First-time Buyer's Guide
The cheapest and most expensive areas to buy your first home
There’s no denying that buying your first home can seem like a daunting task. With the property ladder harder to get onto than it has ever been, many in the UK are considering relocating to secure a more affordable home.
Since house prices vary significantly based on location, we at PlumbNation wanted to find the cheapest and most affordable areas in the UK for first-time buyers.
We also looked at which cities could save you money by opting for a new build, and the cities where buying an existing house would offer you better savings.
Delving into some of the most common maintenance problems in new builds and older homes, read our top tips on what to look out for when buying a property. From leaky bathroom taps to old, inefficient boilers, these maintenance issues can end up being an unnecessary expense.
The cheapest cities to buy your first home
It’s undeniable that being a first-time home buyer is more difficult now than ever before. With limited houses for sale and prices at a record high, getting on the property ladder can seem like a daunting task.
The average UK house now costs £281,1611 so it’s no surprise that for many of us buying your first home seems like an impossible dream. However, for those looking to invest in their first home, an affordable location is top of the criteria for many.
The demand and supply for housing, alongside population growth, means that houses in some areas of the UK are over three times more expensive than those in less popular locations. Since many are searching for affordable first homes, we looked at the average house price in each UK city as of April 2022 to find the cheapest cities to buy a house.
1. Kingston upon Hull - Average house price: £128,107
Houses in Hull are the cheapest out of all UK cities on average. The average house in Kingston upon Hull costs £128,107 - that’s £153,053 cheaper than the UK average.
2. Stoke-on-Trent - Average house price: £136,026
Stoke-on-Trent is one of the best cities for first-time buyers who are looking to prioritise cost. The average price of a house in Stoke-on-Trent is £136,026, meaning buyers could save £145,134 in this area compared to the UK average.
3. Sunderland - Average house price: £141,138
Ranking in third place, Sunderland is one of the most affordable cities in the UK for first-time buyers. The average house price in the city is £141,138, which is £140,023 less than the average UK cost.
The most expensive cities to buy your first home
For most first-time buyers, price is one of the most important factors to consider, and it’s clear that many locations do offer houses that are less than the national average.
After looking at the cheapest UK cities to buy a home, we wanted to find out which cities also come with the highest price tag. These popular locations cost far more than the average UK house price, as a result of high demand and limited supply of housing.
We found that cities such as London, St Albans and Cambridge are the most expensive cities to buy a house, all offering access to tourist hubs and historical charm.
Edinburgh is the most expensive city to buy a house outside of England. Houses in the Scottish capital city cost on average ££324,947.
1. London - Average house price: £838,145
It comes as no surprise that London is the most expensive city in the UK to buy a house. With an average price of £838,145, houses in London cost £556,985 more than the national average. Despite its high prices, London is one of the most sought-after cities to live in, often ranking as the most popular location in the UK to buy a home. The tourism and property hub of England is a favourite choice for many, thanks to the endless things to do and increased work opportunities.
2. St Albans - Average house price: £597,527
In second place for the most expensive cities in the UK for first-time buyers, homes in St Albans cost £597,527 on average. A commuter’s city situated just north of London, the city is just a stone’s throw away from England’s capital. It’s clear to see why St Albans is a popular, and expensive, place to live, with excellent links to London and its own ancient Roman history.
3. Cambridge - Average house price: £508,914
Known for its world-class university, beautiful parks and historical streets, Cambridge is one of the most expensive cities in the UK to buy your first home. At an average price of £508,914, homes in Cambridge cost £227,753 more than the average UK house.
The cheapest local authorities to buy your first home
While many first-time home buyers are flocking to cities for increased job opportunities and a more bustling environment, others are more flexible when it comes to location.
Living in a town or village can offer lower average house prices, quieter streets and a less competitive housing market. Thanks to the increase in remote working, some of us can choose to live anywhere in the UK, regardless of work location. While many others are considering buying a house in a cheaper town, with good transport links into the city.
To help you find the right area for you, we looked at the average house price of all areas in the UK. These average prices take into account the house price in the towns, villages and cities of each local authority area, and can give you an idea of where the cheapest houses are in the UK.
1. County Durham - Average house price: £126,016
County Durham has the cheapest average house price in all of the UK, at £126,016. While houses in the county vary in price by location and size, there’s no denying that County Durham is a cost-conscious first-time buyer county.
2. Blaenau Gwent - Average house price: £131,596
In South East Wales, Blaenau Gwent is one of the cheapest areas in the UK, and the cheapest place in Wales, to buy your first home. Famous for its mountain views and rivers, Blaenau Gwent is the ideal location for those who love natural scenery. At an average price of £131,596, homes in Blaenau Gwent are £149,565 cheaper than the UK average.
3. Blackburn with Darwen - Average house price: £137,694.48
In third place, Blackburn with Darwen is one of the cheapest areas in the UK to buy a house. The area includes the towns of Blackburn and Darwen, alongside surrounding villages, and first-time buyers can find some of the UK’s cheapest houses in this area.
The most expensive local authorities to buy your first home
Although many first-time buyers are keen to keep the cost of buying a home as low as possible, some may prefer living in a more expensive location.
We looked at the average house price in each area of the UK and found the priciest locations to buy your first home. The price of housing varies across the towns, cities and villages in these areas, however, these are the most expensive places to live on average.
1. Surrey - Average house price: £507,676
Surrey is in the first place as the UK’s most expensive area for first-time buyers. Benefitting from several renowned educational institutions, natural beauty and vibrant market towns. Homes in Surrey cost £507,676 on average - that’s £226,515 more than the average home in the UK.
2. Buckinghamshire - Average house price: £469,167
Buckinghamshire is one of the most expensive areas to buy your first home with houses priced at an average of £469,167. For those looking for an escape from the city, Buckinghamshire is a choice location with its green beauty and quiet atmosphere. However, houses in Buckinghamshire are around £188,007 more expensive than the UK average.
3. Hertfordshire - Average house price: £449,261
In third place, Hertfordshire is one of the most expensive areas in the UK for first-time buyers. With good transport links to London and the north of the UK, Hertfordshire is a popular choice for those who love to be close to city life. However, homes in the area cost £449,261 on average, which is £168,101 higher than the UK average house price.
The best cities to buy a new build
It’s often thought that buying a new home is always more expensive than buying an old house. While it’s true that - on average - new builds come with higher price tags than older houses, this isn’t the case in every location.
Most new builds are more energy-efficient than existing properties, which comes at a premium since it will likely save you money on energy bills over time. In the midst of the cost of living crisis, most of us are concerned about energy prices, so the cavity wall insulation, underfloor heating and double glazing in many new builds are key selling points which drive prices up.
In comparison, some new builds suffer from paper-thin walls, rushed construction and smaller rooms than their older counterparts. In some cases, older builds have a higher average price than newly built properties. Older builds with history and character, high-value features, or listed buildings can cost more than new builds in some areas.
While there are benefits and drawbacks to both new builds and old properties we wanted to find the best cities to buy a new build based on price. We looked at the average price of existing homes and compared it to the average price of new builds in each city, to show you where you could save the most money when buying a newly built house.
1. St Albans - £65,469 saving
St Albans comes in first place as one of the best cities to buy a new build. By analysing government house prices we found the average price of a new build in St Albans is £65,469 cheaper than the average price of an existing house.
2. Oxford - £45,811.35 saving
In second place, Oxford is one of the best cities to choose a new build over an existing property. New builds in the city cost £45,811 less than existing houses.
3. Canterbury - £26,742 saving
Those considering buying a house in Canterbury might want to consider a new build over an older home. With an average saving of £26,742, new homes in Canterbury are more affordable for first-time buyers.
The best cities to buy an older house
While old houses can cost more than new builds in some cities, this is rarely the case. Out of all the cities in the UK, we found that buying a new build could save you money in just five of them. In most cities we looked at, older builds are cheaper on average.
An older build can be a better option for first-time buyers. Since they are often cheaper than new builds, buying an older home can leave you with more money to spend on refurbishments and personalising your property.
Older homes can also have thicker walls and larger rooms than new builds and are ready to move into straight away.
We looked at the average price of new builds and older homes in each UK city to find out where you can get the biggest savings by buying an older build.
1. Exeter - £238,934 saving
In first place, Exeter offers the biggest saving for first-time buyers interested in purchasing an existing home. Prospective buyers could save £238,934 on average by choosing an older build over a new home.
2. Cambridge - £222,587 saving
One of the UK’s most expensive cities to buy your first house, Cambridge is also one of the best cities to buy an older home. New builds in the area cost £222,587 more than existing properties on average.
3. Winchester - £171,863 saving
Winchester is one of the best cities to buy an existing house. New builds in the area can cost on average £171,863 more than older homes.
What to look out for when buying a home
When buying a home there are so many things to consider and home maintenance might be at the back of your mind. However, it’s essential to check properties for these common maintenance issues.
Is the boiler working properly?
Look at the age of the boiler in the property and ask for the boiler service history to ensure everything is up to date. It’s also a good idea to ask to see the boiler installation certificate or a Gas Safety Certificate. If the seller won’t pay for this then you might want to consider paying yourself. Problems with your boiler can be expensive to fix, so it’s best to enquire before buying!
Are there any issues with the plumbing?
Both old and new builds can have plumbing issues. At a viewing, run the taps to check the water pressure and ensure the sink drains properly. It’s also worth flushing the toilet to make sure it drains well. Some plumbing issues can be solved by replacing taps, however, others can be much more expensive to correct. If you’re considering buying an old house to save money, unexpected costs to fix the plumbing could end up putting you over your budget.
Does the house have signs of damp?
Damp can be just as common in new builds as in older homes and can cause major issues in the long term. For this reason, avoid buying a property with any signs of damp without reasonable explanation. When viewing a house, check for a cold atmosphere and spongy floorboards. Damp houses will also have signs of discolouration and mould on the walls and ceilings and may have peeling wallpaper.
How easy is it to buy a house?
It’s no secret that it’s harder than ever before to get on the property ladder, but there are some government schemes which can help first-time buyers secure their first property. With a Lifetime ISA, the Government awards first-time buyers with a bonus of 25% of the balance paid into the account, up to a limit.
We wanted to find the cheapest and most expensive places in the UK to buy a home, focusing on first-time buyers.
Looking at the House Price Index by the Office of National Statistics, we sourced the average house price in April 2022 in each UK city and area, excluding towns, villages, and council areas.
We also sourced the average new build and existing-home price in February 2022 to find which areas offer the biggest savings.