Gross mortgage lending in the UK held steady in October but is being driven more by remortgages than new buyers due to a lack of supply in the current housing market.
It reached an estimated £20.6 billion, according to the latest figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders and closely matches September’s gross lending total of £20.5 billion, but is 5% lower than October last year when it was £21.8 billion.
‘Housing market sentiment is holding up well, with demand still strong. This has led to a pickup in approvals, as expected. The more pressing issue is on the supply side, where the lack of private sellers continues to be an obstacle for would-be borrowers,’ said CML senior economist Mohammad Jamei.
‘For this reason, we expect lending in the months ahead to be driven more by remortgaging activity and less by house purchases. Remortgaging will be helped by competitively priced mortgage deals, which are encouraging borrowers to refinance,’ he added.
According to Ishaan Malhi, chief executive officer of Trussle, the figures conceal two very different stories in the mortgage market. ‘On the one hand, new purchases are seeing a slight fall as first time buyers continue to face challenges saving for a mortgage deposit. This is having a long term impact on home ownership,’ he said.
‘On the other, we’re witnessing a surge in remortgaging, up 17% in the last 12 months, as existing home owners take advantage of record low rates to secure better deals,’ he added.
John Goodall, chief executive officer of peer to peer platform Landbay, also believes that the push is coming from home owners changing to lower interest products. ‘Many existing homeowners are choosing to take advantage of low interest rates to refinance their mortgage. However, this growth in lending volumes belies a much more mixed picture across the sectors. Buy to let lending levels remain around 24% down on this time last year, as April’s 3% stamp duty hike caused an initial wave of transactions, but left in its wake a much more subdued market,’ he pointed out.
‘The fundamentals of the buy to let market are still pointing toward long term sustainable growth, but landlords have had a white knuckle ride over the last 12 months, and we hope to see them given some relief at next week’s Autumn Statement,’ he added.
The lack of homes for sale is also highlighted by comments from John Eastgate, sales and marketing director at OneSavings Bank. ‘Mortgage activity is in good health, reflecting growing consumer confidence after the European Union referendum and impressive resilience in a quite exceptional year. Borrowers are benefitting from record low interest rates, with remortgage activity buoyant, although purchases are constrained by lack of homes for sale,’ he said.
‘However, with the Government set to fall short of the 200,000 new homes it had committed to providing annually, the UK’s chronic housing shortage, and resultant rising house prices, are set to remain a major barrier towards lending growth. Tax changes on buy to let will only make matters worse. The mortgage market needs to be supported by house building of all tenures which is the only long term solution that can prevent further deepening of the housing crisis,’ he added.
Henry Woodcock, principal mortgage consultant at IRESS, believes that the mortgage market remains vibrant. ‘Low interest rates, a levelling of house prices and continued consumer confidence have all combined to maintain market momentum,’ he said.
‘It’ll be interesting to see if the Chancellor has any good news for the mortgage and housing markets in the Autumn Statement. It’s expected he will confirm earlier announcements of funds towards new homes to be built by small firms, but many would like to see further investment into rental properties,’ he added.