alliance (REA), this figure has increased by 14% and is still rising due to a combination of circumstances.

While a rise in the age of housebuyers is also being experienced in the UK and US, the financial impediments placed in front of our returning emigrants combined with high rents and the introduction of the mortgage deposit rules have combined to create a situation that is increasingly delaying the entry of young people into the housing market.

“While many young people are now returning from abroad with the growth in the economy, they are finding it difficult to get mortgage approval without a full year’s employment behind them, which is pushing the average up all the time,” said REA CEO Philip Farrell.

“Through economic or other reasons, our young people left the country in their droves over the past decade, and this has created a lost generation in housing purchase terms.

“A high percentage of young Irish adults in their early 20's choose to travel the world for extensive periods of time – at one stage emigration was claiming 60,000 young people a year.

“In many cases the decision to do this is taken following completion of college education or after learning a skill.

“As a result of this people are taking longer to return home, settle down and have families – we estimate that emigration has put many people’s life plans back by five years.

“We are also finding that young people’s attitude towards property buying in their 20s is changing as a result of the global crash.

“Due to the uncertainty surrounding property values during the recession, many young people chose to 'park the bus' in relation to purchasing their own home and confidence in property as an investment was diminished.

“Interestingly, average life expectancy in Ireland has increased by four years to nearly 81 over the last 15 years. This figure will continue to increase and it is our opinion that young people feel that they have a lot of time on their side.

“As a result of both of these factors, we have seen many potential first time buyers choosing to either remain in the family home or rent for longer periods rather than following the race to get on the property ladder.


“This has had a knock-on effect and the average age of the second-time buyer is 39 and also increasing.

“It is important to remember that there exists particular pockets of the country where these figures are both lower and higher than the average.

“We estimate that the average first time buyer in the capital is already 35, due to high property values.

“However, in rural county towns with a large multinational IT employer, our agents report that the first time buyer average is firmly in the mid to late twenties as well-paid employees take advantage of lower cost housing.

“Over the past two years average property values have increased at a faster pace than average wage levels, therefore the whole area of affordability has become a factor.

“One issue for consideration is the low prevailing interest rates which will not remain so forever and ultimately will also affect the affordability issue.”

Real Estate Alliance (REA) is Ireland’s leading property group of Chartered Surveyors with over 55 branches nationwide, comprising many of the country’s longest-established auctioneers and estate agents.

One of the main issues REA agents are encountering is young people getting adequate access to finance.

“For many people purchasing in 2005, access to credit was not a huge issue.

“They could borrow up to 95% of the purchase price of a house and, in many cases, up to five times their salary.

“This has all changed with the introduction of the Central Bank’s mortgage deposit requirements, which, combined with high rents, have made it increasingly difficult for young people to save deposits, especially in Dublin.

“While their use as a medium to moderate house price increases has been welcome, they have had the effect of suppressing movement in many areas of the market, especially in the ability of the second time buyer to move, thus keeping the supply of housing to the first time buyer at a minimum.

“The new income requirements of 3.5 times salary combined with increased deposit requirements introduced by the Central Bank in February of this year will continue to put pressure on the average age of first time buyers in this country.

REA agents are also reporting that young people are also being forced to reapply for finance due to mortgage offers running out after a sale falling through somewhere in the selling chain.

“Up to recently a huge percentage of banks and receivers sales were falling through due to issues such as title, which meant that young people were having to return to the issuing bank for reapproval.

“This may not be related to the property in question, but often to the next one in the buying chain and has been a source of heartbreak for many potential buyers.”

Robert Grimes of REA Grimes Mortgages in Dublin feels that the traditional view of the property ladder has changed for young people.

“I feel that first time buyers are looking for a house that they can possibly live in for life rather than having to plan to trade up.

“I definitely feel that there is a fear factor of not making the same mistake that family members, friends or work colleagues did a decade ago.”