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Mortgage approvals remain ‘volatile’ – Bank of England

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29/03/2018
The mortgage market remained volatile in February, according to the Bank of England, as its latest lending data showed a drop in approvals.

Encouragingly, lending value continued its annual growth of 3.3% last month with total volumes hitting £22.2bn – slightly below January’s figure of £22.8bn.

However, the Bank of England recognised that the current mortgage market was jittery. It said: “Mortgage approvals continue to be volatile and have fallen below their previous six-month average for both house purchase and remortgaging in February, to 63,910 and 46,622 respectively.”

The dip in remortgaging approvals may be particularly noteworthy, as it is this sector which has been driving mortgage market activity over the last few months. But despite 2,000 fewer remortgages being approved in February, the value borrowed held steady at £8.2bn – perhaps suggesting that homeowners are again deciding to take equity out of their properties.

Up one month, down next

Former Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors residential chairman Jeremy Leaf agreed with the Bank of England’s analysis. “This is another survey demonstrating the relatively volatile nature of the present housing market – up one month, down the next – as buyers and sellers come to terms with new market realities,” he said.

“Clearly prices are softening in some areas more than others and people are moving much less often because it is so expensive to do so. It is only those who are recognising the change in market conditions who are getting on with moving.

“Prices continue to be supported by low interest rates and shortage of supply, although we have found signs of improvement in listings as we approach the traditionally busier spring selling season.”

Strong position

Legal & General Mortgage Club head of lender relationships Danny Belton took a slightly more upbeat view of the data. “Despite being traditionally quieter months of the year, the mortgage market is clearly in a strong position,” he said. “Lending is still on the rise as borrowers continue to take advantage of low mortgage rates, while first-time buyers benefit from more sustainable house price growth and ongoing support from schemes such as Help to Buy and Shared Ownership.

“However, we also must recognise that there are still issues which make getting onto the property ladder a challenge. Housing supply remains an issue that can’t be ignored, and though the mortgage market’s strong position is to be welcomed, it’s still vital that the government makes good on its promise to build thousands of new homes for the next generation of homebuyers,” he added.

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