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Buy-to-let back to normal

Nia Williams

May 13, 2010

This follows a modest upturn in house purchase by investors at the end of last year triggered by the stamp duty holiday. As a result, the number of buy-to-let loans declined by 15% to 22,000 in the first three months of 2010. Over the same period, the value of lending also declined, by 12% to £2.1 billion.

Leaving aside the impact of the stamp duty holiday, however, buy-to-let lending has now remained broadly flat over each of the last five quarters. Compared to the first quarter of 2009, the value of buy-to-let lending in the first three months of this year is unchanged, while the number of loans declined by just 2%.

Low interest rates are continuing to contribute to a modest improvement in buy-to-let arrears. At the end of March, the number of loans with arrears of more than 1.5% of the mortgage balance totalled 19,300 (1.56% of all buy-to-loans), compared with 20,700 (1.69% of loans) at the end of 2009, and 28,800 (2.47% of loans) a year ago.

The number of buy-to-let properties taken into possession in the first quarter of 2010 totalled 1,400, an increase from 1,200 taken into possession in the preceding three months but unchanged from the total a year ago. Meanwhile, cases where a receiver of rent had been appointed totalled 11,200 at the end of March, down from 11,900 three months earlier but up from 9,200 a year ago. These cases are similar in many ways to a lender taking possession of a mortgaged property, with the landlord being removed and the receiver collecting rent and passing it on to the lender to apply to mortgage payments.

Commenting on the figures, the CML’s director general Michael Coogan said: “Ignoring the effect of the stamp duty holiday, the lending figures show that the buy-to-let market has settled into a period of stable, low-volume activity. Generally, prospects for the rental market are good. But uncertainty over house prices, interest rates and the availability of mortgage funding is continuing to hold back the buy-to-let market at this stage.

“We also want to see how the new coalition government takes forward the Treasury’s initiative to encourage higher investment in the private rented sector, bearing in mind the scope for growth that exists to meet future demand from tenants. There is a case for targeted measures in the Budget, even though the primary focus will be the fiscal deficit.”


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