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First-time buyers boost mortgage market as buy-to-let slips

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Written by: Owain Thomas
16/01/2018
Mortgage lending to first-time-buyers and homemovers steadily increased over 2017 according to data from UK Finance.

Although the buy-to-let market slipped slightly, it remained largely stable over the previous 12 months to November.

The data showed there were 34,800 new first-time buyer mortgages in November worth £5.6bn – up 15.2% and 16.7% respectively on the same month in 2016.

The average first-time buyer was 30 and had an income of £40,000.

Indications were also good for the homemover market, with 36,200 new homemover mortgages in the month worth £6.5bn – up 16.8% and 19% respectively.

Remortgaging was also up, but more modestly with 8.5% more transactions and 10.2% higher borrowing.

Buy-to-let slide

For the buy-to-let (BTL) market, concerns have been raised that regulation and taxation changes could prompt a significant reduction in activity.

While it appears the market has slowed, it has not collapsed as severely as some feared.

There were 6,600 new BTL purchase mortgages in November, down 1.5%, worth £900m which was the same as November 2016.

BTL remortgaging slipped 3.6% to 13,500 transactions worth £2.1bn down 4.5%. However, this part of the market is expected to boom in 2018 as the bubble of pre-stamp duty surcharge transactions from 2016 mature.

UK Finance head of mortgages, Paul Smee, noted that the data showed buoyant housing market activity despite November’s rise in the Bank of England Base Rate: “Steady increases in lending for house purchases together with increases in homeowner remortgages reflect a keenness among consumers to benefit from still historically low interest rates, and a highly competitive marketplace.”

“In contrast, declines in buy-to-let lending reflect the changing regulatory and fiscal environment for landlord businesses, where some landlords might be inclined to reappraise the viability of their portfolios.”

Cautious optimism

Private Finance director Shaun Church said the figures showed government programmes may finally be working: “After a multitude of initiatives and billions of pounds of spending, a 15% uplift in first-time-buyer mortgage lending could be a sign that government measures to tackle the UK’s housing affordability crisis are starting to have a real impact.”

“Following the announcement to cut stamp duty for the majority of first-time buyers, we have reason to hope lending in this area will grow even further in the coming months as the tax change starts to take full effect.”

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