Mortgage lending dips pre-General Election


Staff reporter (Leader Live)

The number of mortgages granted to first-time buyers and home movers fell back by 16 per cent year on year in February, banks and building societies have reported.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML), which released the figures, said the typical lending dip seen in the early part of the year may have been made stronger by the upcoming general election, with buyers putting their plans on hold while they await the outcome. Moving towards the summer, it expects to see an upturn in lending.

Bucking the trend seen in other types of lending, lending to buy-to-let property investors has shown strong year-on-year growth, with the number of loans handed out to this sector up by 11 per cent compared with February 2014. There were 15,900 buy-to-let loans in February with a collective value of £2.2 billion.

Some estate agents have reported that new pension flexibilities, which give people aged 55 and over a greater choice over how to spend their retirement pots, have encouraged more retirees to consider investing in buy-to-let properties.

The CML said that so far, the increase in buy-to-let lending is “almost completely” down to remortgaging. Lenders have been slashing their mortgage rates in recent months amid expectations that any increase in the Bank of England base rate from its current historic 0.5 per cent low could be some way off.

The CML’s figures showed that 18,700 loans with a total value of £2.7 billion were advanced to people taking their first step onto the property ladder in February, marking a one per cent decrease compared with January and a 16 per cent slide compared with February 2014.

It said that despite the dip in first-time buyer lending, it was the second strongest February for lending to this sector since 2007, behind only last year's February level.

First-time buyers typically needed to put down a 19 per cent deposit in February, compared with one of 17 per cent in January. As mortgage rates remain relatively cheap, the CML’s figures showed that first-time buyers paid typically 19 per cent of their income towards paying off their mortgage, down from a recent peak of 24.8 per cent in December 2007.

Separate figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed the typical price paid for a first-time buyer home in February was £205,000, which is 7.4 per cent more than a year ago.

Meanwhile, the CML said 21,900 loans with a total value of £4.1 billion were advanced to home movers in February, marking a two per cent decline compared with January as well as a 16 per cent fall compared with February 2014.

See full story in the Whitchurch Herald

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