Couples face spending 96% of their income to climb onto the property ladder, an investigation by RICS has revealed.

The accessibility index says first-time buyer couples in the average lower quartile earning of £25,899 will need to save huge amounts to build up the front buying costs on a typical home as well as the deposit and stamp duty.

The findings represent a worsening of accessibility to home ownership of around 350% since 1996 – a sign of the affordable housing drought facing Gordon Brown.

‘First time buyers are facing an enormous struggle to access the housing market,’ said RICS senior economist David Stubbs. ‘This may worsen if the turmoil in the US market forces mortgage providers to tighten lending criteria and demand even higher deposits.’

‘Even if prospective first time buyers make it onto the market, they face mortgage payments which take up a higher percentage of their take home pay than at any time since 1990.’

House prices have risen by over 11% a year since 1996 whereas first time buyer incomes have only risen by 3.5% a year. This has forced buyers to borrow ever greater amounts and now higher interest rates are applying pressure to the household finances of recent buyers.

But Stubbs indicated the increasing burdens on first-time buyers may be nearing a peak.

He said: ‘With house price growth expected to be below earnings growth in 2008, and with possible interest rate cuts in the second half of that year, the burden on first time buyers may lesson somewhat.