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The remortgage market has reached its highest level in a decade bolstered by competitive rates, according to the latest UK Finance figures.

In its mortgage trends update out today (December 12), the trade body reported 50,500 homeowner remortgages completed in October, representing an increase of 23.2 percentage points on the previous year.

At a value of £9.2bn this was 22.7 percentage points higher than in October last year.

The first-time buyer market also saw reasonable growth in October, increasing by 8.2 percentage points on the same month a year earlier to reach 32,900 deals.

UK Finance found the average first-time buyer in the month was aged 30 with a gross household income of £42,000.

Jackie Bennett, director of mortgages at UK Finance, said the figures showed homeowners were taking advantage of a competitive market and locking into attractive deals.

She added: “This also reflects the large number of fixed rate mortgages coming to an end, which is expected to continue into 2019.

“There has been relatively strong growth in the number of first-time buyers, with schemes such as Help to Buy providing vital support to those getting a foot on the housing ladder.”

The government’s Help to Buy scheme was extended in the Autumn Budget, now due to end in 2023.

In keeping with recent trends, the buy-to-let purchase market continued to soften in October with 6,100 new buy-to-let home purchase mortgages completed in the month – 9 percentage points fewer than in the same month a year earlier.

As a value, this was £0.8bn of new buy-to-let purchase lending in the month, 20 percentage points down year-on-year.

However, the buy-to-let remortgage market increased to 15,700 completions – some 5.4 percentage points higher than the same month a year earlier, at a value of £2.5bn.

Jonathan Harris, director of mortgage broker Anderson Harris, said borrowers were continuing to take advantage of cheap rates, fuelled by continuing uncertainty around Brexit and the economy.

He said: “With the number of new purchases remaining subdued, lenders are focusing on where the business is and offering competitive deals to those coming off fixed-rate mortgages – this trend is set to continue into 2019.”

Mr Harris said landlords were also remortgaging as they made their property portfolios work harder and squeezed out every bit of profit they could.

He added: “First-time buyers are taking advantage of the lack of competition from landlords for smaller properties, such as one-bedroom flats, and we expect this to continue into next year.”

Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and former RICS residential chairman, said whilst the figures were a little historic, they did reflect what has been seen on the high-street.

He said: “Buyers and sellers are trying to find an accommodation on price, with affordability just as important as Brexit when it comes to decision making.

“First-time buyers, in particular, are taking advantage of reduced competition from buy-to-let investors still compromised by recent tax and regulation changes.”

Mr Leaf added: “Political shenanigans seem to be more of a preoccupation among buyers in the southeast than elsewhere.

“It remains to be seen how the turmoil of the past month or so plays out in the market but the signs are so far that early new year activity will continue in a relatively subdued manner, much as it has over the past few months.”

Source: FT Adviser

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