Already there are signs that 2011 is going to be kinder to first-time buyers, many of whom have been struggling to get on the property ladder.
A subdued market will help with affordability, and housing minister Grant Shapps appears to be on a mission to ease the tough mortgage restrictions that keep so many single people at home with their parents far too long for all concerned. He also wants to see "a new era of house-price stability", in which prices rise more slowly than earnings.
The first new mortgage deal of this year is certainly welcome news for first-timers. Halifax has launched a no-fees loan that saves buyers at least £1,986 in up-front costs - the typical amount someone pays in arrangement fees, legal and survey bills.
It is a two-year fixed-rate at 5.79 per cent and comes with a higher than normal "loan to value" of 90 per cent, meaning a 10 per cent deposit is needed rather than the 25 to 30 per cent often required.
Choose the way to pay
The need for big deposits remains the main obstacle for buyers, leading to a huge reliance on the bank of mum and dad. But research shows that more than half of parents who provide money get nothing back on their investment. Developer David Wilson Homes, part of the Barratt Group, is addressing this by offering to pay five per cent interest for five years on deposits of up to 20 per cent.
The interest is paid as a lump sum at the time of completion (a £12,000 payback on a £240,000 home using £48,000 of savings). Friends, relatives and parents of the buyer qualify for the scheme, available at several developments in the Home Counties including Meadow View in Ongar, where prices start at £179,995. Visit dwh.co.uk.
The Home Builders Federation argues too few homes are the reason for a "broken ladder": supply shortages have driven up prices to the extent that first-time buyers in London have to save every penny of their earnings for three years to have a chance of owning. The average deposit needed is £62,383.
Shared ownership is one way of avoiding the need for a huge deposit, stresses Notting Hill Home Ownership, which sells part-rent, part-buy homes. Often, deposits of less than £10,000 are required when purchasing an equity share of between 25 per cent and 75 per cent. At Freemans, a regeneration of the former clothing catalogue printworks in Stockwell, shared-ownership prices start at £103,600 for a 40 per cent stake. Visit sales at nhhg.org.uk.
Housing associations have links with mortgage lenders who specialise in shared ownership so getting a loan should not be a problem for buyers whose income is sufficient (to qualify you need to earn less than £60,000 a year). Similarly, specialist solicitors can be recommended. About £500 is the typical fee for legals.
Metropolitan Home Ownership, another leading London association, says most people buy 50 per cent equity at the outset and then staircase to 100 per cent ownership in one go.
MHO and London & Quadrant act as agents for shared-ownership homes in the capital. To register, visit housingoptions.co.uk. Buyers can apply direct to other associations such as Notting Hill, Origin and Family Mosaic. The latter is selling flats at Dakota House and 386 London Road, Croydon. Prices from £32,488 for a 25 per cent share (full price, £129,950). Also at Mojo, Bow, close to the Olympic Park. Prices from £52,500 (25 per cent share, full price £210,000). Call 020 7089 1315.
Genesis Housing Association has schemes at St Luke's Square, Canning Town - prices from £45,000 for 25 per cent (full price, £180,000) - and at Whitby House at Marsh Wall, next to Canary Wharf. Prices from £53,750 for 25 per cent share (full price £215,00).