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  1. Blog
  2. Fourth steppers face difficulty when climbing the property ladder
Research & Insights
23 January 2023

Fourth steppers face difficulty when climbing the property ladder

Fatima Bukhari
Writer & Researcher

Table of contents

  1. 1. Property size reflects cost
  2. 2. Ladder climbers upgrade by 36% in square footage
  3. 3. ‘The first step on the ladder is the toughest’
  4. 4. Data and methodology

It’s no surprise that the nation’s first-time buyers face a monumental task when it comes to climbing the property ladder. However, it’s those taking their fourth and final steps that face the biggest jump when it comes to the cost of their onward purchase.

We analysed the current price of property per square foot and what this equates to for the average home at each rung of the ladder. We also assessed how wide the gap is between each of these rungs when it comes to climbing it.

We found that the aspiration of homeownership has grown increasingly difficult for first-time buyers, with the average first-time buyer house price up by 13.6% across England in the last year alone.

Property size reflects cost

First-time buyers

Our research reveals that the median value of mortar and bricks currently sits at £306 per square foot throughout England, while the standard first home comes in at 808 square feet. As a result, first-time buyers are facing a total cost of £247,147 in the matter of securing their first property.

Second steppers

It doesn’t get much easier for second steppers looking to upgrade, whether it be with a partner or due to starting a family. The typical home when climbing the second rung sits at an estimated 958 square feet. This means that the price gap between the first and second rung is an additional 19% or £45,881.

Third steppers

However, those with a growing family in need of more space have the shortest gap to traverse between the second and third rung. With a third rung house of 1,066 square feet coming in just 11% higher than a second rung house, equating to an additional £33,035.

Fourth and final steppers

It’s no shock that the largest gap on the property ladder is found when taking the fourth and final stride upwards. Those on this step are usually searching for what can be considered as their forever home, with enough space to accommodate a maturing family.

At a median of 1,668 square feet, the price increase versus a third rung property comes in at a huge 56%, equivalent to a step of £184,137 more where the total value of a property is concerned.


Nonetheless, the good news is that those in the final stages of the property purchasing lifecycle can cash in considerably when it comes to downsizing. The standard dwelling for a downsizer comes in at 829 square feet. A step down from the dizzying heights of the top rung will cost them -50% less, leaving them with plenty in their back pocket to enjoy their later years. An average of £256,630 to be exact.

Ladder climbers upgrade by 36% in square footage

It's no secret that homesellers often seek greater space when moving up the ladder. But how much do we usually upgrade by?

The average increase in square footage between first, second, third, and fourth step properties is a whopping 36%. So unless you're planning on downsizing, your dream home will likely be larger than the one you're currently living in.

‘The first step on the ladder is the toughest’

- GetAgent CEO Colby Short

“There’s no doubt that the initial first step onto the property ladder is the toughest, with first-time buyers having to save a considerable sum from scratch to secure a mortgage deposit, not to mention the fact it’s a new and often daunting experience in itself.

However, the uphill struggle doesn’t stop there and each rung of the ladder requires yet further financial thought for those looking to progress upwards.

What stage of life you’re at will dictate the size of the gap between one rung and the next and generally speaking, the task of climbing from a starter to home to one suitable for a young or growing family is more manageable than making that fourth and final step upwards.

Of course, the silver lining is that you will have accumulated some level of financial foundation within your existing property depending on how much of the mortgage has been repaid and this can help with the initial task of securing your onward purchase.

But it takes careful thought and planning to ensure that you can continue to afford the high cost of homeownership as you take that next step and that you haven’t overstretched when it comes to the cost of repaying your mortgage.”

Data and methodology

Rung of the Property LadderLife StageAverage Property SizeAverage House Price*Gap when climbing the ladder Gap when climbing the ladder
1First-time buyer808£247,147N/AN/A
2Second Stepper - Partner or young family958£293,02819%£45,881
3Third Stepper - Growing family1,066£326,06311%£33,035
4Fourth Stepper - Larger families and forever/final homes1,668£510,20056%£184,137
5Fifth Stepper - Downsizers829£253,570-50%-£256,630

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