The Rising Trend of Older First-Time Homebuyers in Ireland



Explore the challenges and implications of the increasing median age of first-time homebuyer borrowers in Ireland, as revealed in a new report from the Banking & Payments Federation of Ireland.

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Irish homeowners are getting older, and this trend is reflected in the rising median age of first-time buyer borrowers. According to a new report from the Banking & Payments Federation of Ireland (BPFI), the median age of first-time buyer borrowers rose to 35 for the first time in the year to June 2023. This marks a significant increase from previous years, where almost two in every three first-time buyers were aged 30 or under in 2004. By 2015, this had decreased to about one in three, and now it’s just one in five. As a result, almost half of all first-time buyer purchases (44 per cent) are by people aged over 35, compared with just 17 per cent in the same age cohort back in 2004.


The Challenges of Buying a House When You’re Older

One of the factors contributing to the growth in older buyers is separation and divorce. As long as your name is no longer on a house deed when you go to purchase, you can be treated as a first-time buyer. There are clear advantages to being an older buyer, such as the potential for a larger income. The BPFI report shows that median incomes were up by 6.5 per cent in the year to June 2023 for first-time buyers, reaching almost €82,000 annually (or €90,200 in Dublin when buying a second-hand property). This increase led to a rise in the amount they were borrowing, with the median first-time buyer mortgage up by €20,000 to €270,000.

However, there are also specific challenges associated with being an older buyer. One of these challenges is the shorter mortgage term that older buyers are likely to have. Almost 85 per cent of first-time buyers aged over 35 had loan terms of 30 years or less. This is partly due to the reluctance to carry such debt into retirement. Additionally, lenders typically have a maximum lending age, beyond which they won’t lend. For example, Bank of Ireland will offer a loan term of 35 years, but you must be no older than 70 by the end of the mortgage term. With PTSB, you must have finished your mortgage term by the age of 70, while AIB/EBS will only lend to the age of 68.

Furthermore, if the term of your mortgage is shorter, the amount you can borrow may also be reduced. This is because monthly repayments will be higher if the term of the mortgage is based on a shorter period. As a result, the applicant may find that there is a reluctance to lend them the full amount, even if the Central Bank rules dictate that they should be allowed the full amount.

In addition, the process of trading up to a larger or more expensive home can be challenging for older buyers. Traditionally, buyers would buy a "starter home" before trading up a few years later to a larger or more desirable home. However, this approach often requires time to work, something that the older buyer may not have.

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As first-time buyers continue to age, it is no surprise that fewer people will manage to buy their own home. Latest home ownership figures from Eurostat show that Ireland now has the ninth lowest home ownership rate across 33 European countries, at 70.4 per cent. This puts it ahead of countries that traditionally have had large numbers of their population renting long-term, such as Germany, Denmark, and France, and in line with the average for the EU-27. However, it now lags behind other European states such as Spain, Portugal, and Poland.

While there are advantages to being an older buyer, such as the potential for a larger income, there are also specific challenges associated with it, such as shorter mortgage terms and limitations on the amount that can be borrowed. As the trend of older first-time buyers continues, it is important to consider these challenges and find ways to address them. More information

The Rising Trend of Older First-Time Homebuyers in Ireland

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