In the UK, property ownership is viewed as a top priority among young adults. In fact, according to a recent study by Santander, 51% of people said owning their own home was among their top life goals.
Following the events of the past two years that have seen remote and hybrid working become an increasingly available option, many workers are no longer tied to living in certain areas, cities, or even countries to work. As a result, the opportunity to move abroad in order to step onto the property ladder is becoming a reality that some first-time buyers may be looking to explore.
With this in mind, as part of their brand new European First-Time Buyer Report, the experts at NerdWallet have analysed 30 European cities to determine which destinations lead the way when it comes to the best and most affordable cities for first-time buyers to call home.
The report considered a number of elements, from average monthly income, estimated mortgage costs, house prices, and broadband speeds, to the number of parks, restaurants and even access to popular coffee chains.
Madrid, Vienna and Bucharest Crowned the Best European Cities for First-Time Buyers
Many first-time buyers looking to step onto the property ladder are not just looking for a house that suits their needs, but also a location that offers a range of social and cultural elements that suit a modern lifestyle.
So, which European cities topped the table for being the best spots for first-time buyers?
The Spanish capital of Madrid takes the crown as the best city in Europe for first-time buyers according to our rankings, with a total score of 100.4/150.
The cultural hub of Madrid is renowned for its elegant boulevards, historical buildings, and renaissance and contemporary art museums. The bustling city has one of the cheapest average monthly mortgage repayments of the cities analysed, at just £355 a month, meaning residents will have more disposable income for enjoying the city’s extensive range of restaurants, clubs, and tapas bars.
Coming in a close second is the stunning city of Vienna in Austria, with an overall score of 96/150.
Sitting on the stunning Danube River, the Austrian city, often referred to as the World’s Capital of Classical Music, is home to a number of opera houses and concert halls. Vienna also has 2,000 parks to explore for a leisurely stroll or some outdoor exercise, while those looking for a gym membership can find one for an average price of just £21.74 a month.
Bucharest, Romania’s capital city, secures the final place in the top three as one of the best cities in Europe for first-time buyers, with a score of 94.2/150.
The cultural, industrial and financial hub of Romania has lots to offer for new homeowners, from its 2,224 restaurants – including the famous Caru’ cu bere which serves up authentic cuisine – to its super fast broadband, ideal for remote working.
Finding itself in last place on the list, and therefore deemed one of the less desirable cities in Europe for first-time buyers, is the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, with an overall score of just 53/150.
While the beautiful city does have lots to offer its residents, it has a slower broadband speed than many of its European counterparts, as well as one of the highest average mortgage repayments (£1,865 per month).
Birmingham is ranked as the 6th best place for first-time buyers in Europe but was the best city in the UK, with an overall score of 84.2/150.
The Midlands city is a great location for those with a vibrant social life, boasting a huge number of bars and 2,073 restaurants to choose from, including the likes of The Ivy and Tattu. Birmingham also has a number of gyms for fitness fanatics looking to start or end their day with a workout, with average gym membership just £25.42 per month.
London comes in at 13th overall on the list, with an overall score of 74.8/150.
Despite the well-documented high cost of property, England’s capital does offer one of the best average monthly salaries to residents, at £2,906.31. It also has a great culture out of the office too, with 20,576 restaurants, and 3,000 parks for those looking to enjoy one of the greenest cities in the world for its size.
Liverpool is in 21st place on the leaderboard for its affordability and lifestyle offering, with a total score of 67.3/150.
The average house currently on the market in Liverpool is a below average £202,179, with a monthly mortgage payment of £926. The popular city is also home to 40 Drive Thrus, from McDonald’s to KFC, for anyone looking to enjoy a quick lunch on-the-go in between remote video meetings.
Step onto the property ladder for less in Europe’s 10 cheapest cities
In the current economic climate, getting onto the property ladder may seem more challenging than ever to many people struggling with the rising cost of living. That’s why, for those flexible with regards to location, it’s important for prospective first-time buyers to be savvier with their budgets and find the most affordable options.
Bucharest leads the way as the cheapest city in Europe to buy a home, with the average house price costing a budget-friendly £35,831. The 20% deposit will also be a modest £7,166, a much more affordable amount for first-time buyers than in some of its neighbouring European cities.
The picturesque Romanian capital offers stunning scenery, including the Carpathian Mountains and far-stretching views of the Black Sea from its coastline. The city is rich in history with medieval towns lined with fortified churches and castles. If you’re up for the drive, you can even visit Bran Castle – also known as Dracula’s castle – on a day trip. Those living in Romania can also enjoy an energetic nightlife and eclectic restaurant scene.
The bustling Latvian city of Riga secures its spot as the second cheapest location to buy a house, costing on average £46,316 with a 20% deposit of just £9,263.
Sitting on the Baltic Sea, those living in the scenic area will also benefit from extensive views of River Daugava, alongside both art nouveau architecture and medieval wooden buildings. Riga is also home to a pedestrian-only Old Town and its cultural centre boasts many museums, shops, concert halls, restaurants, and bars.
Climbing the ranks to third place as one of the cheapest destinations to buy a home in Europe is Budapest, the Hungarian capital, with the average house costing £86,262, with a 20% deposit of £17,252.
Budapest is bisected into two parts by the River Danube, the hilly Buda and the flat Pest, and is connected by its iconic 19th-century Chain Bridge. The city is full of history with its very own Castle District and fascinating architecture like the Hungarian Parliament Building. Budapest is also known for its vibrant nightlife and restaurants and its iconic Szechenyi Spa Baths.
Paris, Munich, and Berlin amongst the least affordable cities for first-time buyers
Most first-time buyers are looking to buy on a budget and find an affordable area to set up home, which is why some of the popular tourist destinations in Europe fall out of their price range.
In this case, Paris, Munich, and Berlin emerge among the most expensive cities in Europe for first-time buyers to purchase their first home.
Our research determined that Paris is the most expensive city for first-time buyers to acquire property, with the average house price costing an eye-watering £838,634. This means that those looking to move to the city of love will need to put down a 20% house deposit of £167,727.
Second in line as the least affordable city for first-time buyers to purchase a home is Munich, with houses costing £723,694 on average. Putting down roots in the German city will require buyers to pay a 20% deposit of £144,739.
Germany’s capital Berlin ranks as the third most expensive city for buyers looking for their first house, with the average house costing £680,930. The popular tourist city, rich in history, means that houses come with a hefty price tag and a 20% deposit would come to £136,186.
Most affordable mortgages: The top three European cities revealed
With the cost of living rising, many soon-to-be first-time buyers are on the lookout for a more affordable mortgage. So, which cities in Europe have the lowest mortgage repayments based on the average earnings of residents?
Madrid secures itself as the most affordable European city for a mortgage, with monthly payments costing a reasonable £355. Solo first-time buyers in Madrid could expect to be paying 22.50% of their monthly salary towards their mortgage, while a two person household with two paychecks will pay 11.25% each.
Riga climbs the ranks to second place with a monthly mortgage payment costing a budget-friendly £195 a month. Those buying alone in Riga will be expected to pay 23.60% of their monthly wage, whilst a two paycheck household will be contributing just 11.80% of their pay.
Vienna is named the third most affordable city to take out a mortgage on a house, costing a modest £531 a month. A single person household in Vienna will spend 27.32% of their monthly wage on their mortgage, while a household with two paychecks will pay 13.66% each.
In the UK, Birmingham is the most affordable city to take out a mortgage, costing £1,050 a month. Those purchasing a house alone will be expected to pay out 46.04% of their monthly earnings or the cost split between two people will be 23.02%.
Liverpool is the second most cost efficient city for mortgages in the U.K, with the average monthly mortgage payment costing £926. This means that a solo buyer will have to pay out 55.64% of their salary a month, whilst a two paycheck household will pay 27.82% each.
Those living in the capital of England, London, will have a monthly mortgage cost of £2,195, which means a single buyer would pay out a staggering 75.53% of their average monthly wage to cover the cost, while two people sharing the mortgage will pay 37.76% each.
Revealing the best European cities for out of office activities
Work-life balance can sometimes become blurred for remote workers, which is why it’s important for those looking for their first home to consider the social, leisure and cultural amenities each potential destination offers.
The report analyses the number of out of office activities in each city to determine the best European cities for enjoying a balanced lifestyle.
Paris is crowned the best European city for its social and cultural offerings outside of work, with a lifestyle score of 41.8 out of 50. The city boasts a range of restaurants offering up local cuisine like Joséphine Chez Dumonet and Epicure to enjoy. Alternatively, those looking for something quick can visit the large number of Drive Thrus and Starbucks.
The scenic French capital is also home to a number of parks for people to enjoy a leisurely stroll or a walk with their four-legged friends, including Jardin du Palais Royal and Champ de Mars that offers up spectacular views of the Eiffel Tower.
London takes second place as one of the best European cities for its out of office activities, with a score of 40.3 out of 50.
Those living in London can grab a coffee from one of its 169 Starbucks or enjoy a dining experience at the gastro-brasserie restaurant Sketch in Mayfair that combines food, drinks, music, and the art of David Shrigley. The city also has large green spaces like Hyde Park and Regent’s Park, where individuals can spend more time outdoors and go for long walks soaking up the vibrant atmosphere.
Berlin ranks as the third best city in Europe for its culture with a lifestyle score of 39.7 out of 50, thanks to its number of restaurants, Drive Thrus and Starbucks coffee shops.
The city is also a great spot for fitness enthusiasts with affordable gym memberships at an average monthly cost of £26.68 or parks like Viktoria Park and James Simon Park for outdoor exercise.
Most affordable European cities for monthly broadband costs
With many companies making the move toward hybrid and remote working, broadband costs and speed have become an important consideration for many first-time buyers when choosing a location to put down roots (and set up their home office).
Bucharest tops the table as the most affordable city for broadband at a budget-friendly price of £7.20 a month. The cultural, industrial, and financial hub is a fast-developing city attracting ‘techies’ from all over the world, which is why its fast broadband speed of 232.17 Mbps is essential for those in the industry to work remotely.
Following behind in second place with the most cost-effective broadband price in Europe is Sofia, with a monthly cost of £9.66. Alongside being home to 2,000 years worth of history, the city is also modern and progressive. However, the average broadband speeds in Bulgaria are relatively low at 86.75 when compared to other countries in the report, which could be a downside to the affordable monthly broadband bills.
Poland’s capital Warsaw emerges in third place costing a modest £10.41 for broadband per household a month. The advancing metropolis has a broadband speed of 156.33 Mbps and has adopted a policy paper for a digital transformation by 2030, making affordable and fast broadband more important than ever before.
Ireland’s capital city of Dublin takes the title of the most expensive city for broadband with average monthly payments costing £45.26. Known for being one of Europe’s most expensive cities, the broadband in Dublin also comes with a hefty price tag, but on a brighter note you get what you pay for, as it does have an impressive speed of 122.55 Mbps.
Coming in a close second is Brussels in Belgium, with monthly broadband costing each household £41.31. Those happy to pay more for their WIFI to work remotely in the historical centre of Brussels will benefit from a fast broadband speed of 125.12Mbps.
Finding itself in third place as one of the most expensive European cities for broadband is the cultural hub Amsterdam, with monthly payments costing households £37.85. Known for its artistic heritage and picturesque canal system, broadband here comes at a cost, however, remote workers will benefit from super fast broadband speed at 165Mbps.
Commenting on the results of the European First-Time Buyer Report, NerdWallet’s personal finance expert, Brean Horne, offers some useful tips for first-time buyers looking to get onto the property ladder and why finding the best mortgage deal to suit your financial situation is important:
- Shop around for the right lender – Avoid settling for the first lender’s offer. Looking around at different deals with different lenders could help to save you money in the long run. Find the right lender here.
- Understand what you can afford – Before looking to buy a house it is important to know your price range based on your own personal financial situation. You can learn more about this by using our How Much Can I Borrow for a Mortgage Calculator.
- Prepare your credit – Before looking to get a mortgage on a house, you need to make sure that you have a good credit score and history. The higher your credit score is, the more likely you are to get a mortgage. If you want to increase your score, you can learn how to potentially do so here.
- Decide where to live – Deciding where to live can be a difficult decision, not only do you want to ensure that the area provides everything that you need to live a happy life, but you will also need to consider the cost of living in the area.
- Make the most of government help – There are a number of government schemes such as help to buy and shared ownership that may be able to help you on your journey to buying a home.
Methodology and data sources:
The European First-Time Buyer Report by comparison website NerdWallet discovers which cities around Europe are leading the way when it comes to the best and most affordable destinations for first time buyers to call home.
Taking a seed list of the 30 most populated European cities, the report analyses each city based on their first time buyer credentials. With a big emphasis on hybrid and remote working since the Covid-19 pandemic, the report highlights key amenities the ‘new’ first time buyers of 2022 are looking for in a city to buy their first property.
Using a weighted ranking system, the report assigns a score to each city on the following metrics:
- Monthly Broadband Cost
- Broadband Speed
- Average cost of monthly pass (public transport)
- Average Cost of a one-way Ticket (Public transport)
- Average House Prices
- Mortgage Interest Rate in Percentages (%), Yearly, for 20 Years Fixed-Rate
- Estimated Monthly Mortgage Payments (based on a 20 year repayment mortgage for first-time buyers with deposit & interest)
- Average Monthly Salary
- Mortgage Payments as a % of income (Solo home-buyer)
- Mortgage Payments as a % of income (Joint home-buyer)
- Number of drive-thrus
- Number of restaurants
- Number of Starbucks
- Average Price of Gym Membership
- Number of parks and green space
Each city can score a maximum of 10 points for each category, giving a maximum First-Time Buyer score of 150.
House Price Calculations:
For the cities that did not have an average house price available via sources from researching, we have calculated how much on average it would cost in each city by researching the average cost per square metre and then multiplying this figure by the average size of a house in the city (or country if city level data was not available).
Dive even deeper
With an interest only mortgage you’ll only pay off the mortgage interest each month, but none of the original loan. Learn more about how these mortgages work, and what to consider when searching for the best interest only mortgages.