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Mortgage lending up 16% in March

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Mortgage lending was up 16% in March, figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) show.

However, year-on-year figures for both first-time buyers and home movers were subdued due to the impact of the election.

First-timer buyers got approvals for 23,000 loans in March, up 20% on February but 5% down compared to March 2014. First-time buyers borrowed £3.4bn, which was up 21% on February and 3% up on March last year.

It was a similar story for home movers. The 25,200 loans taken out in March showed an increase of 14% compared to February but was down 3% year-on-year.

Paul Smee, director general of the CML, said: “It was a slow start to activity in the first couple of months of 2015 but the market started to get out of the dip in March, a trend that we think will continue as the year goes on.

“We will have to wait and see how the housing market reacts to the general election result and the reduction in the risk of a prolonged period of market uncertainty which could well have been damaging to businesses and the housing market.”

Both remortgaging and buy-to-let showed increases in March, both month-on-month and year-on-year.

Some 26,600 home loans were remortgaged in March, up 19% on February and 6% up on March 2014. The value of these loans (£4.2 billion) also increased month-on-month by 24% and was up 14% year-on-year compared to March 2014.

Peter Williams, executive director of the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association (IMLA), said: “The fact that people are staying put for longer and mortgage pricing is at record lows gives people added incentives to reassess their existing loans, and should help to bring the remortgage market further out of its slumber.”

Landlords took out 18,200 buy-to-let loans in March – up 12% on the previous month and up 21% compared to March 2014. These loans were worth £2.7bn, up 13% compared to February and an increase of 35% on March 2014.

Landlords both invested in new property and remortgaged existing rental property in March, taking out 8,600 loans for house purchase and remortgaging 9,400 existing loans.

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said: “Lenders are keen to lend and with business levels subdued at the start of the year in the pre-election hiatus, there is lost ground to make up. We expect to see an ebb and flow on pricing as lenders jockey for market share. Swap rates have been rising over the past few weeks but they are just part of the information lenders take into account when setting rates.

“There has been increased speculation that interest rates will rise next year. But with inflation now in negative territory, the likelihood of an interest rate rise has been pushed even further back.”

Data from Rightmove also shows the market slowing before the election. The average asking price for new homes coming to market was down 0.1% this month, a drop of £242 in cash terms. This figure was the first May price fall since the last general election in 2010 and compares with a 2.1% increase a year ago.

Meanwhile, according to the Mortgage Advice Bureau, homeowners are cashing in on house prices rises by remortgaging to release equity. The broker found borrowers typically released £9,000 in cash when remortgaging.

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