Mortgage market enjoys another stable month


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Lenders reported another stable month for mortgage approvals today but warned the eurozone crisis made the market "difficult to call".

The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) said there were 48,200 loans taken out for house purchase in September, a 3% rise on September last year but down 2% on a month ago.

Demand for remortgaging was also stronger than a year ago, helped by a price war among lenders, although the 34,200 loans advanced in the month were slightly lower than in August.

CML director general Paul Smee said the performance in September showed a stable picture for the market.

However, he added: "The backdrop of global and domestic instability makes the future more difficult to call."

Analysts have warned the current turmoil in Europe could make lenders more risk averse and limit the supply of mortgages, particularly to first-time buyers.

William Hunter, director of Hunter Wealth Management, said of today's figures: "You have to wonder how long this relatively positive picture will last.

"The sharp deterioration in Europe will almost certainly see lenders become more risk averse.

"Criteria will tighten even further and rates will rise as lenders price in the escalating risk.

"What happens with Italy and the eurozone in the coming weeks could determine the fate of the UK's mortgage market in the coming years."

The CML said first-time buyer activity rose in September, with the number of loans to this group at 18,200 in the month, worth £2.2 billion.

This was a 5% increase in the number of loans from September last year.

Typical deposits have also decreased in size, with the average first-time buyer taking out an 80% loan-to-value mortgage, compared with a 76% deal in September last year.

As well as deposits becoming less hefty, mortgage payments are becoming more affordable for first-time buyers.

In September, interest on a new first-time buyer loan typically took up 12.7% of the borrower's income, down from 13% in August.

The CML said the more manageable loans reflected price cuts, particularly in the 80% to 90% loan-to-value bracket, as more of these loans have become available.

The figures were released as the CBI published a report calling for a raft of measures to help struggling first-time buyers on to the property ladder.

The Unfreezing the Housing Market document called for the introduction of a type of mortgage insurance to encourage lenders to offer deals to first-time buyers, the "life blood" of the housing market.

The insurance would protect lenders if buyers fell badly behind with payments and their house needed to be repossessed or sold.

The report also suggested that first-time buyers who have pension savings could boost their mortgage deposits by borrowing a percentage of their own pension pot at a low cost, to be paid back during their working life.

The CML also found that, for the second month running, home movers have typically paid the lowest proportion of their income on mortgage interest payments since records began in 2002.

This figure stands at 9.4% of home-movers' income, down from 9.8% a year ago, the CML said.


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