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Buyers and Sellers Take Advantage of the Stamp Duty Holiday

New data suggests that buyers and sellers within the nation’s capital have been seeking to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday, with the numbers of new instructions and transactions rising by 72% and 40%.

According to the data from LonRes, new instructions in March were 72% higher than the year before, with new listing having increased by 24% over the five-year average. Over the whole of Q1 new instructions were up 18% on Q1 2020, although 1% down on the five-year average (2015 to 2019). Transaction volumes (exchanges) in Q1 21 were up 40% on Q1 2020 and 22% higher than the average Q1 figure between 2015 and 2019. All price brackets recorded an annual increase in sales. But the market under £1 million was busiest over the last three months, with a 52% increase in the number of properties sold compared with the same period a year earlier. The number of properties going under offer in Q1 2021 was up 26% on Q1 2020 – the highest Q1 figure since 2014. Q1 2021 also outperformed the long-run average (Q1 2015-19) by 27%. Achieved prices over the last three months (Q1 21) fell by 2.8% in Prime Central London (PCL), 1.9% in Prime London and 2.2% in Prime Fringe, with houses continuing to outperform flats (chart 5).

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LonRes head of search Marcus Dixon said: “The run-up to the end of the stamp duty holiday on 31 March was always going to be a busy time for the housing market and prime London was no different. Encouraging news on the vaccine roll out, together with a detailed road map out of lockdown resulted in a renewed confidence for London’s prime housing market and a surge in activity over the first quarter of the year.”

The first two months of 2021 saw relatively subdued levels of new instructions, with volumes listed for sale falling short of both the previous year and longer run five-year average (2015 to 2019). Of course, at this point vendors thought the stamp duty holiday would be ending on 31 March and the possibility of their buyers, let alone them, being able to complete their purchase before the 31 March deadline was slim.

But an extension, announced by the Chancellor in the Spring Budget saw a further three-month extension (alongside a tapering until September). This boosted market confidence at a time when the government’s vaccine programme was well under way and a roadmap out of lockdown was published.

As a result, March saw new instructions rise, with 24% more properties listed than the March five-year average (2015 and 2019) and 72% more than in March 2020 (albeit that some of March 2020 was spent in lockdown).

Looking at volumes quarterly the surge in new instructions in March cancelled out the falls in the first two months of the year. Overall, in Q1 2021 there were just 1% fewer new instructions than the long-term (2015-2019) Q1 average.

Dixon added: “With the stamp duty holiday deadline initially set for the end of March, new instructions were subdued. But the announcement of an extension in the Spring Budget brought with it a rise in the number of new properties coming to the market and boosted the month overall. It was the market below £1 million that saw the most significant annual increase in sales – unsurprising given this is where the biggest saving, as a proportion of total buying costs, was to be made. But the top end of the market did well too. Despite travel restrictions still being in place, limiting overseas buyer demand and the stamp duty holiday being of less financial importance we saw transactions rise in this market as well. Transactions at the top end of the market were higher than both the 2020 and long run average in Q1.”

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Transaction volumes across prime areas of London rose significantly in Q1 2021. Sales were up 40% on Q1 2020 and 22% higher than the five-year average (2015 and 2019). Indeed, the number of sales in Q1 2021 was the highest since 2016 (when investors were rushing to purchase before the introduction of new additional property stamp duty rates).

A stamp duty deadline has impacted activity this quarter too, as buyers again raced to meet the old deadline of 31 March. The busiest market in the first quarter was the market below £1 million which saw a 52% annual increase in sales.

Yet this rush of activity appears to be about more than just stamp duty savings. The upper end of the market (where the saving accounts for only a small proportion of the overall price) was busy too, with 22% more sales at £5 million or more in the first quarter this year versus last and 41% more than the previous five-year average.

That said, it was our Prime London and Prime Fringe areas which saw the most significant annual increases in sales, with a 43% annual change in Prime London and 54% in Prime Fringe compared with a still impressive 17% annual increase in PCL.

Looking ahead this increased momentum looks set to continue. Comparing the number of homes put under offer in Q1 2021 shows a 26% annual increase (27% higher than the 2015 to 2019 average), with the number of properties put under offer the highest first quarter figure since Q1 2014.

In the first three months of 2021 achieved prices across prime areas of London fell. With PCL recording a 2.8% annual decrease followed by more modest falls of 1.9% in Prime London and 2.2% in Prime Fringe. Increased activity in Prime London and Prime Fringe meant that overall price falls were more significant (as fewer higher value PCL sales were included in the numbers this quarter).

Houses continue to outperform flats outside PCL, with achieved prices in Q1 21 higher for houses in both Prime London and Prime Fringe. This compares with falls for flats across all markets.

BY PETE CARVILL

Source: Property Wire

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Mortgage lenders prepare to launch new low deposit mortgages

Mortgage lenders in the UK are preparing to launch a wave of ultralow deposit deals on to the market.

Several big high street names have already confirmed their intention to participate in a new UK government-backed five per cent deposit scheme, which was unveiled by the Chancellor in the recent Budget.

Lenders who are participating in the new scheme include Lloyds, Natwest, Santander, Barclays, HSBC UK and Virgin Money.

Some lenders are expected to reveal further details about what they will have to offer in the coming days, The Scotsman reports.

The new mortgage guarantee scheme aims to increase the appetite of lenders across the UK for high loan-to-value lending (LTV) to creditworthy customers.

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It will be available to current homeowners as well as first-time buyers looking for a property for up to £600,000. Borrowers will still need to pass the usual affordability checks.

On the whole, the scheme can be used for new or existing properties and it will be open for applications from later this month until December 31 next year.

The initiative will work by allowing lenders to purchase a Government guarantee that would compensate them for a portion of their losses in the event of foreclosure.

The new scheme will mirror a “tried and tested” initiative which reinvigorated the mortgage market in the recent past.

In 2013, the government launched the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme in response to a similar shortage of low-deposit mortgages following the 2008 financial crisis. The programme helped more than 100,000 households to buy their own home across the UK.

The previous Help to Buy scheme also had the effect of boosting competition in the 5 per cent deposit bracket among lenders who were not part of the scheme.

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They ramped up their low-deposit ranges in order to compete with lenders taking part in the initiative.

Lloyds Banking Group confirmed that its new deals will be available across its brands, Lloyds Bank, Bank of Scotland, and direct from Halifax, as well as through Halifax Intermediaries.

The bank said that two-year and five-year product options will be made available.

A Santander spokeswoman said: “We’re pleased to be supporting the Government’s 95% mortgage guarantee scheme and look forward to sharing full details of the products available shortly.”

A spokesman for Virgin Money said: “We will be an active participant in the Government’s mortgage guarantee scheme and we are due to announce our proposition next month.”

Source: Scottish Construction Now

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Average Price of Property Coming to Market Jumps 2.1%

The national average price of property coming to market has hit a new all-time high of £327,797, following a 2.1%, or +£6,733, monthly increase.145,000 properties were newly marketed this month, with the number of sales agreed up by 55% on the same period two years ago, reducing the stock of properties that are available to buy to the lowest proportion ever recorded

Barrows and Forrester managing director James Forrester, said: “A record-breaking month on many fronts with asking prices increasing at an incredible rate, as a heightened level of demand pushes property values ever higher. This price growth is also being driven by a lack of available stock, particularly second stepper suitable two and three-bed homes. In fact, you’d have an easier time finding a straight-talking politician than you would a decent three up, three down in current market conditions.”

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Benhham and Reeves director of Marc von Grundherr, said: “The top end of the market is driving current performance with the strongest rates of house price growth and, unlike the regular market, this train is unlikely to come off the tracks when the stamp duty holiday expires. While a considerable cash saving in stamp duty tax is nice, it’s not the driving force behind prime property purchases and so we’re not seeing the mad scramble to complete that is causing havoc in lower price tiers. It’s very much a case of the hare and the tortoise in this respect and while the general market is sure to run low on steam come the end of the year, the high-end market is likely to keep moving forward at a strong and consistent pace. We’re seeing this in London more than anywhere at present, having lagged behind and, in fact, suffered to the greatest extent over the last year, the market is now starting to turn and at a pace that will ensure a cleaner bill of health come September and beyond.”

Yes Homebuyers founder and managing director Matthew Cooper said: “Please don’t be fooled by claims that homes are ‘selling’ at their fastest ever rate. This couldn’t be further from the truth and while sellers are securing a buyer at an incredibly quick pace, the time it’s taking to actually complete is significantly longer than it has previously. As a result, sales that should be done and dusted are stagnating for months on end and many are falling through as a result. You have to question if a platform with the visibility of Rightmove should be fuelling the current market hysteria and the resulting logjam by spurting fluffy statements around record-breaking market sentiment.”

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Keller Williams UK CEO Ben Taylor said: “House prices have gone stratospheric and if you believe that what goes up, must come down, then surely we must be due a correction soon. That said, there have only ever been two periods in the last thirty years where house prices have fallen over any significant time and so there are smarter bets to be made. If anything, the new Government-subsidised low deposit mortgage, and interest rates that are set to fall still further, will probably cause this explosive market to continue crackling.”

Ascend Properties managing director Ged McPartlin, said: “At the rate the current market is moving, there will be no houses left to sell. It’s great to see the North is the engine room powering this immediate market performance with some astonishing 9% plus annual rates of growth in both the North West and Yorkshire. Yorkshire alone has enjoyed a 4.2% increase on a month-on-month basis which is usually a rate of growth reserved for annual performances and really highlights how quickly the market is moving at present. If this rate of growth were to continue, Yorkshire folk could expect to see the value of their home increase by £116,000 in a single year.”

BY PETE CARVILL

Source: Property Wire

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Number of UK Second Homes Climbs to 495,000

The number of second homes in the UK has risen by 30% over the last five years, to a record high of 495,000 in 2018/19, up from 382,000 in 2013/14, shows an analysis of the latest available MHCLG data by Houst. 451,000 of the 495,000, or 91%, of those second homes are located in England.

Houst co-founder and chief commercial officer Tom Jones said: “The likes of Airbnb and other platforms have revolutionised second home ownership and have certainly been one of the main driving forces behind second home ownership. Owners are now able to generate income from their second home extremely easily, almost all year round.”

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He added that rising incomes, property’s continued draw as an asset class due to steadily rising house prices, and the shift to more flexible and remote working, are likely to have been the main reasons behind the rise in second home ownership over the period. The rise could also have been driven in part by the reduced value of the pound, making it more cost-effective to purchase property in the UK rather than in Europe, for example, that acts primarily as a holiday home.

Houst also explains that the last decade has seen a boom in the use of technology-driven property lettings companies that have made it more attractive and far easier for second home owners to generate income from second residences.

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He said: “One of the things, however, that second home owners still struggle with is the administration behind second homes. With staycations on the rise – even pre-pandemic – it’s almost like a second full-time job. Owners are constantly checking emails and enquiries from all the different platforms, ensuring the property is clean and ready for renters, and always looking ahead for opportunities to let out their properties.”

Houst says that the coronavirus pandemic, the time period of which the latest data from the MHCLG does not cover, presents some interesting questions for the future of second home ownership in the UK.

Jones added: “The restrictions on travel over the past year will have seen many second home owners debate the next steps for their second homes. Those that decide to continue letting properties – rather than selling or moving into them on a more permanent basis – will need to ensure they’re squeezing every pound out of their property.”

BY PETE CARVILL

Source: Property Wire

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Halifax: UK House Prices Have Hit A Record High

UK house prices have hit a record high despite rising at a slower rate than a year ago, according to the Halifax house price index this morning.

The lender said that the affordability of houses was “close to pre-financial crisis levels”, as house prices remained historically high at an average of £252,765.

The difference between the 2007 financial crash and today, is that mortgage rates are considerably lower.

Despite slowing their ascent in the first quarter of 2021, inflation has risen by 5.7 per cent, as the standard house price a year ago sat at £252,030.

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The 5.7 per cent jump was down from a nearly five year high of seven per cent last year, the lender reported.

Prices lifted only 0.3 per cent in the first quarter of this year, smaller than the 2.5 per cent jump in the final quarter of 2020.

The London property market showed slower gains in house prices over the start of this year, the “strongest” since the 2016 EU referendum, Halifax said.

The standard house price in Greater London sat at £505,359, down 2.5 per cent from the final quarter of last year, however, has edged 2.1 per cent higher in comparison to 2020.

Demand for larger properties carried through from last year, while existing houses were hit by rising inflation 6.2 per cent more than new builds.

Are we due another crash?

The outlook for the next six months appears to be bright, particularly with the help of the “ongoing government support,” CEO of property platform Twindig, Anthony Codling said.

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“There is a risk that when the extended holiday ends, the UK housing market will wake up with a hangover.”

However, Codling advised home buyers not to worry, “because at the moment mortgage supply is increasing, whereas, in the credit crunch, mortgage supply fell off a cliff edge.”

“The spring and summer selling seasons will be strong, but as the stamp duty holiday ends in September, concerns about another cliff edge will start to be voiced and this may soften house prices in the autumn.”

Financial analyst at AJ Bell, Laith Khalaf agreed that a looming financial crash is unlikely, because “the housing market has repeatedly confounded economists expectations, and it keeps going from strength to strength.”

With low-interest rates and “highly accommodative” government policy, the housing market has a strong supply and demand dynamic, Khalaf added.

“While there might be a few bumps along the way, particularly at the end of the stamp duty…the property market has proved itself to be unbelievably resilient. And in large part, that comes down to the efforts the government and the Bank of England have made to make mortgage borrowing incredibly easy and cheap.”

By Millie Turner

Source: City AM

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Broker optimism on BTL at seven-year high

The number of brokers expecting more buy-to-let business over the next 12 months is at its highest level since 2014, according to a survey by Paragon Bank.

In a February/March survey of 195 intermediaries, half said they were anticipating higher levels of buy-to-let mortgage business over the coming year, up from 41 per cent in Q4 2020.

The number of brokers who already saw strong demand for buy-to-let mortgages also rose, to 47 per cent in the first quarter of this year, up from 44 per cent in Q4 2020.

Meanwhile, the number of intermediaries who reported weak buy-to-let mortgage demand was at its lowest since before the start of the pandemic, at 12 per cent.

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Richard Rowntree, managing director of mortgages at Paragon Bank, said: “It’s fantastic to see that such high levels of optimism have been recorded following the challenges of the past year or so and that this is being driven by strong levels of demand.

“The extension of the stamp duty holiday is certainly a driver of that, but it is underpinned by longer-term demand for rental property.”

Carl Shave, director at Just Mortgage Brokers, commented: “With 2020 being a subdued year for buy-to-let investment due to the economic climate from the pandemic, it is pleasing to see the optimism from brokers and the positive reports of an uptake in demand. Indeed this is being reflected in the increase in enquiries for our advisers.

“The stamp duty holiday extension will at present add a little fuel to the fire as investors look to take advantage of the potential savings this can provide. It will therefore be interesting to see what impact this has on the market when it expires and the resulting longer term outlook.”

Paragon’s findings come after analysis by Hamptons found the number of properties sold by landlords last year slowed to a seven-year low, despite the first annual rise in profits on sales in more than five years.

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Earlier research from Foundation Home Loans before the stamp duty holiday was extended also suggested the end of the tax break would not prevent landlords from adding to their portfolios.

Hiten Ganatra said his firm was seeing an increased appetite from professional landlords looking to grow their portfolio, with returns being realised from BTL investments “far superior than to leave money in the banks”.

Ganatra said: “Landlords are happy to generate yields of 5 to 7 per cent, which invariably gives them an even great return on investment than holding cash.

“We are also seeing more and more landlords moving into the HMO [houses in multiple occupation] space which is helping to enhance yields to 8 per cent-plus.”

On the supply side, meanwhile, data from Moneyfacts has shown that product availability in the buy-to-let market continued to improve for a fifth consecutive month in March.

By Chloe Cheung

Source: FT Adviser

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What is driving booming UK house prices?

What is driving booming UK house prices? – The main reason for the price rise is the introduction of a range of measures by the government that has made it easier to buy a new home. These include the extension of the stamp duty holiday and the introduction of a government-backed 95% mortgage scheme to help potential home buyers.

The stamp duty holiday was first introduced in July 2020 by Chancellor Rishi Sunak to give the housing market a boost following its shutdown during the first nationwide coronavirus lockdown in March.

Support for those at risk of losing their jobs, such as the extension of the furlough scheme, and also the better-than-expected growth of the economy and the successful coronavirus vaccine rollout have also contributed to increased buyer confidence and rising house prices.

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In the past year millions of workers have spent the majority of time at home and this has been another reason for the rise in house prices. The future of office work is still not confirmed and therefore many people are now looking for larger homes out of city centres, and properties with more outdoor space and room for an at-home office.

For those workers who have kept their jobs during the pandemic, and who haven’t been spending as they usually would, the Bank of England predicts that around £100bn has been saved, fuelling the housing market further.

“The Stamp Duty holiday and other comprehensive government support measures have enabled the property market to stare down the pandemic, against all the odds,” says George Franks, co-founder of London estate agency Radstock Property. “We all know that a giant fiscal squeeze and rising unemployment are on the horizon but for now the success of the vaccination roll-out, new living requirements and exceptionally low mortgage rates have lit up the market. Even if the property market does start to cool down later in the year, an extreme lack of stock will prevent a material fall in values. In London, rising unemployment will potentially be less of an issue than in the rest of the country, as the capital’s jobs market is an ecosystem in itself. Overall, we continue to expect average UK house prices in 2021 to rise by 2% to 4% depending on property type and location.”

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What is likely to happen next?

Demand for new houses is the reason for UK house prices rising. Halifax says this trend is likely to continue for the next few months, although it is cautiously optimistic, with warnings over what might happen when the government-backed schemes come to an end and the full economic consequences of the pandemic are felt.

“Right now, there is a huge bottleneck in the property market, with large numbers of prospective buyers and not enough new stock, and this is really driving up house prices,” notes Rhys Schofield, managing director of Peak Mortgages & Protection. “The sheer volume of prospective buyers is partly due to the return of first time buyers, as securing a higher loan-to-value mortgage has got a lot easier over the past month or two. With the Stamp Duty cliff edge looming, the lack of stock may be because next time buyers have less of an incentive to move, which frees up starter homes. House builders also shifted the vast majority of their stock at the end of last year and have limited units available within the next six months. We’ve even had a client reserve a property through one of the bigger national housebuilders, which won’t actually be built until early 2022.”

By Stuart Fieldhouse

Source: The Armchair Trader

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BTL Mortgage Offers Available To Landlords Climb Back Up

There are now 2,333 BTL mortgage deals available to landlords, the highest number since March 2020, when there were 2,897 deals available. While this has resulted in more choice for landlords, average rates have also risen.

The average five year fixed rate now stands at 3.41 per cent; its highest since September 2019 when it reached 3.44 per cent.

The average two year fixed rate currently stands at 3.05 per cent, again the highest in nearly two years. In June 2019 it also stood at 3.05 per cent.

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‘It is important to note that these are averages, and therefore while representative of the market as a whole, there are some very competitively priced products available, with some – depending on LTV and criteria – available at below 2 per cent’, said Moneyfacts’ Eleanor Williams.

‘Therefore, those who are hoping to refinance or take on a new deal would do well to shop around’.

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One other reason is that some deals offer incentives, such as free valuations or ‘no legal fees’. Williams said these are becoming scarcer ‘although interestingly, the proportion of the market where cashback is available has increased, not only year-on-year, but by 8 per cent over the last month’.

Source: Landlord Knowledge

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Long-term stimulus needed to bring the housing market to life

Long-term stimulus is needed to bring the housing market fully to life, and avoid short-term peaks and troughs, according to Robert Burdett, managing director of James Leigh property Management.

Burdett believes that the stamp duty holiday is an unprecedented and very welcome shot in the arm for the housing market when it was desperately needed.

However, he said: “But with lockdown now easing and COVID-19 firmly in retreat, now is the perfect opportunity to be looking at how the housing market can be built on firmer foundations than it has previously enjoyed.

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“The introduction of the 95% mortgage is a welcome move for first-time buyers, but more needs to be done to ensure the whole market can enjoy a stable future.”

Lending criteria currently prevent some buyers from accessing mortgage finance because on paper their income is not high enough to meet the lender’s criteria for income, even though they may be paying more in rent than they would be for a mortgage.

Data released by Estate Agency firm Keller Williams show the changing pattern of where people want to live, and the outdoors features strongly in the research.

Burdett said: “The research published by Keller Williams shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people are thinking about the homes they want to buy.

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“Working from home in particular means that people are not as reliant on access to the cities, and so can buy where they want to live rather than where they need to access work.”

Support for the housing market for the long term could include a continuation of the Help to Buy scheme and reform to the mortgage industry so that affordability reflects current household expenditure.

Burdett added: “In the end, the housing market needs measures in place that will flatten the bumps in the road and create a sustainable future market.

“If the stamp duty holiday has taught us anything, it’s that short terms measures whilst useful at the time, do nothing for longer-term stability and growth.”

By Jake Carter

Source: Mortgage Introducer

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Majority of Property Transactions Since May 2020 Backed by Mortgages

Mortgages have fuelled 70% of property transactions across Great Britain since the market reopened back in May of last year, after initial lockdown restrictions were imposed, according to a research.

Enness analysed market data on mortgage-financed sales as a percentage of all sales in each area of Britain between May 2020 and November 2020.

While 270,785 of the 387,667 homes sold across Britain (70%) have seen the buyer backed by a mortgage, there is some regional difference. In London, 80% of all sales have come through homebuyers with a mortgage, with the East of England, West Midlands (72%), the South East and East Midlands (71%) also coming in higher than the national benchmark.

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In contrast, the South West is home to the most cash homebuyers with just 64% of homebuyers purchasing via a mortgage.

With the capital home to the largest regional percentage of mortgage-backed purchases, London also accounts for the top three highest at local authority level. Lewisham is the mortgage hotspot of Britain for homebuyers with 88% of all transactions financed via the sector, followed by Barking and Dagenham and Waltham Forest (87%).

Slough and Crawley are home to the highest percentage of mortgage-based purchases outside of London along with Hillingdon (86%).

At the other end of the spectrum, just 40% of property transactions in East Lindsey have been financed by a mortgage since the market reopened in May of last year. North Norfolk (43%), Argyll and Bute (44%), Torridge, Ceredigion (45%), Scarborough (48%), Rother, South Hams and Pembrokeshire also rank with some of the lowest levels of mortgage-financed transactions.

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“A lot has been made about the boost in buyer demand due to the stamp duty holiday, but it’s the continued low rates of borrowing that have really been the foundation of this heightened market activity.

While a stamp duty saving is nice, the ability to secure finance at a much lower rate of interest than historically possible has brought about a major boost to market sentiment in recent years and the impact is clear, with 70% of all transactions financed as such.

Some lenders have begun to tighten their lending criteria and this could make it harder for those with a less stable financial background to obtain a mortgage. However, it’s unlikely to impact the actual ratio of mortgage-financed buyers in relation to those purchasing with cash, particularly while the Bank of England keeps rates at sub-one per cent.”

BY PETE CARVILL

Source: Property Wire

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