The Housing Market
23rd August 2012

Due to the current climate obtaining a mortgage has become one of the biggest down falls in residential conveyancing, so it is positive to hear that mortgage lending increased by 8% in July as the housing market continued the volatile course seen through the first half of 2012.

Figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) showed gross mortgage lending rose to £12.7bn, up from £11.7bn in June and 2% higher than the £12.5bn lent in July 2011.

However, the June figures showed a slump in lending, driven by a 20% fall in remortgaging, and July’s figure is still only about a third of the monthly level seen when the property market was at its peak in the summer of 2007.

The ups and downs seen in 2012 have been attributed to a wide variety of factors, from the end of a stamp duty holiday for first-time buyers in March, which encouraged some borrowers to rush to complete purchases at the start of the year, to the Jubilee celebrations and the Olympics, which have been said to have distracted would-be buyers.

Caroline Purdey, market and data analyst at the CML, said: “Interpretation of recent trends continues to be challenged by one-off effects. We look forward to the September figures when the distorting effects of the diamond jubilee and the Olympics should largely have worked their way through.”

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said other factors were also depressing the housing market. “The focus on the Olympics, the continuing eurozone crisis and weak consumer confidence is likely to result in a slight drop-off in transactions over the next couple of months. Any sustained recovery in the housing market is a long way off.”

Ashley Brown, director of independent mortgage broker Moneysprite, agreed: “There is a lot of talk about distorting, one-off effects, but the real distortion in the market is far more fundamental: the lack of appetite among lenders for anything higher risk.”

He added that the activity in the housing market was “not the right type”, with lenders focusing on borrowers with high deposits and buy-to-let investors. “Until lenders start lending consistently at higher loan-to-values, the mortgage – and subsequently property – markets are destined to cruise,” he said.

The CML figures cover a period immediately before the introduction of the Funding for Lending scheme, which allows banks and building societies to access cheaper borrowing which they can then extend to consumers.

This has led to the introduction of some new deals, although it is not yet clear if the loans are any easier to come by.

Harris said: “It might be too early to call the end of the mortgage famine, but there are certainly encouraging signs. What is essential is that lenders deliver more help for first-time buyers with modest deposits in the form of more competitive and affordable rates.”

He added: “It is still unlikely that interest rates will rise anytime soon, which should support the market to an extent. But we desperately need a recovery in consumer confidence to see any significant improvement in the housing or mortgage markets.”

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