Belfast Telegraph

Mortgage lending to home buyers at two-year low amid 'lull in moving activity'

Mortgage lending to home buyers fell to a near two-year low in January amid signs of a "stubbornly persistent" lull in moving activity, according to banks and building societies.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) said 45,700 loans were advanced for house purchase in January, marking the lowest monthly total since February 2015.

Within the figure, first-time buyers took out 22,600 loans, down 29% month-on-month but up 7% year-on-year.

Meanwhile, remortgage activity leapt as home owners looked to lock into the low rates currently available.

Home owners took out 40,300 remortgage loans in January - marking a 45% surge compared with December and also 21% higher than in January 2016.

Paul Smee, director general of the CML, said: "January gives the impression of a flattish market overall, albeit one with a resurgent remortgage sector.

"We expect a seasonal dip in activity in the winter months and this appears to be the case in January. However, the lull in moving activity appears stubbornly persistent, and we have commissioned research on the reasons why the number of transactions seems in secular decline."

Mr Smee said buy-to-let house purchase activity remains "weak". A stamp duty hike was imposed on this sector in April 2016.

Some 5,900 loans were advanced for buy-to-let house purchase in January - a 39% plunge compared with a year earlier.

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said: "Remortgaging remains hugely popular as borrowers take advantage of rock-bottom rates. Lenders are keen to lend and this appetite shows no signs of diminishing."

Howard Archer, an economist at IHS Markit, said: "We expect housing market activity and prices to come under increasing pressure over the coming months from deteriorating consumer fundamentals and weaker confidence.

"Consequently, we suspect that house price gains over 2017 will be no more than 3% - and could very well be less than this."

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