Rate rise likely as house prices and lending soar to record levels

Click to follow
The Independent Online

House prices are rising at their fastest rate since the peak of the late 1980s boom, and mortgage lending hit a record for the second successive month in October, figures out yesterday show. The soaring housing market will bring another increase in interest rates early next year, analysts predicted.

House prices are rising at their fastest rate since the peak of the late 1980s boom, and mortgage lending hit a record for the second successive month in October, figures out yesterday show. The soaring housing market will bring another increase in interest rates early next year, analysts predicted.

Nationwide building society reported a 1.9 per cent leap in house prices in November, taking the annual rate of increase to 13.3 per cent - the fastest pace since mid-1989. It means house price inflation has nearly doubled in 12 months.

The building society, the country's second-biggest mortgage lender, said the housing boom was now rippling out from London to other regions. "The current upbeat market conditions look sustainable," said David Parry, Nationwide's divisional director.

Separate figures from the Bank of England showed that new mortgage lending amounted to £3.64bn in October, just ahead of the previous new lending record in September. Annual growth in mortgage lending has reached its highest level since the last recession.

The number of mortgages approved was 103,000, a shade lower than in September but more than one-fifth higher than a year earlier.

The picture of a buoyant economy was completed by figures showing a £1bn rise in consumer credit in October, and the fastest annual growth rate in the narrow money measure - M0 - for 19 years. This rise, mainly owing to increased holdings of cash, may reflect precautionary withdrawals ahead of the millennium.

Yesterday's figures follow a recent report from the British Bankers' Association saying that loans for home improvement had reached a new record in October.

Despite this strength, observers maintain the house market is not overheating. "Why should the housing boom end, with more people in work now than in the late 1980s, real incomes rising and mortgage rates low?" said Ciaran Barr, UK economist at Deutsche Bank.

Mr Parry of Nationwide said house-buying remained highly affordable. The average first-time buyer needed just 13 per cent of pre-tax income to meet mortgage payments, compared with 20 per cent in 1989.

The Monetary Policy Committee voted eight-to-one for last month's quarter-point rise in interest rates to 5.5 per cent, with some members arguing for a bigger rise. The minutes noted that some members predicted that the housing market would continue to be buoyant as annual house price rises were well in excess of mortgage rates.

Analysts regard another rise in the cost of loans as certain despite low inflation, but see it being postponed until February when any millennium bug computer problems in the financial markets will be out of the way.

"It is likely to be some time before the Bank of England's fears over the strong housing market subside," said Dharshini David at HSBC.

Comments