THE NUMBER of first-time buyers has risen to its highest level since June 2017. There were 35,500 new first-time buyer mortgages completed in August 2018, two per cent more than in August 2017, according to figures from UK Finance. But first-time buyers are still struggling because house prices are rising faster than wages.

The average house price has jumped from £14,236 in 1978 to £211,000 today, according to Trussle figures, while the average UK salary has risen from £3,269 to £26,500.

Dilpreet Bhagrath, mortgage adviser at Trussle, the online mortgage broker, said: “It shows just how unaffordable it currently is for first-time buyers and there needs to be serious commitment to innovation to make home ownership more affordable and accessible to young people.”

As the August figures show, though, it is not impossible to get a foot on the ladder, although anyone hoping to do so will have to start with saving a deposit first. It is almost impossible to arrange a mortgage unless you have a deposit and the bigger the deposit, the wider – and cheaper – the range of mortgages available.

Rachel Springall of Moneyfacts said: “The average five-year fixed rate with a 5% deposit is 4.06%, but borrowers with a 10% deposit will find the average rate is much lower, at 3.22%.”

Lenders look at your monthly incomings and outgoings when they decide how much you can borrow. It is a detailed calculation but you can get a rough idea by using an online mortgage calculator. Most banks and building societies include mortgage calculators on their websites, as do price comparison sites. You will need to work out the monthly payment to make sure the deal is affordable. Again, there are plenty of websites that feature payment calculators. It is also a good idea to make sure you could afford the monthly payment if interest rates were to rise.

Comparison sites allow you to quickly and easily search for mortgages, or you could enlist the help of a broker. And do not just look at the headline mortgage rate.

“It’s worth considering the overall mortgage package, as lenders entice borrowers with cost-saving incentives, such as a free valuation, free legal fees and even cashback,” said Springall.

Fixed mortgage rates are popular with first-time buyers. David Hollingworth of broker L&C Mortgages said: “Fixed deals are extremely competitive at the moment and also give first-time buyers the comfort that their mortgage payments will not be affected by a change to interest rates.”

For example, HSBC offers a best-buy two-year fix at 1.79% with a £999 fee and a minimum 10% deposit. The fix is cheaper than a low-cost variable deal, such as Skipton Building Society’s tracker at 2.05%.

There are various costs when you buy a property, including legal and mortgage fees. The average mortgage fee, for example, is now £1,005, according to Moneyfacts, the highest in more than five years. First-time buyers can get Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) relief on properties up to £175,000. But if you are spending more, you need to budget for the LBTT bill.

There are various government schemes that can help you get a foot on the housing ladder, such as Help to Buy (Scotland) Affordable New Build Scheme. The Scottish Government also runs two shared equity schemes and shared ownership is another option.

Lenders usually carry out a credit check when you apply for a mortgage. There are various ways to boost your credit score, but one of the most important is to register for the electoral roll. Lisa Hardstaff of Equifax, the credit reference agency, also recommended that you check your credit file for inaccuracies, keep up with payments on credit cards and loans and do not make too many applications for credit.

You might boost your chances of buying a property if you join forces with a friend or relative. But you should seek legal advice so you know what would happen if, for example, one of you wanted to sell.

Relatives can also boost the amount you can borrow by acting as a mortgage guarantor. The Barclays Family Springboard mortgage enables a first-time buyer to purchase a home without a deposit if a relative opens a Helpful Start account with 10% of the property price. If you pay your monthly mortgage on time, the bank returns the 10% - with interest - after three years.