Arrears and possessions lower than forecast

Nia Williams

February 11, 2010

This figure reflects the number of possessions taken by first charge lenders on both home-owner and buy-to-let mortgages.

In 2009 as a whole, this brought the total number of possessions to 46,000. This was lower the CML’s most recent forecast of 48,000, and significantly fewer than the 75,000 forecast at the start of the year, but still 15% higher than the 40,000 in 2008.

In terms of payment difficulties, 188,300 mortgages ended the year with arrears equivalent to at least 2.5% of the outstanding mortgage balance (for example, £2,500 or more arrears on a £100,000 mortgage balance). This was lower than the 195,000 the CML had anticipated, and 3% lower than at the end of the third quarter – but still 3% higher than at the end of 2008.

Looking ahead, the CML’s current 2010 forecast of 205,000 arrears cases and 53,000 properties taken into possession may be a little pessimistic, given that unemployment is faring better than expected so far, and that low interest rates, lenders’ arrears management policies, and government assistance schemes are working well to support many borrowers through temporary difficulties.

Commenting on the current level of mortgage arrears, CML director general Michael Coogan said: “The fact that mortgage arrears and possessions did not rise as much as we feared in 2009 is testament to the effect of low interest rates, and a great deal of concerted effort by lenders, government and the advice sector to help borrowers to address financial difficulties when they occur.

“We are not out of the woods yet – 2010 will still be a challenging year for many borrowers, and some households will inevitably find their finances being squeezed if and when interest rates do eventually rise. But borrowers should feel reassured that lenders want to help them keep their homes wherever possible. The vast majority of people who get into arrears manage to keep their homes, and will do so even if interest rates rise. Seeking advice as soon as financial problems occur will help to minimise the risk of the situation getting out of control.”

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