Repossessions down 7pc

Yuan Phoon

August 11, 2011

Figures show that 9,000 repossessions occurred in the second quarter of 2011, slightly lower than the total 9,100 in the first quarter.

This brings the total to 18,100 for the first half of the year compared to 19,500 in the first six months of 2010.

The total number of mortgages in arrears was also broadly unchanged in the second quarter of the year. However, there was a slight increase in the number of mortgages with low levels of arrears and a reduction in the number in deeper arrears.

The number of mortgages in arrears of between 1.5% and 2.5% of the outstanding balance edged up from 77,800 to 78,500. But those in arrears of more than 2.5% of the balance declined from 166,700 to 164,500.

Overall, the number of mortgages more than 1.5% in arrears declined to 243,000 in the second quarter of this year from 244,500 three months earlier.

The CML confirmed today that it is not making any revision to its arrears and possessions forecasts on the basis of experience in the first half of the year.

The current forecast is for a repossession rate of 0.35% this year and 0.4% in 2012, equating to 40,000 cases of repossession in 2011 as a whole and 45,000 next year.

On arrears the forecast is for a steady position of 180,000 mortgages in arrears of 2.5% or more of the balance representing 1.58% of the total 11.3 million stock of first charge mortgages.

Paul Smee, director general of the CML, said: “Mortgage repayment problems have stabilised against a current backdrop of stable employment and low interest rates. Despite current uncertainty in financial markets, we see no need to revise our forecasts.

“Anyone with debt worries should take advice and speak to their lender at the earliest opportunity, as most temporary financial problems can be resolved.

“It is clear from the low rate of repossession that lenders do want to keep people in their homes, and are successfully doing so in the vast majority of arrears cases. Repossession really is seen as a last resort.”

Chris Gardner, director at Obligo.co.uk, added: “At first blush these figures look encouraging. The number of repossessions in the first half of 2011 is down on the same period last year.

“But the CML’s projections for the second half of this year and for 2012 are less reassuring. It predicts a steady increase in repossessions, up to 45,000 next year.

“So there’s every chance this year’s apparently modest figures could be the tip of the iceberg.

“They’re being kept artificially low by two important factors, the interest rate is at a historic low and lenders have shown remarkable forbearance.

“Together they have created a fool’s paradise, where people’s mortgage payments are comparatively low, and lenders are being especially tolerant of late payers.

“But lenders’ forbearance cannot last forever and if they change their approach the rug will quickly be pulled from under many late payers, leading to thousands more repossessions.

“While this week’s low growth forecast from the Bank of England is likely to mean an interest rate rise is still some time off, when the rate eventually does goes up there will be a big spike in arrears.

“The current low rate means that many who are just able to meet their repayments now will soon be swamped by even a small rate rise.

“Together they form an arrears time bomb which will go off as soon as rates rise next year.”

Mark Blackwell, managing director of xit2, said: “Arrears and repossessions remain low for now but arrears and repossessions are like an iceberg waiting to hit the property market – there is a lot of trouble hidden out of sight, just below the surface.

“Our repossession exchange Rex has already seen a conspicuous uplift in repossessions for one lender, probably driven by a change in forbearance rules. As these become less generous across the industry we’ll start to see more of the iceberg that’s been lying unseen, under the water line.

“The UK has remained an island of relative calm amidst the economic storm engulfing Europe, but growth has been sluggish. Borrowers have already seen their household budgets ransacked by high inflation and stagnant growth, even though we have yet to feel the pinch from the government’s fiscal austerity programme.

“When this arrives there will be more redundancies, pay cuts and fewer salary rises, meaning the UK’s property market is almost certain to be hit by a titanic rise of arrears and repossessions.

Any positivity suggested by these figures is not representative of positive trend – we’re just seeing the deck chairs being rearranged.”

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