A government initiative aimed at getting first-time buyers on the property ladder has shaved six years off the age at which people can afford their first home.
According to analysis of official data by the Mortgage Advice Bureau, a broker, the average age of people who bought a home in the last year through the "Help to Buy 2" mortgage guarantee was 31, compared with the national average age of 37. More than 70,000 people have bought their first home over the past year using Help to Buy, which allows savers to buy a home with a deposit as low as 5pc.
The average salary of home buyers using the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee fell by 12pc over the past year from £31,270 to £27,957.
Lower salaries among Help to Buy 2 buyers were accompanied by a 4pc drop in the average price of a home bought through the scheme from September to December (down by £6,761 to £143,727). This is in contrast to the trend in the wider market, where the average salary of borrowers increased marginally from £39,834 in September to £39,983 in December.
However, first-time buyers are being warned that using the scheme will cost them more in the long run - especially if they choose a longer repayment term.
Why it can cost you more
For someone buying the average home worth £231,487 with a 5pc deposit using Help to Buy 2 over a 35-year repayment term, the cost would be £409,100, according to Mortgage Advice Bureau data.
This compares with £370,934 for someone with a 25pc down payment over the same period.
By reducing the repayment period by 10 years and accepting higher monthly repayments, the total cost of buying the house under Help to Buy 2 (with a 5pc deposit) could be reduced by more than £50,000 to £349,361.
For borrowers with a 5pc deposit, stretching their repayments from a 25-year to a 30-year term will reduce monthly repayments by £108 from £1,234 to £1,126.
Brian Murphy of the Mortgage Advice Bureau said: "By allowing borrowers on lower salaries to buy a home with a deposit as low as 5pc, it's no wonder the age of borrowers has fallen. If you go back a few years, people were having to stump up at least 10pc or 15pc, which can take young people years to save.
"If you're renting you're effectively paying someone else's mortgage, so it can be difficult to save meaningful amounts. For this reason, Help to Buy 2 could be particularly good for people who don't have parental help but are keen to get on the property ladder."
However, he added that renting could be a better option than buying a home for some people.
"Employment has changed over the years and people are less likely to stay working for the same firm for long periods," Mr Murphy said. "For people regularly moving jobs, the ability to up sticks and move to a new location is something home ownership doesn't always offer."