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Re-mortgage lending hits seven-year peak but first-time buyer deals drop

Published 14/09/2016

First-time buyers borrowed £4.4 billion-worth of mortgages in July
First-time buyers borrowed £4.4 billion-worth of mortgages in July

Re-mortgage lending lifted to its strongest levels in seven years in July as home owners snapped up the cheap deals available, banks and building societies have reported.

But elsewhere there were signs of the market cooling, and the Council of Mortgage Lenders, which released the figures, said it is too early to tell how much of this is down to the vote to leave the EU.

Mortgage lending to first-time buyers plunged by nearly a fifth month-on-month in July. First-time buyers borrowed a total of £4.4 billion-worth of mortgages in July, marking a 19% drop off compared with June and 4% down on July 2015.

The figures also showed lending to home movers, at £6.2 billion, was down by 9% compared with June and a fall of 16% compared with July 2015.

Meanwhile, landlords borrowed £3 billion-worth of mortgages in July, which was up slightly by 3% month-on-month but down by 21% year-on-year.

The market was already seeing some signs of a slowdown before the EU referendum vote.

A stamp duty increase for buy-to-let (BTL) investors was imposed on April 1, and this prompted a rush of landlords snapping up properties before the deadline.

These purchases may otherwise have taken place later in the year.

Home owner re-mortgage activity in July bucked the cooling trend. Some £6 billion-worth of loans were taken out in July for re-mortgage purposes, up 7% on June and a 20% increase compared with a year ago.

Many mortgage lenders have been offering their cheapest ever rates in the low interest rate environment.

Along with April 2016, the £6 billion monthly re-mortgaging total was the strongest seen since January 2009.

Paul Smee, director general of the CML, said: "These figures cover the first full month of lending following the EU referendum.

"They show a month-on-month decline in first-time buyer and home mover activity and muted activity on the BTL market.

"It is hard to determine whether these figures reflect a first uncertain reaction to the referendum vote, or are a sign of a market which was already cooling. It will be quite some time before a full assessment can be made."

Mr Smee said that while the BTL market is "still readjusting" after the stamp duty increase, "remortgage lending on the other hand has continued to grow, and reacted with a seven-year monthly high.

"Borrowers seem keen to take advantage of the wide range of competitive deals in the market and, following the base rate cut in August, this is likely to continue."

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said: " Typically July can be a quiet month and we would expect August's figures to further underline this trend.

"But already in September we are seeing renewed interest from people keen to get deals done. Lenders will have one eye on year-end targets and we expect to see some cracking deals over the coming months. Fixed-rate mortgages seem to go ever lower with lenders keen to out-do each other, which is great news for borrowers."

Jeremy Leaf, a north London estate agent and a former residential chairman of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics), said: " It is understandable that people have been taking longer to commit to a decision as big as buying a home. That is only natural - the referendum result was a huge earthquake and it is not unreasonable for people to pause and reflect on how it will affect their lives."

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