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Tighter lending rules cause slowdown in mortgage approvals

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Tighter lending rules have caused mortgage approvals to fall by 17 per cent since the start of the year, according to chartered surveyor firm e.surv.

Some 13,000 fewer home loans were approved in April than in January when there were 76,251. Between March and April approvals fell by 6 per cent.

Richard Sexton, director of e.surv, said tough new affordability tests implemented by lenders last month as part of the Mortgage Market Review (MMR) have “temporarily slowed lending in the market”.

“Borrowers must now prove that they can withstand potential interest rate rises up to 7 per cent, as well as answering a host of detailed questions about future finances,” he said.

“But the slowdown has also come from the supply side. Lenders have invested time training staff and implementing lengthier advisory meetings, which has capped their capacity to process applications. It has led to an interim lending lull.”

MMR was not the only regulation putting the brakes on lending, according to Sexton.

The Bank of England is increasing stress testing of the top eight lenders, to make certain they can withstand a 35 per cent fall in house prices – making them more resilient to any future financial problems.

“That means banks will need to build capital buffers, which may result in a further lending slowdown in the short-term,” Sexton said.

High loan-to-value mortgage deals have continued to perform well allowing first-time buyers with small deposits greater access to the property market.

Loans to borrowers with a deposit of 15 per cent or less increased by 48 per cent year-on-year to 9,412.

The number of first-time buyers reached a pre-recession high in March, according to the latest First-Time Buyer Tracker from LSL Property Services.

There were 31,400 first-time buyer sales in March, the highest since August 2007, as the average first-time buyer deposit fell 10 per cent in a year.

Help to Buy has been one initiative driving forward the number of first-time buyers.

In its opening year, there were just under 20,000 loans to home-owners using the equity loan part of the scheme, 87.5 per cent of which were to first-time buyers, according to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

But Sexton said the lack of homes coming to the market was holding back lending and creating a shortage of choice for prospective buyers.

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