15/04/2009

House Purchase Lending Edges Up And Remortgaging Declines

The number of house purchase loans ticked up in February, according to new data from the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML). There were 24,300 house purchase loans worth £3.1 billion, compared with 23,400 loans worth £3.1 billion in January - a 4% increase. But historically activity remains very weak, running at around one-third of the average February total of 76,000 loans for house purchase between 2002 and 2007.

Remortgaging declined steeply with 35,000 remortgage loans, down from 44,000 in January- a 20% decline. We expect demand for remortgaging to remain muted as lenders' standard variable rates are attractive compared to new mortgage pricing, and house price falls continue to erode equity levels which will exclude some borrowers from the best remortgaging deals available to those with large deposits.

There were 9,400 loans to first-time buyers - a 7% monthly increase -but significantly less than the 17,400 in February 2008.

The tight lending criteria remain a barrier to most first-time buyers. First-time buyers typically had a deposit of 25% in February, a new record. Such amounts remain out of reach for all but the most affluent buyers, for example people returning to home ownership after a period of renting, divorcees, or those who get financial assistance from their family.

First-time buyers typically borrowed 2.95 times their income, down from three times in January. The average first-time buyer loan was £95,000, down from £97,000 in January and £114,000 in February last year. This decline reflects the change in house prices over the same period and the growth in the size of first-time buyer deposits.

Lower income multiples and mortgage rates have made affordability considerably easier for those able to get a mortgage. Interest payments consumed 15.4% of the average first-time buyer’s income in February, down from 20.1% in February 2008 and the lowest proportion since June 2004.

Michael Coogan, CML Director General, said: "These figures represent February mortgage completions. Recent mortgage approvals figures published by the Bank of England show some signs of improvement at the beginning of the borrowing process, although activity is at a very low level historically. We are not convinced that underlying trends have shifted sufficiently to change our forecasts for mortgage market activity in 2009, but there are some positive signs for later in the year.

"Some large banks are making more funding available through enhanced lending commitments, which is helpful but will not satisfy consumer borrowing demand on its own. We need further market measures to be introduced by the government around the Budget to encourage a mortgage market where all types of lenders – banks, building societies and specialist lenders, and large and small businesses – are encouraged, and enabled, to commit more funds to the mortgage market if we are to enhance lending activity significantly."

(CD/KMcA)

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