Belfast Telegraph

Mortgage market hits four-year high

BY MARGARET CANNING

Mortgages in Northern Ireland are at a four-year high as price stability encourages first-time buyers and movers alike, data has shown.

According to the Council of Mortgage Lenders, from June to September this year, home loans were at their highest since 2009.

There were 2,800 loans, amounting to £240m, given out in the third quarter of 2013 – an increase of 22% on both the previous quarter and the same period a year earlier.

According to CML, 1,600 first-time buyers availed of loans totalling £120m – up 14% on the second quarter, and up 23% on the same time last year.

Neil Allan, principal at the Mortgage Centre in Londonderry, Belfast and Magherafelt, said some lenders were broadening their lending criteria – such as Halifax, which he said would now lend to agency workers – while buyers tended to have gathered large deposits.

But he added: "I have maintained the same thing for the past five to six years – lenders will give you a loan if you are deserving of a loan, but if you have any kind of adverse credit, they won't."

Following a long period when lending to those climbing the property ladder was in the doldrums, the CML said there were 1,100 loans amounting to £120m for home movers in the third quarter, up from 1,000 in the third quarter of last year.

But movers only accounted for 39% of the house purchase market, lower than the 55% UK average.

Remortgaging had also picked up, with £110m advanced to borrowers, up 10% on the second quarter and the third quarter last year.

The growth in mortgage lending comes as house prices stabilise. Following six years of price falls, average prices have inched up by 2% in each of the last two quarters, according to the government's residential property price index.

According to the CML, Northern Ireland's first-time buyers were borrowing on average £70,000, down slightly from £71,050 in the second quarter – or 2.76 times their income.

That means the average first-time buyer is earning £25,362, slightly more than the average for full-time employees, £24,011.

And, while tradition would suggest couples account for most part-time buyers, now there was a 50:50 split between couple and single buyers, said Mr Allan.

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