The mortgage industry has expressed little surprise at the figures revealed in the Bank of England’s Money and Credit report, which showed, for example, that the number of approved mortgages had fallen by 80% from February to April.
Remortgaging, meanwhile, decreased by 34% over the same period.
Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, pointed out that the figures are predictable in light of both the struggles faced during the crisis, as well as the government supports that have been put in place.
He said: “Unsurprisingly, the Bank of England reports that lending fell in April, as did remortgaging although less dramatically.
“Mortgage repayments were also down, as borrowers took advantage of payment holidays and made partial payments as they struggled with the financial impact of COVID-19.”
Harris added, however, that the market would likely start to see an uptick as the country emerges from lockdown.
He added: “We would expect May’s data to be better, with June even better still.
“With lockdown easing and surveyors able to return to physical valuations, lenders are back with higher loan-to-values [LTVs], while rates are ultra-competitive.
“There is plenty of liquidity and lenders remain keen to lend.”
For Hugh Wade-Jones, managing director of Enness Global Mortgages, similarly added that although the declines across the market were pronounced, they were to be expected under current circumstances.
He said: “The latest figures present a dramatic decline across the market with both lender and buyer activity evaporating at a greater rate than forecast.
“But before we head for the hills, it’s important to remember that this data only provides a snapshot of market conditions and one that was taken in the midst of a full market shutdown.
“You wouldn’t cut someone down at the knees and expect them to run a marathon and quite frankly, it’s a wonder that any mortgages were approved at all let alone funds deployed.
“So, while the UK property market may be experiencing an out of body experience due to an abrupt reduction in activity, it’s far from being pronounced, and although it may take a month or two to see a recovery materialise, early indicators at ground level suggest there is plenty of life in it yet.”
Dave Harris, chief executive officer at equity release lender more2life, went further than this, pointing to the representation in the Money and Credit report of a market continuing despite exceptional circumstances.
He said: “Today’s figures are testament to the cooperation between advisers and lenders in ensuring that customers could continue to access the refinancing solutions they needed throughout April while the market adapted to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“This same cooperation can still be seen as the housing market begins to return to some sense of normality, with the industry working hard to ensure that both existing and new borrowers can proceed efficiently during this challenging time.
“While the later life lending market faced a slightly different set of challenges, it also made great strides by ensuring that remote valuations were possible and independent legal advice could be provided on a remote basis.
“With equity release increasingly being used to repay mortgages and unsecured borrowing as well as meet other pressing financial needs, this type of essential support could simply not wait until lockdown started to eased at the end of May and physical valuations become possible.”
Jonathan Sealey, CEO at Hope Capital, also expressed little surprise at the results of the Money and Credit report, and turned to plans for the future of the market.
He said: “Now it’s all about how quickly the market can recover from this.
“Physical valuations and in-person viewings are resuming and the early evidence is that there has been strong demand since the middle of May when some of the restrictions on movement were eased.
“There is still strong demand from borrowers and the bridging sector is in a particularly good place to pick this up.
“By adapting product ranges and showing a flexible approach, bridging can provide solutions where mainstream lenders cannot.”
John Goodall, CEO of Landbay, added that recovery will be more feasible than following the last financial crisis, with the mortgage market, financial institutions, and the consumer all on the same side this time round.
He said: “The comparison with the credit crunch cannot be avoided as the level of net mortgage borrowing is the lowest since 2011 and May’s figures are likely to be similar, if not worse.
“What we hope and expect however is that the recovery following this will be much quicker than it was after the credit crunch.
“Unlike the credit crunch this is not a lender-led liquidity crisis, now the mortgage industry is a victim, from an economic point of view, as much as any other businesses are.
“Liquidity is still available and it is already apparent that demand for housing is still there, although people may find it harder to borrow if their circumstances have changed.
“This time, the banks and financial institutions are part of the solution, along with governments and central banks, to help ease the economic burden and keep the wheels turning.”