The average age that Britons expect to take their first step onto the housing ladder is 35. Women are slightly more optimistic than men when it comes to home ownership, expecting to buy their first property aged 34, compared to 37 for men.  This is  according to research from Post Office Mortgages.

And 50% of prospective homeowners aged 25-34 say they cannot afford the deposit for a home unless their circumstances change, such as receiving a lump sum of money or getting a better paid job.

Mike Cook, head of mortgages at the Post Office, says: “Many would-be first time buyers may have been put off trying to get onto the housing ladder by the size of deposits now needed, and some may be deterred by their perception of high mortgage repayments.”

“But there are very competitive options available for people who are keen to own their first home and prospective buyers may not have to wait until they are 35 to take this step.”

However, The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) says house prices will increase by 14% over the next four years.

The organisation has revised its forecast down from 16% in May.

It predicts house prices will drop 1.3% in 2011 but then gradually rise between 2012 and 2015, up 2.4% in 2012, 3.4% in 2013, 3.6% in 2014  and 4% in 2015 -- this is across the UK. Savills expect that the mainstream market in Scotland will rise 6.5% by 2015, and the prime market 11.7% in the same period.

The ongoing shortage of housing, a gradual increase in the availability of mortgage finance and a prolonged period of loose monetary policy will cause the upsurge in house prices, it says.

CEBR says house building will remain depressed for the next four years and this, combined with population growth, will result in an increasing shortage of housing.

CEBR also predicts that the base rate is unlikely to rise above 2% before 2015.

Shehan Mohamed, economist at CEBR, says: “We forecast an average of 110,000 new homes to be built every year over the medium term”.

This is significantly less than the 225,000 required to keep up with demand.

Douglas McWilliams, chief executive of CEBR, says: “We do not expect a house price boom, but the housing shortage is likely to push prices gently upwards.

“By 2015, our updated forecast price for the average house is £200,700. The previous peak level was £191,200 in 2007.”

So, with the access to a deposit and mortgage funding in place, now may be an excellent time to join the property ladder.