The race for space has been “more of a marathon than a sprint” according to Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.
Coles, who was reacting to the latest mortgage data from the Bank of England, suggests that some homeowners are “completely exhausted” despite the more mortgages being agreed in early 2021 than at any time since the financial crisis.
Coles said: “The race for space has turned out to be more of a marathon than a sprint.
“We’ve been snapping up mortgages at the fastest rate since the onset of the financial crisis – and that was even before we knew the stamp duty holiday would be extended.
“However, not everyone is in this particular race, and some homeowners are completely exhausted.
“The mortgage market was booming at the end of last year, and the mortgages being agreed for the start of 2021 were at their highest for 14 years.
“This was even before the stamp duty holiday extension, which is likely to have brought more reluctant buyers back to the fray.”
The Bank of England data showed that the share of mortgages advanced in Q4 2020 with loan to value ratios exceeding 90% was 1.2%, 4.5 percentage points lower than a year earlier and the lowest level since their statistics began in 2007.
Coles added: “If you need a mortgage with a high loan to value, deals are thinner on the ground than they have been at any time since 2007.
“In this context, you can understand why the government decided to step in and offer guarantees for high LTV mortgages.
“Meanwhile, arrears are starting to grow.
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, arrears are still incredibly low: right now they’re at 0.93% compared to 3.64% in early 2009.
“However, during the pandemic millions of borrowers have been able to rely on payment holidays, so have been able to avoid paying without running up arrears.
“Now that support is winding down, anyone who’s still struggling is running out of road.
“When the FCA asked people in October, 19.6 million expected to be struggling to pay the bills or service their debts by April.
“By the time we get the March figures, arrears could look much worse.”
Iain McKenzie, chief executive of The Guild of Property Professionals, commented on the “amazing display” of consumer confidence in property following these statistics.
McKenzie said: “At a time of a global pandemic, it’s incredible to think that residential mortgage commitments are at the highest level since the third quarter of 2007.
“What an amazing display of consumer confidence in property, and a complete success for the incentives offered by the government.
“It is good news for the wider economy that there is so much interest in getting on the property ladder, despite the financial challenges faced by many.
“Extending the stamp duty holiday until the end of June and phasing out the scheme until September should help defend against any possible downturn in the market.”