Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pickup In UK Housing Market

Source : The Straits Times, May 14, 2009

LONDON - NEW data released on Thursday provided further signs of a pickup in the British housing market, with a survey showing that the number of new mortgages jumped by 29 per cent in March.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders said that a total of 31,000 mortgages were advanced during the month for people buying a property - up from 24,000 in February - although the figure was still 33 per cent lower than March last year.

There was also a rise in the number of people buying their first home, with 12,500 first-time buyers taking out a mortgage during the month, accounting for 40 per cent of all loans, the highest proportion since April 2005.

The figures add to growing evidence that activity in the housing market has passed its low point.

Earlier this week the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said inquiries from potential buyers rose at their fastest pace in almost a decade during April.

But analysts have stressed caution, pointing out that activity is still very low by long-term norms.

Bob Pannell, head of research at the Council of Mortgage Lenders said that there was a sharp dividing line in the housing market between those potential buyers who can afford a substantial deposit and those who cannot as tight lending restrictions line up against a record low official interest rate of 0.5 per cent.

'For those who can, the burden of debt payments is low and mortgage interest is consuming proportionately less income than for a number of years,' he said. 'But for those without substantial deposits, entering the market is still both difficult and uncertain. While there are some signs of demand increasing, house prices remain weak and lending criteria inevitably remain inherently conservative as lenders necessarily seek to rebuild their capital position.'

Abbey, Britain's second largest mortgage lender, later on Thursday said it would relax its lending criteria to make its best deals available to people with smaller deposits.

The lender said that it would make all its fixed rate mortgages available to people borrowing up to 70 per cent of their home's value, rather than restricting them to those with at least a 40 per cent deposit, as had previously been the case. -- AP

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