Property in rural areas is increasingly unaffordable for first-time buyers, according to recent research. The average price of a property in rural areas is now 7.1 times average annual earnings compared with a ratio of 6.2 in urban areas, says the latest rural housing review from Halifax.

Having increased on average by 72% in the last five years, property prices in the countryside continue to rise, and are now becoming too high for many would-be first-time buyers: 33% of buyers in urban areas are currently first-time buyers, whereas in the country the figure is just 17%.

Another factor is the second homes market: 1.85% of housing in rural areas consists of second homes, and many areas in the south west ? Carrick in Cornwall in particular ? are already prohibitively expensive.

‘Those living in rural areas face particularly tough housing market conditions,’ said Martine Ellis, chief economist at Halifax. ‘In general, higher average property prices together with lower earnings mean that housing is less affordable than in urban areas. Many young people, in particular, are therefore finding it tough to find a foot on the property ladder. This difficult situation is also compounded by lower levels of housing in rural areas,’ he continued.