March mortgage lending subdued

Ryan Bembridge

May 16, 2018

The mortgage market was subdued in March 2018 – with new buy-to-let volumes and residential remortgage completions both dropping considerably from the same month last year.

UK Finance figures show that new buy-to-let mortgage volumes were down by 19.1% at 5,500, while residential remortgage completions fell by 12% to 32,400.

New homemover mortgages dropped by 7.8% with 28,400, while first-time buyer completions fell by 1.9% with 31,200.

The only area to see a year-on-year increase was buy-to-let remortgages, which saw a 0.8% uplift with 12,600 completions.

Jackie Bennett, director of mortgages at UK Finance, said: “Remortgaging levels softened in March, after a busier than usual start to the year saw customers locking into attractive deals ahead of a potential interest rate rise.

“There has been relatively flat growth in lending to first-time buyers, reflecting recent Bank of England figures showing a fall in mortgage approvals.

“Meanwhile the buy-to-let market remains subdued, as recent tax and regulatory changes continue to have an impact on demand.”

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, had a mixed reaction to the results.

He said: “First-time buyer numbers continue to edge up, which is encouraging, although it is a modest increase.

“With lenders continuing to offer great rates at high loan-to-values, we would hope to see a continued increase in first-time buyers jumping on the property ladder, which suggests that affordability may still be an issue for many.

“Remortgaging softened after a strong start to the year, fuelled partly by expectations that interest rates would rise in May.

“While the Monetary Policy Committee meeting came and went without a rate rise, there is no room for borrowers to be complacent as it is not necessarily completely off the agenda.

“With inflation falling and economic growth still weak, that rate rise may not be imminent but borrowers who are worried about paying the mortgage should consider locking into one of the competitive fixes still available.”

James Cameron, director of property management company Vesper Homes, reckoned the landscape is shifting from London to the likes of Manchester.

He said: “Many investors, both from the UK and overseas, are holding back from investing in London at present.

“Property prices are just too high and this, coupled with the stamp duty surcharge for second home purchases, means London is not a viable buy-to-let opportunity, particularly when it comes to new build.

“This doesn’t necessarily mean landlords are choosing not to invest at all, however. We have seen a shift in interest from London to cities such as Manchester where there is great value to be had, lower entry points and the ability to get a decent yield, even with the tax changes.”

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